Buy 1-2 Spokeshaves
What is a Spokeshave?
A spokeshave is basically a small handplanes used for shaping and smoothing curved wood. The spokeshave body holds an adjustable blade rigidly against the bed, in a very similar way to a handplane. As mentioned above, spokeshaves were originally used for making wagon wheel spokes, but have moved into being used for other types of woodwork.
What Spokeshaves Do You Need?
Opinions vary on which spokeshaves you need for woodworking, because many people use spokeshaves for different tasks. I will try to explain which spokeshaves excel at certain types of work, and then you can make the decision about which spokeshaves to buy.
I like to have at least two spokeshaves, one with a flat bottom and set for taking more of a rough cut, and and one set for fine cuts. The fine cut spokeshave can have either a flat bottom, or (as I prefer) a slightly rounded bottom, for getting into curves. Many of the modern budget-friendly spokeshaves have poor machining, don’t have a bed that’s flat enough for stability, and don’t have good tool steel for the iron. There are a couple modern spokeshaves that can be modified to work well, especially with a good replacement blade that will hold a nice edge.
What are the Best Vintage Spokeshaves?
Antique spokeshaves are usually my preference, and antique wooden spokeshaves are really sweet if you can get them tuned up and get a tight mouth. However, before buying antique wooden spokeshaves, make sure the wooden body isn’t split. A couple people have done pretty good tutorials on how to sharpen wooden spokeshaves (check YouTube).
My favorite vintage, all metal spokeshave is the Stanley No. 151 spokeshave (also manufactured as the Record A151 spokeshave). It is probably the most popular and best-designed spokeshave. Hand tool expert Jim Bode said of the Stanley 151 spokeshave:
“The best-selling spoke shave of all time. A totally no-nonsense shave with dual micrometer like adjustments that allow you to take thin shaving on one side and a heavier cut on the other, if you want to. Easy to sharpen and easy to find replacement blades. Works great on flats, convex, and even concaves greater than 8 inch radius.”
Another very popular, though not as easily adjustable spokeshave is the vintage Stanley No. 51 spokeshave (pictured below). If tuned up, these smaller spokeshaves work great, and are cheaper than the No. 151.
Back in the October 2002 issue of Fine Woodworking Magazine, chairmaker Brian Boggs wrote a great article titled, “Soup Up Your Spokeshave” that should be helpful in making your vintage (or even new) spokeshave work as good as possible (find the article here).
- Here are some excellent vintage spokeshave models that should be easy to find:
What are the Best New Spokeshaves for Woodworking?
A well-respected chair maker, Brian Boggs, designed an excellent curved-bottom spokeshave for Lie-Nielsen. This is my favorite new spokeshave. The A2 blade keeps a good edge and the castings are nicely machined with a flat bed and cap iron, which all lead to a chatter-free tool that helps prevent tearout. The hickory handles are comfortable and appropriately shaped. The Lie-Nielsen spokeshave comes totally tuned, sharp, and ready to use out of the box. You can buy it here.
Cheaper, new spokeshaves are rarely usable out of the box. But as mentioned earlier, here’s an excellent Fine Woodworking article by Brian Boggs, called “Soup Up Your Spokeshave” where he shows how to improve a newer, cheaper spokeshave (Issue #158, pp. 45-49).
Stanley has manufactured a “reproduction” of their vintage No. 151 spokeshave (pictured above). Though not made as good as the original (maybe they lost the recipe?) with some work and modifications it can do a pretty good job. You can also use your belt sander to round the bottom. You can find it on Amazon here. (sold under model numbers 12-951 and 1-12-151 for $25-$35). But it’s going to require just as much work (if not more) than a vintage No. 151, so you might as well buy a vintage model and put some work into it, and get a better spokeshave.
Other new Spokeshave options: Highland Woodworking has a good selection of new spokeshaves and replacement blades here. I have heard good things about the Veritas Low Angle Spokeshave, found at the above link. I would steer clear of the Kunz spokeshaves, as I haven’t had luck tuning them up.