Speaking of Spokeshaves : It's Not Hoarding, it's History!

Speaking of Spokeshaves

by Randall Read on 04/03/12

On the evolutionary ladder of hand tools, particularly for wood, the spokeshave was probably on that next rung. As we evolved, our desire for more reformed and accurate woodworking dictated tool design. In search of a way to control the amount of wood one removed with a tool, some innovative individual somehow clamped a stick to a chisel or drawknife and the basis for a spokeshave was born.

The spokeshave is basically a blade with a wedge shaped cutting edge set in a body with handles on both ends, like a drawknife. The blade is adjustable, dictating the amount of material it can remove. In some designs the bevel of the blade faces up, away from the work. More commonly, the bevel is facing the work surface. The tool can be either pulled or pushed, but I feel that you have better control by pulling it.


As you can see in the picture, we have three representative spokeshaves. The oldest, pictured below, is the one with the wooden body. It has a unique blade that is raised and lowered with the two brass thumbscrews and on this particular tool, the bevel is up. Because of the wooden base, it shows wear and is now slightly convex instead of flat like it was when it was new.


The middle tool, the bottom view of it is below, is unique in that it has two blades; one straight blade and one radius blade. I'm not sure of the age of this particular tool as it has no marking on it what-so-ever. The handle has a little more of a crude cast feel, but the blades are pretty precise.

The last tool is probably the most common design of any spokeshave, the Stanley 151. This particular one is a model 4 and was manufactured sometime between 1923 and 1926. It has very precise adjustment options and is pretty much the same tool as is made today.

Besides woodworking, the spokeshave is also used in leather work where gauging or tapering is required. When books were bound in leather, the spokeshave was an essential tool.

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