In the last decade, the rise of chairmaking classes has created a healthy demand for high-quality spokeshaves that work perfectly after only honing the cutter.Like all quality tools, these spokeshaves are considerably more expensive than the garden-variety tools. To find out, we bought the current crop of metal-bodied shaves – both the inexpensive ones (Stanley, Kunz and Anant) and the premium brands (Veritas and Lie-Nielsen) – to compare them side-by-side. To understand how these shaves differ from one another, you first need to know a bit about the mechanics of this type of tool.For those trained in an English tradition, it is a common, useful tool for gradual beveling of leather, especially around the turnins and caps.While a Scharfix or Brockman type paring machine is useful, you would have to do a lot of sanding if you want a long, gradual bevel found on English fine bindings, and for reducing thickness in the spine area.S., all others I looked at failed to perform – miserably. This is too bad because if you start with a decent shave, a bit of work can make it a precision tool. One that I bought for this article from my local tools/automotive/camping supplies store was labeled a “spokeshaver.” That was my first warning. The sole had been ground freehand at a few different angles.The flimsy blade was “sharpened” to a saw-tooth edge and, judging by the colour of the steel, had been impulse-hardened instead of tempered. Don’t buy it, or even attempt to fix one, if you own one.Fact: There are things I can do with a wooden spokeshave much more effectively and efficiently than I can do with my model XXXXX.Fact: There are things I can do with my wooden boxwood spokeshave that I cannot do with my model XXXXX or my Stanley #151. I have accumulated a dozen spokeshaves and I use them all, I like them all and I have special ones that I sharpen to task.
A wooden jack will hog-off ten times more than any Stanley Bedrock can and a Lie Nielsen 4 1/2 is still one of the best engineered 4 1/2 planes on the market though it is somewhat heavy and a cumbersome too.
Earlier binders either purchased leather of the required thickness, sent it back to a leatherseller to thin it for them, or in the second half of the 19th C. Although today we tend to think of a French knife as having a gently curved cutting edge somewhat perpendicular to the length of the blade, and Salamon notes “This has a broad blade c. wide, bevel sharpened across the end like a chisel, either straight or at an angle.” (Salamon 1986, 57) Dudin illustrates a similar knife shown below.
(Dudin 1997, 115) These engravings are detailed and carefully observed- note the leather wrapped around the handle for comfort.
Had I had internet blogging in place I could have responded as I did to the editor: Fact: The #151 or similar metal-cast spokeshave have been in every carpenter’s and furniture maker’s tool boxes for a century.
Fact: Woodworkers for a century, perhaps a hundred thousand of them, had owned and used the #151 spokeshave successfully.