Saturday, September 18, 2010

Making a Spokeshave

I've always been intrigued with the thought of making my own tools, sure, we woodworkers often make jigs to help build projects but making a tool is another thing.  At the beginning of this year I used a gift certificate from Lee Valley to buy their small, spokeshave kit.  I regularly use a metal Stanley #151 in my work to ease corners and put chamfers on the ends of pieces but thought that a small, wooden bodied spokeshave would be just the right challenge for my first, shop made tool.  Here's a picture of the final result:

I made it out of 2 pieces of Chakte Kok with a strip of Australian Lacewood in the middle.  In retrospect, the Chakte Kok may be a little soft as it chipped ever so slightly at the ends of the wear strip.  An advantage to this kit is that it came with enough of the brass wear strip to make another spokeshave body.  I used water stones to sharpen the blade and the cut it makes is nice.  There will be a learning curve to using this though.  I'm accustomed to pulling a spokeshave towards me but am finding that this works better when it's pushed away.   This project was pretty time consuming and required lots of thought and precision.  I worked on it between other projects and enjoyed the process -- even when I'd make the occasional mistake like grabbing a 7/32" bit instead of a 7/64"! What the heck, a little dowel, a little epoxy, and you'd never know it happened.  

After gluing the blank together you need to drill and tap holes for the adjustment screws to thread into the wood.  Obviously, these must be perfectly square and aligned to the body.  The kit even supplied the tap needed.  In this first picture, the holes are drilled and taped and I'm preparing to cut out the angled section for the ware.  The tape was to see the line better, I made a series of cuts with the dovetail saw which were then chiseled out.
Cutting the Ware
Once the ware was correctly sized the next step was to insert the blade into the body. It needed to be recessed so that it was flush with the bottom of the body.  You can see the brass piece that will become the wear strip at the front of the blade.
Blade recessed into the Body
Next was to fit the brass wear strip in front of the blade.  The ends are dovetailed into the body at about 10 degrees and the strip is also filed to a 45 degree angle to match the ware.  Once the clearance between the blade and wear strip was correct holes were drilled and the entire wear strip was filed and shaped to fit flush into the body.
Wear Strip Installed

Now comes the final cutting and shaping of the spokeshave.  I learned a technique where you use a glue stick to attach the pattern to the wood, it's very easy to remove with a scraper.  I also drilled holes for the area where you put your thumbs when using the shave.  Much easier to drill a radius than it is to cut one, a forstner bit worked well for this.
Pattern in place, ready for the Bandsaw

After filing and sanding to get the final shape, one that felt good in my hands I used the 3 part, top coat finish I use on my furniture.  First coat wet sanded with 220, followed by successive coats with 400 and 600 grits.  After honing and sharpening the blade it was time to test it out.  Here's a couple of photos of the results on a piece of hard Maple.  I'd suggest taking this on for your first, shop made tool if you should get the urge!  Glad to answer any questions if you run into a problem.
Rounding over the Edge

Chamfer on the End

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