Purpleheart and figured maple Both re-bodied old blades.



Spokeshaves are a miracle tool once you get the hang of them.

Metal ones, wooden ones, big ones, small ones. All of them will find a use in your shop if you give them even 1/2 a chance. You will never believe you lived without.  


Making them from scratch is a good project. Blades are available but you can make those too.


Of course, the first thing you have to do if you want to make a spokeshave is pee your pants! You have to run in circles and throw up your hands and cry like a little girl. Then crawl under your porch and hide there with a supply of canned water for a long time.  You next have to call in 22 licensed professionals and pay them your life savings and cower in abject humility.   Because we all know some things are so difficult to accomplish, like gluing a piece of paper or making a toy wheel ferinstance, that we must all cowtow in the deep shadows of the great masters and never, ever encroach on their hallowed turf. After all, protecting a sliver of knowledge is what life is all about, right?
   Or else a person could always...........
Stand up and turn around, never let them shoot us down........
Never, never, never.... Never Run Away.              (Anne and Nancy Wilson)
(rant over, hey I feel better now, thanks for listening)


You can do this. I could, so can you.

  So, shave day it was.
 You know, anybody can get a spokeshave working in a couple hours if they have a good blade to start with. These tools want to cut, there can be no doubt. Give them a chance, any chance and wood will pour out of the mouth with the least effort. They're so much fun. Plenty to be said for a wooden spokeshave alright. Getting them to work is easy, the trick is making them attractive.  They have a very odd shape, very unlikely. Kind of like a plane or saw tote. Your first guesses are likely to be somewhat less than what you really had in mind. For such simple tools the small things do add up.
    But first, it happened I didn't have a good spokeshave blade to start with. Drat!
Well I had some old used and abused blade stock laying around.  No micro controlled heat treat oven though. But gee whiz Mom, I have a woodstove! I waited until near days end, placed the steel into the stove and covered it with live coals. This would guarantee me heat and a cover of ash when the coals died down. Being as it was pretty much just coals left I opened the drafts to let in plenty of air blast and blow on through.   I made a spokeshave blade and some spares just for good measure By morning, sure enough, the steel was annealed plenty soft enough to cut, drill, tap, file and generally soft enough to work any way I liked. .
 Then I needed to harden it. Oh gorsh, I don't have a furnace. Woe is me.... Hey waitaminute, how about a 1 burner propane camp stove you can just plop the steel on to preheat whilst you do other things? Then light 2 propane torches and point them at each other making yourself a little vortex of fire.  I dunno, I didn't pay through the nose for those 2 yard sale torches you know. But I suppose it's worth a try..........  Pick up with a pliers and hold in the flame a minute and..... Weeeellll, lookie here, bright cherry red!  Pop the top off a pump oiler sitting there and drop them in one by one as they cherried, quickly covering with a scrap of wood to smother the fire. Stinks a bit, give it that.
 A file won't cut them! Might be hard enough? Naaaa, not likely. Too bad for me.
But now, I don't have a tempering oven. Ohhhh the humanity of it! Tearing of hair and gnashing teeth.
Say, what's that I smell?? Could it be meatloaf? Could it be baking at 375 for an hour? Would some scraps of aluminum foil wrapped loosely around the blades several times even up the temperature fluctuations a little??
 Probably not, but fool that I am, I'm going to try it anyway.      Hmmmmmmm, even sweet pale gold! Looks like they were plated with something pretty. Not used to seeing temper colors so even. Not bad meatloaf either.
[ (Soon as the meatloaf and blades came out, I dropped the temp down to 250 and baked some tools I'd recently painted, remember the shears last week and especially the handles of same?.    Nice tip Mr Thompson.  Not to be forgotten! That paint baked like glass in 25 minutes, about the time dinner was done. ) ]
   I had some blades. Next was cutting down some ordinary screws and soldering them in. I used plenty of flux and held the screws over a torch flame with a pair of heavy vise grips clamped on just behind the cutting edge of the blade leaving the tang exposed to mop up excess heat so none would creep into the blade and applied a drop of solder when the time was right. When the solder "soaked in" I pulled from the flame and snapped my wrist sharp to shake off any excess solder and then blew on it a minute to set, then quenched in water. Did both sides this way o course to attach both the screw tangs.
 Some grinding and polishing later, finished blades!
Grabbed a piece of brass and made some nuts for it. I love the traditional shape, must admit.

Time for a body.
 Where are you Johnny Gunterman?  Miss your voice.
 I got out every shave I had and took out the calipers. Measuring proportions and trying to get the miriad shapes just right. Sure is an unlikely stick! I looked over a lot of shaves deciding on which feature or curve appealed to me most.
I laid out on a piece of rosewood and set to. I sawed, rasped and filed.  Then..........
Why oh why hasn't anyone ever invented something narrow and thin and flexible in the way of a scraper to work these curves??
Oh wait a minute, they did. 8^D Little shavings peeled off that rosewood like fiftys out of Donald Trump's wallet and fell gently to the floor so quick and easy as each curve was worked to the lines. Lift the scraper to a high angle and dig deep.  Lay it down lower angle and tiny smoothing shavings thin as a whisper curl away.
 I sanded just a little after and polished bright of course.
    I think I'm going to like it.



Traditional Stick Tang Shaves

Old Wooden shaves are easy to restore too. You don't really need the screw adjust posts, the tried and true taper fit tangs work just as well. I got this drop dead huge curly maple coopers shave as a gift and it's become a favorite. When I got it the ends of the frame had been docked short, probably to allow working inside a barrel. Since I wasn't planning on much cooperage in my future I lengthened the handles with rosewood tips, open morticed on. 

  Now that's it's set up and working this monster is the shave I hand new visitors to my shop, man woman or child, all love peeling wood with it.  Naturally, as with most wooden shaves I keep one end of the blade set ranker than the other so you have your instant choice of quick hogging or fine work with the shift of the tool.  I can peel off shavings from behind my back, it's so easy. If I could stand the teeth marks in the curly maple I'd play it with my mouth. Jimi Hendrix eat your heart out!  


Small Patternmaker's Shaves

Go fill your cup, smoke em if you got em, put your feet up,..... this is going to take a moment.
 Remember some time back I was bemoaning the wear on my favorite little patternmakers spokeshave?
Yup it was worn to a frazzle, my favoritest of all for working curves, and I'm not much of a fan of straight lines. I like curvy forms!
(Isn't it weird how they call a man straight if he likes curves?? )
 So, last week I go into the PO to pick up my mail and there is a small box in the drawer.  It's from Bill Taggert, out of the blue.
Naturally I hardly made it back out to the truck before the knife was out and I was clawing into the box with greedy hands.  Inside I find a spectacular example of a -real- patternmakers bronze spokeshave! Curved front to back just like I like.  I'm blown away in a quick pair of words. (Gobsmacked Jeff, over the moon)  I write imidiately and get the story from Bill soon as I got home.  It seems he actually went out and bought it for me!!! Unbelievable kindness and generosity.
  Well, being the obsessive type (you guys know nothing of this, right?)  I noticed the former owner(s) had got a lot of use from this  pup and the blade was a might short. Not a lot, but not full and besides I detected I could probably squeeze a little more thickness of blade in there too.   So, I grabbed a spare block plane blade from the boneyard drawer and cut one out. Some cutting, (not going to tell how I did this but a small m-torized appliance starting with a D and paper thin c-toff d-sks came into play) and   regular grinding and fettling later, it's around 25% thicker than the original and full, 2 lifetimes and then some (with care) length.  Sharpened it up and took the fist trial cuts.
  I'm swimming in delight. It cuts hungry!!  The blade is wider than my old one and now thicker too and it just bites! I got a near mirror shine down in a curve cut from fir plywood (most fragile and messy of practically all building materials Jeffrey)  ...and with ease!   I love this tool!!!!  Bill, it's a dead center bullseye hit!! Thanks again. 
 Then of course, I got to thinking about the poor little (probably Japanese or Singaporian back a couple decades ago) shave I had got the previous 25 years use out of, going to the lonely depths of the boneyard drawer, and I just couldn't do it.   I'd used that shave so long and so often it was like laying a friend down.  If you must you must, but never before all forms of resusitation have been thoroughly explored.
   I got to looking and thinking, and you know how dangerous that can be.
Pretty soon I'd mounted my genuine Tai cross vise, also around 2 or 3 decades old now, in the dp and a small end mill in the chuck. After quite a bit of testing and tapping with a hammer, then test, then tap, test etc,  it was set up. The entire exercise of machining is mostly this stage. Setup takes around 10 or more times longer, at least for me, than any actual work I ever do and I'm not even that critical most times! It only took a few minutes to mill out a flat on what used to be the leading edge in front of the blade. Next order of business was locating a small thin piece of steel. I want to say the piece I ended up with used to be part of an old fashioned churchkey but I'm not sure since both ends of whatever it was were already lopped off on another project, but you can kind of guess about how thick it was by the beercan opener reference. I marked and hacksawed it out oversize. Next came the files. I worked the width down saving the best edge for the inside in front of the blade and left the leading edge overlong for later trimming. The length had to fit my new slot and I took some time fitting it close. When I had it down to the point it could fit but some pressure needed to be applied to do so, I called it good. All burrs were removed and the mating surface was flattened and smoothed up with files for a clean mating.
I got out a pair of the last of the USA made, but horrid quality, surgical hemostats (cheap chrome plated stamped steel before they all went to genuine Pakistani cast stainless) and put them on as clamps to hold it rigid.
 I grabbed the handle of one of these in the vise to dangle the parts in open air so when the inevitable small acid spill came it would just harmlessly hit the floor.  Not many times in life do you get to be happy you have a poorly finished, deeply stained, old naked concrete shop floor but this was one.
 The propane torch. I never pass up a torch body when I see one at a yard sale, down with the bent spoons and other dreck at the bottom of the 25cents your choice, boxes is where they live. There are a bunch of styles and companies and most you find won't work straight off, but testing and parts swapping will get you several that work out of a dozen or so candidates. I refill my own little torch bottles with a valve I made out of a dead torch, but they sell the valves commercially.  The trick with these is hanging your 5gal propane bottle upside down (safely of course) and letting the liquid slowly drip from the big bottle to the small. It takes about a day.
 I fired a torch and gently heated the new sole plate from the bottom slowly warming the shave nose bar at the same time. I applied some acid flux just at the sizzle point and watched it wick across to the backside as it boiled. Then back to the torch and repeat. 3 times I prefluxed this way. If I knew the metal had been anything but freshly worked I would have done it more. The joint you intend to make must be immaculate if you want solder to actually run.
 On the next heat I applied a small drip of solder.Very small.  I kept slowly heating until the drip spread full width and complete front to back a smooth liquid mirror pool. Turned off the torch and waited for it to set. When it froze solid I knew it was ok to take the whole shebang over to the sink and douse it.
I keep a bottle of the cheapest brand dish soap right there handy at the sink, in a used mustard pump dispenser.  So next was taking a snippet of steel wool and scrubbing the little solder job with soap and wool until clean and shiny to remove all the flux.
 It was major downhill from there. I needed to shorten my overlong nose and even out the thicknesses of sole plate and shave body until it all met flush and even.  Test for blade fit and minor filing all over too. Last a nice light overall buff with ao compound on a med sewed cotton wheel at slow speed.
With the new to me- but genuine old shave being so glamorous,  I'll be reacing for it most often I'm sure. But the repro-but now old shave is just as ready for work so it'll go back in the rack as a backup.
 Lovely word, backup

  yours, Scott