Spokeshave FAQ

What is a spokeshave used for?

As its name implies, the spokeshave was once used to shave the spokes of wooden wheels. Modern-day woodworkers use spokeshaves for many different types of curved work ranging from chair-making to boat-building and covering everything in between. These versatile tools can be used on both concave and convex curves.

What’s so special about wooden spokeshaves?

The orientation of the blade in a wooden spokeshave allows it to cut the wood at a low angle of 27º (much lower than typical metal-bodied spokeshaves and even lower than a low-angle block plane). At the same time, the blade has a 27º bevel, which gives it a more durable edge than other low-angle tools. The combination of low cutting angle and durable edge make the wooden spokeshave an ideal tool for working end grain or difficult grain.

What’s the best shape for a wooden spokeshave?

The most important thing when shaping your spokeshave is to make it comfortable to hold in your hands during use (see below). Traditional wooden spokeshaves were shaped in many ways, but most had a body section in the middle and distinctly thinner handle sections at both ends. You may find it helpful to do a trial run on a scrap piece of wood milled to the same dimensions as your spokeshave kit.

What’s the best way to hold my spokeshave?

Spokeshaves can be either pushed or pulled, but it is usually easiest and most comfortable to use a fluid pulling motion. For delicate cuts where control is critical, hold the tool near the center with your hands close together and your fingers wrapped around the back. You can get more power for deeper cuts by moving your hands outward on the handles, though this may make the tool more difficult to control.

How do I adjust my spokeshave’s depth of cut?

First, loosen the two brass thumbscrews holding the blade. Next, use the supplied 3/32” hex key to adjust the set screws on both sides. Turning the setscrews clockwise gives a deeper cut; counter-clockwise gives a lighter cut. Finally, tighten the thumbscrews back up and your spokeshave will be ready to use.

My spokeshave is making a deeper cut in the center than at the sides. What’s happening?

Remember, you only need to tighten the thumbscrews until they are snug. Over-tightening will cause the blade to bow, stressing the tool and resulting in a deeper cut in the center. Try loosening one or both thumbscrews slightly.

Why is my spokeshave chattering/skipping/digging/doing nothing when I try to make a cut?

Have you sharpened lately? These are all classic signs of a dull blade. If the blade is sharp, try readjusting for a lighter cut.

I’m getting a nice cutting action, but my spokeshave is leaving scratches on the surface. Why is this happening?

As you move the spokeshave along the cut, the back edge of the blade is rubbing on the surface that the front edge has just cut. If the back edge is ragged or uneven it will scratch the wood. This is especially true when you are working a concave surface. You can remedy this situation by lightly rounding the back edge of the blade with sandpaper or a sharpening stone.

I still can’t get it to work. Help!!!

Take heart. Even the most experienced woodworkers often struggle the first time they encounter a wooden spokeshave. Learning how to adjust and use a wooden spokeshave can be frustrating at first, but with patience, practice, and a sharp blade it will soon be second nature to you.

Good luck, and be happy in your work!

Spokeshave design, production,
instructions and FAQ by

Isaac Fisher
Pachyderm Furniture Works 
Fort Bragg, California 95437
Isaac@pachydermfurniture.com


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