Spokeshaves are one of the essentials of manual woodworking. They’re used to smooth out edges and create round shapes for objects such as chair legs or bows and arrows. A versatile tool that can prove to be invaluable for curved work, it provides a type of finesse that machines simply cannot rival. What’s more, it does it much cheaper than any power tool would. So get ready to arch an edge or smooth out a spindle, today we’re exploring the best spokeshaves of 2023! We’re taking a look at the finest tools the internet has to offer from the most affordable option to the best value for money. Let’s jump in!
Smoothing out edges into curves and making spindles doesn’t have to be power tool work. It can even be wasteful to use an expensive lathe when simple manual work will do the trick. Using a spokeshave can be enjoyable work of precision, allowing you to take small shavings off a piece of wood and slowly finesse it into its intended shape. It’s a tool that’s great for furniture legs but also for working on musical instruments or really, anything else that can use a curve.
There are multiple types of spokeshaves available but the most popular and adaptable one is the flat bed so that’s the one we will be covering in today’s guide.
Spokeshaves are simple tools but they vary a lot in price. Higher end brands charge hundreds of dollars while thrift stores let vintage models go for only a couple of bucks. But how can you tell if the tool you’re looking at will do a good job? Let’s explore some key aspects of the spokeshave.
The handles of a spokeshave extend like wings from both sides of the tool and they’re an important part of maintaining control and stability when angling a cut. If the handles are too long they can be uncomfortable to work with but if they’re too short they’ll make it hard to judge the angle.
The blade should be made of hard, durable material. You’re looking for something that is easy to sharpen and will hold an edge. Check and compare the thickness between suppliers to find the best spokeshave and remember that bigger is better in this regard. With time, you’ll need to keep sharpening it and thus grind it down in the process. A thicker blade makes for longer use.
By using the screws on the top of the spokeshave’s body you’ll be able to adjust the depth of the cut, making for bigger or smaller shavings depending on how much material you’re looking to take off. These screws should be easy to turn and feel sturdy. It’s important that you get a handle on them before digging into the wood as different spokeshaves can have slightly more or less intuitive adjustment mechanisms and you want to make sure you’re in complete control of the shaving size.
Preparing a spokeshave
Despite what you might be expecting, only the most expensive brands deliver their products ready to use out of the box. The price you pay for an affordable tool is that you’ll need to spend a little time fine tuning it before putting it to work.
In the case of a spokeshave the most important steps you need to take care of are sanding, flattening and sharpening.
Some tools come covered in paint on the whole surface, including on the bottom which is, of course, the area that’s going to be doing the heavy lifting. This is a problem not only from a flatness perspective, but also, the paint can leave residue on your work as you’re using the tool. Make sure to sand or dissolve it before starting to take off material.
In an ideal world, all spokeshaves would come perfectly flat out of the box, smooth to control and pristine. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t measure up, especially for more budget friendly options. Spend some time flattening and polishing the sole with sandpaper and you’ll make almost any tool usable.
The bevel of the spokeshave blade should be sharpened at a 25-degree angle. Most blades come barely sharpened so you’ll need to give it some elbow grease before judging whether it can do a good job or not. Bonus points for evening the bed of the blade so that the blade doesn’t rock in place. Trust us, it will make a difference
If you want to learn more about spokeshaves, this video from Paul Seller is a great resource:
How To Use a Spokeshave
Adjust the tool for the desired shaving size before getting to work and make sure that the blade is nice and sharp. Although the spokeshave isn’t as demanding as a drawknife and can be pushed or pulled, always go with the grain when shaving.
When you’re just starting out, using a spokeshave can be pretty focus intensive work. If you’re not used to it, you might be tempted to grab it by the edges of the handles and start cutting but this will limit precision. We advise that you grab it with your thumbs and forefingers as close to the body as possible so that the movement is easier to control from your wrists.
Arm yourself with patience and spend some time practicing to gain control and gauge whether you prefer pulling or pushing and assess what’s the most comfortable work position for you.
If you’re looking for a quality spokeshave but you’re unable or unwilling to pay top dollar for the most reputable brands, this is the tool for you. This spokeshave is great value for money and the best you will find in its price range.
It will be sharp enough to get to business right out of the box, although we do advise a bit of fine tuning before starting to smooth anything out. The handles are comfortable to grasp and work with and the adjustment screws will work precisely as intended. The sole is machined much better than competitors and it feels well made and sturdy enough to handle whatever you throw at it.
Equipped with carbon steel blades and comfortable handles, the Astitchin spokeshave made runner up because of its durability. This product is designed to go the extra mile. Made with wear resistant material, it feels great and solid to the hand but it will give you all the precision you need.
The double screw adjustment is a joy to use and it will help you get the perfect shaving size without too much hassle. It’s handy enough that it won’t give beginners any headaches, but high quality enough that it will make a good addition to any seasoned woodworker’s collection. Sand the bottom until you remove the paint for the best experience.
This two piece set is ideal for beginners. It’s affordable but effective and will allow you to comfortably learn how to adjust, sharpen and shape. It’s highly controllable and easy to maneuver so you can get nice clean cuts with minimal effort.
It’s true, these tools won’t give you quite the same effortless experience as top range competitors, and if you’re looking for that kind of geel for pennies on the dollar, this is not the set for you. With these tools you’ll likely have to sand the soles a bit and sharpen the blades more often. But if you want a good budget tool and hard steel these will do the trick.
Pro tip: Adjust one of them for a more aggressive cut and the other for a finer shave for maximum comfort.
A heavy duty tool that will give you a good reliable feel as you work it. This is a sturdy two piece set you can adjust for moderate and fine shavings that will give quite a bit of bang for your buck.
The steel is hard and the blades hold an edge. The set includes one set of replacement blades so even when you wear your first ones out, this purchase will keep delivering. A bit of anti-rust oil between uses will make this affordable buy a long term tenant in your workshop.
The one drawback of these items is the paint on the bottom of the tool. You’ll need to apply some elbow grease to sand it off before using it so if that sounds like too much of a drag you might want to consider a different brand.
This spokeshave comes with five hard and durable blades to be swapped out as needed. It will be easy to use, easy to adjust and you won’t have to worry about the blades getting dull or repurchasing for quite a while. The bottom of the tool is made from wear resistant material, aiming to give as much use out of the tool as possible.
The Useluck spokeshave pack needs pruning, as most budget tools do, but the manufacturers really went the extra mile with hard blades that hold an edge and a solid build that will take some abuse.
A great tool that works as intended without any bells and whistles. Good quality material, the screws are solidly fixed and adjust well and the blade will hold an edge though it comes pretty sharp right out of the package.
Play around with it to get a hang of how to work it as the 2 wheel mechanism works the screws simultaneously modifying both the lateral and depth adjustment. After a bit of trial and error you’ll be ready to put it to good use.
The handles are comfortable to hold and maneuver and you can get pretty thin shavings with it. It feels comfortable to use and it’s solid enough. All in all, an affordable tool that does the job!
This tool is a great buy if you’re willing to put in 30 minutes or so of work before you use it. It’s affordable and has all the functionality you would expect from a flat base spokeshave. You can adjust it pretty easily but this is not the kind of tool you’ll be able to put to work straight out of the box.
If you’ve got a bit of knowledge on how to prepare and care for it, this Swpeet spokeshave will do its job just fine for a fraction of the price. Flatten the sole, sharpen the blade and wax between uses to avoid rust and you’ll find shaving with it is an enjoyable experience.
However, if you’re a complete beginner with absolutely no experience in preparing your tool, you might want to spend a few more dollars for something that needs less TLC before first use.
People Also Asked
Q: What is a spokeshave used for?
A: Spokeshaves are used to curve out edges and round wood. It’s used for projects such as chairs, bows and arrows and even wooden wagon wheels.
Q: What are the different types of spokeshaves?
A: There are four types of spokeshaves. The flat spokeshave, round spokeshave, concave spokeshave and convex spokeshave. The flat spokeshave is the most frequently used and the most versatile. The round spokeshave is designed for shaving off the inside of arched surfaces, the concave one is used to create rounded objects such as wheels while the convex spokeshave is used to create a dugout shape in your woodworking.
Q: How much does a spokeshave cost?
A: Spokeshave prices vary quite a lot depending on the brand. Although it’s a fairly straightforward tool, they can go for about $10 on the low end and $500 on the high end
Q: Do you push or pull a Spokeshave?
A: A spokeshave can be pulled or pushed depending on the wood grain or on your position and what feels most comfortable. It doesn’t require a specific cutting direction to work.
Q: What angle do you sharpen Spokeshave?
A: Spokeshaves customarily need a 25 degree bevel angle.
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