Out of Square

spokeshave_varietyThere’s an essential tool every woodworker needs in their kit if they want to get out of the square rut. Power tools, with their relentless precision, have changed the way woodworkers think – everything needs to be perfectly square and/or parallel. These concepts have driven woodworkers to building rectilinear furniture, shop fixtures and projects of all kinds. If you’ve reached that level plateau, it’s time to up your game.

Working with the class this week on the Esherick music stands got me thinking about this because there’s very little that’s straight or square on them. Not only is the major power tool of choice the bandsaw, but the primary surface prep tool is a spokeshave. All the students have spokeshaves in their tool boxes, but I don’t think any of them have used them as much in their work as they have this week.

I feel strongly that, for furniture work, you need two spokeshaves in your arsenal – a flat face and a round face. The flat-face spokeshave is perfect for convex forms and the round-face for concave. What the class found out this week is that the flat shave works extremely well on gentle curves of both kinds, and they’re easier to set and use.

round_flatBecause a spokeshave is a cutting tool, getting them sharp is key to easy operation. The best part is that you sharpen them just like you would a hand plane. For me that means hollow-grinding the blade followed by free-hand honing, but you can use your favorite method. And, when it’s time to set the shave, I do it the same way I set my planes – I sight down the sole and adjust the depth-of-cut and lateral projection.

I’ve also noticed some woodworkers confuse spokeshaves and draw knives. Glen started previewing some of the coming changes to 360 WoodWorking, so I thought I’d continue that effort by teasing you with some thoughts on spokeshaves. I have lots more to share on the subject in the near future, but you’ll need to be a free or premium member to get the information. Sign up for the free membership here or jump into one of the paid memberships here, then be on the lookout for “Triple T.”

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