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What is a Spokeshave?

A spokeshave is a specialized woodworking tool designed for shaping and smoothing curves. It resembles a small plane with handles and a sharp blade, adept at carving wheel spokes, chair legs, and bows. Its precision allows for intricate control over your craft. Intrigued by the art of woodworking? Discover how a spokeshave can elevate your projects to the next level.
Heather Phillips
Heather Phillips

A spokeshave is a cutting and shaping tool used in woodcarving. It has two handles in line with each other on either side of the blade. It works similarly to a bench plane, but, because of its shape, it can carve rounded surfaces. Some of these surfaces include traditional wheel spokes, which gave the tool its name, as well as curved seat surfaces, spindles, canoe paddles, and some types of furniture leg, such as the cabriole leg.

The parts of a spokeshave consist of the body, sole, blade adjustment screws, and the handles. The body holds the blade, and its underside is referred as the sole. The blade adjustment screws are typically located on the upper part of the body and can have differing functions, from adjusting blade height to adjusting blade curvature. Handles are generally made of wood or metal and flank the body.


These implements can have different blade and sole profiles, typically either flat or curved. Those that have both flat blades and soles are called flat spokeshaves. A curved spokeshave is also known as round spokeshave, and its blade and sole can have either a convex or concave formation. Those that are concave are also referred as compass spokeshaves.

To use this tool, the work piece is usually secured in a vice first. Then, the spokeshave is held against the surface and either pushed or pulled. The blade sits at an angle to the sole and the piece being carved. As the woodworker holds the handles, moving the tool over the surface with some gentle pressure, wood is shaved from the work piece.

This tool has been used for a long time. Archaeologists have discovered prehistoric spokeshaves made of stone. Prior to the mid-1800s, most of these tools had wooden handles. When the first bench planes were cast from metal, metal-handled spokeshaves also started to be mass-produced.

Many woodworkers often like the feel of a wooden-handled spokeshave. Since this is the case, quite a few traditional craftsmen make them in this manner. Some woodworkers make their own spokeshaves, harking back to times when craftsmen made most of the tools that they used.

Tools similar to this implement include drawknives and cabinet scrapers. The blade of a drawknife is much longer and it can be used in tree debarking, or for removing larger amounts of wood than a spokeshave can. Cabinet scrapers have a vertical blade that is used to flake wood off as they are scraped vertically to the wood, instead of cutting at an angle and slicing the wood off of the work piece.

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Discussion Comments


Thanks! I have a teacher that's mad, making me research spoke shaves. This was helpful.

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