Friday, August 22, 2008

Tuned Up Tool - Spokeshave

For my birthday, my wife agreed to subject herself to the torture of the area's biggest woodworking store, Stan Houston in Sioux Falls, SD. It was better for her this time, because she could at least play with the baby, while I drooled over tools.

While there I picked up a brand new Stanley #51 spokeshave style spokeshave. Of course, like most Stanley made woodworking hand tools, I knew this wasn't a "turn-key" tool. No taking it out of the box and putting it right to work. Oh no. These tools, to the discerning woodworker, are nothing more than a "kit of parts", and some parts aren't even good enough to make it into the final tool.

The "Kit of Parts" for a spokeshave

Of course we must take the blade out and sharpen it, and lap the sole. Those are the easy things to do. I was guided through the rest of the tune up project by a wonderful article from Fine This article was written by chair-making spokeshave genius, Brian Boggs. His evolution as a woodworking is a great read, and is chronicled in another article from FWW. I highly recommend their website, and they are even offering a 14 day FREE trial!

Being the frugal woodworker I am, I couldn't follow Brian's fist bit of advice and buy a new blade. Even though I KNOW it would greatly reduce chatter and hold an edge longer, I'm cheap, and that's the final word on that. Moving on.

The next tip was to "level the bed". This is accomplished by making a bed/epoxy/paper/blade sandwich, and letting it cure overnight. This creates a perfectly matched surface for the blade to sit on, reducing chatter.

The epoxied bed, molded by the blade.

The final step was the most involved which, for me, made it the most fun. This involved doing away with the stock lever cap, and making a new one, which also has the advantage of serving as a chipbreaker, giving you a much finer cut. Now Brian is a classy guy, so for his raw material, he used brass. Me = frugal = scrap iron, dirty scrap iron at that, but at least I found a piece that was soft enough to work with a file.

Original (top) and shop-made (lower) cap iron.

Original cap does little right .{}. Shop-made cap/chipbreaker improves tool.

A finely tuned spokeshave is an extremely versatile tool, and can do things that power tools simply cannot. If your looking to put into your work a little extra hand-made detailing, this is an easy and enjoyable way to do it.

Come on admit it, what would you rather make a round-over with? A router screaming its way though it's victim, or a spokeshave, taking off beautiful Wisps of wood?

David J. Ulschmid

~ Wisp Woods ~

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