Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lie-Nielsen: Small Bronze Spokeshave

Beautiful Tool !!
     In the hand tool class I'm teaching, we're using a variety of tools and my goal is to expose the students to methods of work that are an alternative to using power tools. Not that there's anything wrong with power tools, it's just a whole other experience doing the work quietly, listening to the sound the cutters make as you apply them to the wood.  So much to learn by listening, the wood does talk to you and let you know whether or not your technique is correct, your tool is sharp, and the cut is just so.
     One of my favorite tools is the spokeshave.  Just as the name implies, it's original use was to form the wooden spokes on wheels for wagons and later cars.  I showed the class my old Stanley version and also the one I made myself so they could experience how these tools work.  Our project has a gently curved, bandsawed edge and the spokeshave is ideal for smoothing it out to a fair curve.  Only problem is where there is a slight inward cove -- for that you need a spokeshave with a radiused edge.  I've had my eye on this spokeshave for quite some time so in the interest of educating my students decided to buy it, sounded like a perfect excuse to open my wallet!
    Lie-Nielsen is a custom tool maker located in Maine.  Their tools are beyond compare in quality, and they have customer service where you actually talk to a person!  They will answer questions or give you advice on how to best sharpen, select, or use one of their tools.  Here is a  link to their website so you can see them for yourself.  Their tools are ready to use, right out of the box.  It is recommended that you hone them for optimum performance.  Most other manufacturers tools require more preparation than theirs do.  For cutting tools to really work well, the backs need to be perfectly flat, the sides should be parallel, and the casting that holds the blade should be flat as well.  Preparing this blade took very little time plus there is a video on YouTube, made by Lie-Nielsen that showed the best method to prepare the blade.
     In the class, we've discussed how a sharp tool will improve the quality of the work.  It's also much safer to use a tool that is sharp compared to forcing a tool to do the work that isn't sharp.  What you look for as you sharpen is the scratch pattern made by the stone.  I use Norton waterstones and started out with a 4000 grit and ended with a final honing on an 8000.  Below is a photo essay showing the progression of the sharpening process, you can see by the scratch pattern that there is a small area near the center of this blade that needed attention:
After 3-4 Passes
More ......
..... keep going
Almost there

See the Reflection?
     That's what you're looking for whenever you sharpen a tool.  Doesn't matter if it's a spokeshave, plane iron, or chisel.  The scratch pattern is so fine it'll have a mirror finish.  You remove the burr created by sharpening from the back, install the blade, and you should be good to go.
Setting up and Practicing

Blade Installed

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