TeachShave by John Gunterman


Or How to Make a Spokeshave

by John Gunterman

Making a Shave

  1. Start with a block of wood approximately 1" by 1 1/4" by 11". Check the list of tools (below) needed to make sure you have everything. The first step is to locate the blades position in the body. Find the center of the block of wood and mark with an arrow pointing to the front of the shave. Next, strike a line 3/8" in from the rear of the stock on the top. Now locate the tang holes (approximately 3 15/16" apart). Verify that your blade will fit, as some blades may differ. It is critical that the tang holes are accurate. Drill the holes with a 13/64" bit.

  2. Next, seat the blade by inserting the tangs through the holes until the blade contacts the body and trace the outline of the blade, as illustrated in figure 1.


  3. Remove the blade and extend the cheek lines from the arris line to the rear of the shave and then up the back side stopping, 1/4" from the top of the shave (line #2 in figure 2) . This locates the rearward extent of the ware and these lines collectively define the throat of the shave (the cross-hatched area in figure 2).


  4. Using a sharp fine saw, cut down along the cheek lines to a depth where the saw hits the foreword and rearward extent lines. Now saw kerfs down the center of the ware area and using a chisel, break out the waste. Okay now grab your rasp and clean it up, so that it resembles those in figure 3 below.


  5. Now you are going to bed the blade. Using your chisels, mortise out the area below the tang struts, so that the blade sits below the surface of the body. Exercise extreme caution when working the area which will be the back wall of the tang strut mortise. I loose 1 in 10 shaves due to this area breaking off when paring out the waste. If you manage to get the tang strut mortise made without blowing out the wall now would be a good time to go ahead and mortise out the area for the wear plate if you are going to inlay one. The picture below is what it would look like if you took this route.

    If you use a router plane such as a #271 and take care to make both tang-strut-mortises of equal depth, you can forgo the addition of the set screws discussed in Step #7.


  6. Now take your bit of wear resistant wood and glue it into the recess. When the glue dries, lap it even with the rest of the shoe as in Figure 5.


  7. Next, in the middle of the tang strut mortise (1/2 way between the tang hole and the cheek, predrill and countersink for a 1/2", #6 screw. These screws will function as your depth adjustment. (The blade will bear against these screws, instead of the bottom of the mortise)

    Alternately (the way I prefer to make the shaves) is to have the blade bear fully on the bottom of the mortise and to plane/scrape off material from the sole/shoe till the shave _just_ starts to take a wisp cut.


  8. Using a small plane, or stationary sander, slightly relieve the leading edge of the shave body in front of the blade by about 2 degrees or just a smidgen less. (this area is referred to as the shoe), as pictured below.

    The diagram below depicts 3 profiles. The first being that of the shave body before you bevel the shoe a degree or two. The second shows a shave's shoe properly beveled. The third is beveled and then rounded over. This rounded shave is referred to as a "hollow shave" and is ideal for smoothing concave work, where a straight shave my bottom out when trying to fair curved work.


  9. Use a coping or band saw to remove the bulk of the waste. Shape the body and handles to something that pleases you. Below are two templates that you may use to get a general idea of the shape that a lot of traditional shaves had. The handles have long flowing graceful curves to them.


    And the body of the shave drops down from the handles.


  10. Now further refine the shape using files and finish up with scrapers so that it feels comfortable in your hands.

Using Your New Shave

This may sound condescending but, the shave works better after you discover how to hold it properly. Do not hold it like the handlebars on a bicycle. But rather grip the body, not the handles, of the shave between your thumbs and the tip of your middle fingers. Your thumb should be on the back of the body near the base, in line with the tangs and your middle fingers on the front of the body directly in front of the thumbs, whichever is more comfortable. Your index fingers should be free just above the brass nuts and should be available to exert downward pressure on the top of the body, if needed to keep the shave from chattering. The remaining fingers are just along for the ride and your palms will rest on the handles to help impart some "English" to your strokes.


To use the shave, practice first on a pine board. Push through the cut with your thumbs while exerting downward pressure in the shoe area with your index fingers. The push cut gives you the most control. You can even "climb" toward the end of a cut by easing up on the downward pressure and rolling the shave up in front as you finish the cut and sever the chip (when you "get" this move you will know).

To "Draw Shave," hold the shave exactly the reverse as prescribed above. This can produce a very precise cuts when working but make sure there is enough mouth opening to prevent choking of the shave. Set one side of the cutter deeper than the other (known as "cocking the blade") and feel the shave peel thick or gossamer-thin shaving as you move it from side to side.

To shave endgrain (I'd like to see a Stanley #151 do this) set the cutter depth shallow and use a push cut. Skew the shave to the workpiece and use firm downward pressure on the shoe. Here is a celebrity to show you how it's done:


That's Right folks... ENDGRAIN SHAVINGS, pretty cool, eh ?-) Of course none of this is possible without a Sharp edge.

Sharpening the Cutter

The cutting edge of the wooden spokeshave is sharpened to the profile of a chisel. The cutting angle established on your Hock Iron was designed to ease the process as it was ground on a 6" radius wheel. The most important step in obtaining a sharp cutting edge is to lap the back flat. A flat lapping surface is paramount. Hold the base of the cutter firmly against the abrasive on the lapping surface and work the cutter diagonally. Do not hold the blade by the tangs! To check progress, a felt tip marker can be used to coat the bottom of the blade.


After a few strokes on the abrasive, you should look for a uniform reflection along the bottom and an absence of ink. The low spots will be revealed by the ink and high spots will be polished.


Stay with your coarsest grit untill the bottom is flat, then move through the finer grits until there is a highly polished surface.

The bezel is a little trickier to prepare. I find the DMT diamond lapping plates to work well and be narrow enough to accommodate the tangs. Conversely you could clamp one of the tang struts into a vice so the cutter is horizontal and the bezel is face up. Do NOT clamp the threads of the tang. This will give you a firm surface to work on. Rub the abrasive back and forth along the bezel, maintaining the cutting angle. Proceed through the finer grits until a mirror surface is obtained along the cutting edge.

For periodic freshening of the cutting edge I use and recommend a strop made from leather attached to a long narrow flat piece of wood loaded with Chromium Oxide.

Tools Needed

  1. Backsaw or other small sharp saw
  2. Coping saw and a few spare blades
  3. Bench chisels: 1/8", 1/4", 1/2" (1" is handy but not essential)
  4. Four-in-hand rasp
  5. Round rasp
  6. 6" bar clamps, 2
  7. Hand scraper
  8. Block plane, or #3 or #4 size bench plane (blade honed straight across)
  9. 12" ruler
  10. Small (2") engineer's square
  11. A small router plane (such as the Stanley #271)
  12. a hunk of scrap wood to practice cutting.
  13. Drawknife (optional)

John Gunterman


Hooksett, New Hampshire

John Gunterman began making spokeshaves as a preamble to Mike Dunbar's Windsor Chair Workshop in Fall of 1995 in a course offered by Dave Wachnicki.

Since that workshop, John has been commissioned to make over one-hundred shaves. Together with Ron Hock (blade maker in Fort Bragg, California), John has re-designed a shave blade that Hock now produces. John has also supplied over 500 shave kits, composed of select curly maple and a Hock blade. In addition, John has taught over 300 students how to make a spokeshave from his own basement shop to all parts New England, and as far as New Orleans, Michigan, Florida, and California.


Please note that I NO LONGER offer the "DIY Kit".

Irons can be ordered directly from HOCK TOOLS

Complete Shaves or Shave Kits may be ordered from DAVE'S SHAVES 

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