What is a spokeshave?
A spokeshave is a hand tool used in woodworking to shave curved pieces of wood down to the required size.
Spokeshaves are essentially speciality planes. Planes are tools used to shape wood by smoothing and removing small slithers at a time. Spokeshaves are much smaller and are specially shaped to work with curved wood.
A spokeshave can be used for many precise applications where a curved surface is required. A spokeshave would work on a flat surface and is sometimes used as such, but generally the larger planes are used to be quicker.
They are particularly handy for making chairs, bows and canoe paddles.
The name spokeshave is an indicator of the tool's original usage: to shave wheel spokes. The spokeshave developed from wheelwrights using a similar tool, from the sixteenth century onwards, to shape the spindles in wooden wheels. The usage of a spokeshave has now expanded to include any curved items of wood.
There are both metal and wooden spokeshaves. The wooden spokeshave is considered to be an older tool, with slightly different results to the metal spokeshave. The angle of the blades mean that the incisions are suited to slightly varying tasks.
For more information see:
Spokeshaves are old tools, which have gone through many changes and updates. There are types of spokeshave still seen, but not available for purchase anymore.
This is because spokeshaves can be very long-lasting if cared for properly. The metal spokeshave is thought to have originated in the mid nineteenth century and the wooden one maybe a century before.
For more information on the older versions, see:
There are also spokeshaves of various shapes available, which are suited to different types of curves. It is often necessary to have multiple spokeshaves for a single task, to produce the different curves required.
For more information see:
The spokeshave is a small tool, with a length usually between 240mm (9 7/16") - 305 mm (12") and the blade is 50-60 mm (2"-2 3/8") in length.
There are also smaller spokeshaves available for extremely precise, intricate and more delicate tasks. The small ones measure in at approximately 90-170mm (3 9/16"- 6 11/16").
A spokeshave strongly resembles another tool called a cabinet scraper. Cabinet scrapers are also woodworking tools used for removing wood, however they are more like sand paper, used for finishing flat wood surfaces.
The body shape and the way the blade is inserted is different on a cabinet scraper. Don't buy the versions with a high (almost vertical) blade in the middle of a wider body, with a single adjustment knob if you are after a spokeshave.