Teach me how to use/set up a spokeshave1

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Forum topic by namrufmot posted 02-19-2016 08:31 PM 1133 views 1 time favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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54 posts in 1065 days

02-19-2016 08:31 PM

This forum has been really helpful in the acquisition of my power tools…now I need help with a hand tool – the SPOKESHAVE!

I’m making an antique wheelbarrow and need to round off the handles – I could sand then round but I want that rough rustic look.

I’ve never used a spokeshave (never had the need) so I went out and bought the el-cheapo Stanley for like $16…

The packaging came with no instruction about how to setup the tool – how far “down” should the tip of the blade go past the base?

I just guessed at the depth and tried on a piece of test wood and it was awful lol…is there a recommended video I should watch? Any help is appreciated!

5 replies so far

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7024 posts in 1336 days

#1 posted 02-19-2016 09:37 PM

Here's a good article by Bob Smalser on tuning them up.

As far as using, it’s like a plane. You increase cut depth a little at a time until you get good shavings with no tear out. It’s also critical to read the grain and work with it. Especially on softwoods or open-grained woods like oak. I just recently acquired my first spokeshave so I can’t really offer any more detailed insight than that. I will say that I found a razor-sharp blade an absolute necessity and that sharpening that short blade is kind of a PITA! I eventually figured it out and found a hollow grind followed by freehand honing to be the best method for me but YMMV of course.

I’ll also add that I’ve read, from multiple sources, that a crappy spokeshave is a crappy spokeshave and will always be a crappy spokeshave. So if you can’t get that new Stanley working, it may not be you!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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10702 posts in 1683 days

#2 posted 02-19-2016 09:47 PM

Search “spokeshave bearkatwood”. Their was another post like this a couple weeks ago and he gave some great info.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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David Taylor

326 posts in 1285 days

#3 posted 02-20-2016 04:36 AM

Garret Hack goes over spokeshave use here –

-- Learn Relentlessly

View namrufmot's profile


54 posts in 1065 days

#4 posted 02-20-2016 10:54 PM

Thanks men! I attacked the 2×4 and it came out pretty damn good…not perfectly round but this is supposed to be rustic so I wanted a hand-made, old-world feel. I’m not even going to take it to my sander for finishing because I like how it looks.

Next question…if I want to round off the ends of the handles, to make a “knob” how would I go about that?

View bearkatwood's profile


1663 posts in 1209 days

#5 posted 02-20-2016 11:32 PM

Did I hear someone call my Name? ;)
Spokeshaves are my favorite tool to use in my shop. If I had to use one hand tool and get rid of the rest, the spokeshave would be it. They are so very versatile. As the saying goes it is true you get what you pay for the most part. Every once in a while you will find an el cheap-o that will preform well, but most of the time they will just frustrate you. That said, lets turn to tuning it up. first thing is to sharpen the blade as best you can, Paul Sellers has a good video on freehand sharpening, you could make a jig and sharpen it or veritas makes a jig, however the method get-er-sharp. I like mine at 35 degrees. Check that the area of the body the blade seats in is nice and flat, use a fine cut mill file to flatten any problems, then place the blade in the body and finger tighten the screws loosely. Lay the shave on the workbench with the flat resting squarely on the bench and let the blade fall to this depth and then tighten the screw/s. This will give you a good starting depth. Adjust the depth as needed to get a fine shaving. For me I like the models with a depth adjustment screw that levers the front mouth plate giving the option to change the depth very quickly. There are differing schools of thought on setting the blade. One is to set it with more of a bite to one side giving the option to take a small or large shaving by moving the shave to one side of the work or the other. I like to set the blade square, but it is all up to the user. I will try to add some good links to read thru. I am a self taught woodworker and started with power tools and the spokeshave was my first hand tool. I had to learn how to use it by myself with very, very little instruction. The beauty of the spokeshave is in the simplicity of it’s design and operation. It will let you know very quickly if you are doing something wrong. The first will be dull blade, then too big a bite or set too deep, grain direction issues, mouth opening issues that might need to be filed to fix and rocking the shave while using. Have fun trying it out.

You might have already got your answer, but thanks for the opportunity to blab on about spokeshaves.

For the ends if you want a rustic look use a hook knife or sloyd knife to carve them off.
Take care and have fun woodworking

-- Brian Noel

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