Spokeshave Tune-up

by Bob Smalser

This article first appeared as a thread on theWoodNet woodworking forum. It was compiled and reproduced here for easier public consumption. All Text and Images are the property of Bob Smalser.

Spokeshaves cut exactly like a plane - the critical parts are the blade support in back, the cap iron fit supporting the unbeveled blade edge, and the distance between the edge and the front sole - the opening of the mouth.

Check the blade support in the casting.this 15-dollar Ebay contemporary Stanley 151's is fine.use Prussian Blue or soot from a smoky lamp to find and flat needle files to take down any high spots. Simply smoke or coat the blade, gently put it in place, and tighten the slotted screw to make the marks.

Using a straightedge, check the sole for flatness.

.and the side of the mouth the blade bears on for straightness.

If filing is required, use single-cut fine pillar files and flat needle files. Keep them clean as you use them.

Mount the blade in a welders vise grip and hone a 25-degree bevel and a 30-degree secondary bevel like with a plane iron. I use Arkansas stones in 4 grades and cutting oil, but cheap wet-or-dry paper cemented to glass or MDF with WD40 works fine, too. 100-600 grit in sequence.the duller the blade, the coarser the starting point.

Note the protractor in the pic. Blade guides won't work on short spokeshave blades so you have to learn to hone by eye and feel. Simply set your starting angle with the protractor and memorize the feel of it.if you are careful and use a light touch you can feel the bevel on the stone.a bench height belt-buckle high facilitates elbow movement that keeps the bevel flat without rocker.but if you get some rocker in the bevel, it's no biggie.just move on to your more-important secondary bevel and fix it next time you hone.

Flatten the blade back using the same 4 grades of stone or paper. On a blade that has never been flattened, do this [I]before[/I] you hone your bevels, and do it thoroughly.

Strop well on leather strap or a buffing wheel using Knifemaker's Green Rouge

Make sure its sharp enuf to shave hair painlessly.note the hair atop the blade . and the light's reflection on that 5-degree secondary bevel at the top of the pic.

Hone the cap iron surface that bears on the blade exactly like you did the blade back.

Check for a perfect bearing surface as you reassemble the shave. One important point often overlooked....after the shave is assembled and adjusted, tighten the cap iron slotted screw a bit to press the blade firmly against the casting before you tighten the knurled screw to apply a lot of cap iron pressure directly above the blade cutting edge. All the cap iron does is support the cutting edge....that slotted screw holds the cap iron-blade assembly against the casting.

Check your settings on a piece of tough hardwood like this walnut. Most folks like to round off the corners of the blade so's there's no danger of the blade corner gouging the wood..I do that with smooth planes but don't bother with shaves.notice the shavings here are the full width of the workpiece and of even thickness.

Then check again in normal use.

All this took less than 30 minutes including the photography..if I'da had to do some filing, it might have taken 45 minutes.

As I said, they cut exactly like a plane. When beginning the cut, pressure needs to be on the front of the sole....and when finishing the cut, the pressure needs to be transferred to the rear of the sole. After a while, you won't even realize you are doing it.

Doesn't matter whether you push or pull...you'll need to do both, depending on how the work piece is held.

And the screw adjustments on Bailey planes and 151-style spokeshaves are just eyewash....our forbearers used a light brass hammer to tap their wedged blades into set, and I do the same even on tools with screw adjustments inside the limits of the adjusting screw lash, because it is much more precise than those coarse screws. Set them light.try them out.and tap them in.


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