Canadian Woodworking

Spokeshaves

Illustration by Len Churchill

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Spokeshaves are as fun to use as they are functional. Get the most from your spokeshave so you can turn it into one of your go-to hand tools.

Spokeshaves (aka ‘shaves’) come in a multitude of shapes and sizes and are used for rough shaping and smoothing curved surfaces.  They all have two in-line handles and a cutting blade that projects from a short sole to regulate the depth of cut.

The depth of cut is regulated by adjusting the height of the blade in relation to the sole. The body can be made of metal, wood or a combination. The sole can be flat, round, concave or convex and the blade can range from about 1″ to 2-3/4″ wide.

A standard shave has a blade installed bevel-down at a 30- to 45-degree angle. A low-angle shave has the blade oriented bevel up, set at 20 degrees. Depth of cut is typically controlled by one or two knobs. In use, the spokeshave can be pushed or pulled.

Wood body kits are available from Lee Valley and Hock Tools.

Price: $30 – $160
Types: Flat, Round, Concave, Low-Angle, Large, Small
Materials: Aluminum, Bronze, Iron, Stainless Steel, Wood

Get the most out of your spokeshave

More than hand planes, learning how to efficiently use a shave takes practice. Your aim is to produce long, continuous shavings, not wood chips.

As with any cutting tool, a dull blade won’t produce a smooth cut. The blade needs to be razor sharp.

Treat the shave with respect. Hold it between the thumbs and fingers in a light grip. You can push or pull the shave depending on the grain direction of your stock.

Shaves are prone to chatter because of their short sole. Whenever possible, skew the tool to help minimize chatter – reducing the blade’s effective cutting angle reduces resistance.

A flat shave is the choice for edges, bevels, tapers and outside curves, but for round shapes and inside curves, a round shave is a better choice. You’ll get better results and more enjoyment using a shave with the right sole for the task at hand.

Published:
Last modified: October 16, 2023


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