The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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A dovetailed box, and a tool to boot…


This past weekend I had planned on getting in a fair amount of woodworking. The weather forecast was looking good, with relatively warm temperatures that would help to melt the blizzard of 16′. Thursday night rolled around and I wasn’t feeling so hot. Friday morning I did something I rarely do; I called out of work. Saturday I wasn’t feeling so hot either, but two things happened that turned out to be fortuitous. Firstly, the tap wrench I ordered from Amazon arrived, and secondly, a friend of a friend gave me an old Superior crosscut saw that was in reasonably good shape. Those two developments spurred me into the garage to see what I could do.

The first thing I decided to attempt was to build one of the “Paul Sellers” dovetailed boxes that I had mentioned in a prior post. I had some scrap wood that I had prepped which was basically ready to go. I stuck strictly (okay, pretty strictly) to the videos I had watched: using all hand tools and sawing the dovetails tails first. Some of you may remember my disastrous attempt at tails first dovetails a few weeks ago. This time I did much better, but there was one speed bump.

I grudgingly admit that gang sawing is a real advantage…

On one of the tail boards I noticed a very slight crack nearly smack in the middle of one of the tails. (the next box will be made with some decent boards) It was very fine and almost looked like a pencil mark. I didn’t think anything of it until I did the test fit. The joint was snug, as it should be, but when I knocked the box apart for glue up the little crack became a split about two inches long. I didn’t panic, or put my fist through the wall, I just sawed three inches from each board, re-sawed the tails, and thankfully they fit snugly in the pin boards I had already sawn. I had hoped to make it an all hand tool operation, but the bottom board needed to be re-sawn as well, so I reluctantly ran it through the table saw and got dust all over my wife’s car. I glued up the assembly, set it aside to dry, and turned my attention to something I hadn’t planned on in the least.

My first “Sellers” dovetailed box. Hardly perfect, but not too shabby for my first attempt…

After cleaning up the glue and a light sanding. Joints are pretty tight and the box was surprisingly perfectly square…

Last week I had mentioned the Lee Valley (Veritas) Spoke Shave kit I had purchased more than a year ago. I decided to give it a crack now that I had all of the necessary components to get going. I started by milling up a piece of maple to the specified size using the table saw and my jack plane. I then turned to the instructions for the procedure. As I had mentioned in another post, the instructions were not overly complicated, but they weren’t overly clear either, and the sequence of steps was not, in my opinion, laid out very well. I marked the blank as indicated, used the drill press to bore out the holes, and then came to the somewhat nerve wracking step of tapping out the threads. I had nothing to worry about, however, as that step was happily straightforward.

One of the tapped and threaded holes bored…

On a side note, I have a drill press that was given to me more than 12 years ago. As far as drill presses go it is nothing special, and I don’t say that in a mean-spirited way. But things are funny. Not long after I received the drill press my mom’s husband gave me something called a “drill press vise” which I promptly put on the same shelf in my garage where I keep the paint, and I hadn’t considered it since. When it came time to bore the holes in the spoke shave blank I was wondering what I could use to not only hold the blank perfectly still, but allow me to move it without taking it out of registration. More than twelve years after the fact that vise popped into my head, I used it, and it worked brilliantly.

Continuing forward, I beveled the front edge 4 degrees using a block plane (as the instructions said to do) and scribed out the recess for the shavings to escape. The instructions recommended using a hand saw to make a series of kerfs, whacking them out with a chisel, and cleaning it all up with a paring chisel and a file, so that is what I did. That sequence also went pretty smoothly. I then had my first hiccup. The iron needed to be mortised into the spoke shave to fit flush. I achieved a perfect fit on one side, moved to the other side, had a minor slip, and left a little gap. It doesn’t matter in the least concerning functionality, it just bothers me knowing that it’s there.

Escapement sawn out, front bevel in place…

The next step was fitting the iron to the adjustment hardware. Once again this was a bit nerve wracking, but it went smoothly. I was very impressed at the quality of the threads, as the hardware tapped into it very smoothly but solidly. The iron fit well, and I was able to take shavings on both walnut and maple easily. I left it at that, as it was getting late. The last construction step is to add the brass wear strip, and that step will likely be the most challenging, as the wear is fitted into 1/16 inch deep “dovetails”, counter-bored, then screwed and filed flush. It involves making a filing jig and doing some careful fitting. Thankfully the kit includes enough brass to make a second wear strip in case the first is damaged or miss filed.

Iron fitted flush and hardware installed…


So if all goes well I will hopefully have a new and fully functioning spoke shave by the end of next weekend. If not, I have a few more pieces of maple that will serve as blanks to start again. As far as that Superior hand saw I mentioned. I removed the blade and hardware and got it cleaned up nice and shiny. I did not get around to cleaning up the handle just yet. In any event, I won’t be posting any photos or writing about that process anyway. The most you may get is an “after” photo, because I can’t imagine anybody wanting to read the details of me scrubbing clean a saw blade, and I don’t want to subject anybody who is nice enough to read this blog to that drudgery. I’m a woodworker, not a sadist.



  1. Greg Merritt says:

    The box looks good Bill. The first of many more to come, I’m sure.
    I have a “like-new” vintage Stanley 151 spokeshave that works perfectly well. But…I have to admit that there is something very alluring about a wooden spokeshave. Look forward to seeing how yours turns out.

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks Greg! I think I’m going to pick up some decent wood for the next one. I’m glad I used scrap on the prototype though, and I’m pleased with it especially being the first one.
      I’ve always loved the look and feel of a wood spoke shave. Every time I saw a vintage one somewhere it needed a ton of work or the vendor wanted way too much. I nearly purchased one from Caleb James when I found the kit I had purchased. The funny thing is that if you remember the bow saw I made last month, I had mentioned that I would need to make several more before I started to get good at it, and that’s not something I really wanted to do. With the spoke shave I could easily see myself making several of them. That being said, I love my bow saw, I’m glad I made it and it really does work well. But somehow this spoke shave making is right up my alley. I can’t really explain why.
      Either way, these boxes, making a few spoke shaves, and continuing to prep furniture wood from construction lumber are perfect projects for me to lead me into the spring. For the first time in s while I’m a happy winter woodworker.

    • Steve D says:

      I bought a Woodjoy wooden spokeshave this year and it’s nothing like a 151. The high angle may come in handy on some woods but the wood shave is such a pleasure to use. My Stanleys sit in the drawer now.

      Bill, the shave may be a project but I am sure you will love it and the tool-less adjustments look like a winner. I see a lot of curvy projects in your future.


      • billlattpa says:

        I haven’t even considered the Woodjoy, but I’m glad you mentioned it for future reference. It seems that you like yours, which is good to know. I have a Veritas spoke shave which I like a lot. It adjusts easily which is a rarity in vintage shaves. The only issue I have with it is that the iron came already sharpened, which is nice, but they put their own microbevel on it, which I would rather have done on my own.
        I may make a few more spoke shave blanks right away. It will be good practice, and so far I’m really enjoying it. Shaping will probably be a challenge because I don’t own a band saw, so it will be a lot of hand sawing, filing, rasping, and sanding. But it’s honestly been a lot of fun.

  2. Wesley Beal says:

    Nicely done, all around.

    I don’t own a dedicated paring chisel. Have you formed an opinion on any make?

    And don’t knock explaining the process on cleaning up old saws, or planes, or auger bits…. I’m still hoping to find some better, improved methods out on the internet.

    • Alex A. says:

      I ended up grinding down the sides of a half inch buck brothers chisel to be my dedicated dovetail chisel.

    • billlattpa says:

      My paring chisel is an old Greenlee that was given to me by a friend. It needed a ton of work, and it is still a touch warped, but it’s sharp as heck. It’s nothing special, just long and thin. I’ll take a photo of it and post it.
      Believe me I love cleaning up old tools, I just don’t know how to write about it and make it sound somewhat interesting. Not that I’m a professional writer by any stretch, but I’m hopeful that this blog is at least not dull.

      • Wesley Beal says:

        Hmm. Write in a way that is interesting to people. That’s one way to go about it. Might explain why I have something like 6 followers. I’ll give it some thought. 🙂

  3. Alex A. says:

    Yes, embrace the tails, it is your destiny….

    • billlattpa says:

      Gang sawing worked very well on thinner stock, and I love the idea of it. I’m still not necessarily sold on gang sawing two 12 inch wide boards, not that the sawing part is difficult, but getting them perfectly aligned and clamped up isn’t as easy as it sounds.

  4. Krafty Fix says:

    For an all hand tool (ish) affair, I’d say the box looks pretty spot on. As for the crack, well recovered. I guess that’s half the skill of wood working, keeping your cool when things take a potentially fatal turn, and managing to recover from it,

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