The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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I should have known better.


Today I received a harsh lesson in a subject I thought I already knew quite well.

Because I had to work on Saturday, and because my family and I had a few errands to run, I did not complete my spoke shave until Sunday. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was/is that I spent nearly seven hours in my garage woodworking/cleaning up, and then went to the gym afterwards. I hate to sound like an old F*** here, but like most adult men who’ve been working all of their lives, I have back problems; in my case a herniated disc. On top of that, I have nerve damage in my right hand, which usually doesn’t affect my quality of life, but today that hand feels like tingly Jell-O.

So I should have known better to overdo it yesterday, in particular after the week of work I had just put in. But back to the woodworking.

The first task at hand was to cut the brass wear strip to size and attach it to the spoke shave blank, and for that I needed to make a jig. Let’s just put this out there; I hate making jigs. I like to think that I should be able to complete most woodworking tasks without a jig. I do understand that for many tasks a jig is, in fact, not only helpful but completely necessary, almost indispensable. So in this case the jig was actually needed to file a 45 degree bevel on the wear strip which would allow the shavings to pass through more easily. I also used the jig to hold the wear strip to bore and counter-sink the screw holes. The filing was easy enough, which was partly because I was using a brand new file. That file I purchased several years ago from a clearance bin at a Sears Hardware store for the insane price of .25 cents.
Filing/boring jig…

I used a drill press to bore and counter sink the holes. And let me say again, this project probably could not be made without a drill press, at least most woodworkers couldn’t do it. I couldn’t imagine trying to bore and counter sink clean and accurate holes in a piece of brass with just a hand drill. As I said, some woodworkers may be able to do it, but I sure as heck couldn’t.

The next task was attaching the wear strip to the blank. The plans called for creating a shallow “dovetail” at 10 degrees, beveling the wear strip accordingly, and using that to hold the wear strip in place to set it and fasten it to the blank with screws. I considered doing just that, but I felt it a completely unnecessary step that could easily lead to error. Instead, I chiseled out the 1/16” recess at the recommended 4 degree angle, inserted the iron, used a business card to set the gap between the wear strip and the iron, taped it fast with some blue painters tape, and screwed it down. It took just about 15 minutes, which is probably the half the time it would have taken just to bevel and fit the wear strip into the recommended “dovetail”.

After the wear strip was attached I flied the screw heads flush and took some test shavings, as recommended. The spoke shave worked just fine, but the shavings were a bit thicker than I would like, but more on that later. I then began shaping the blank.

Initial shaping started, wear plate filed down…

On this blog I’ve always advocated using whatever tools that you prefer. I’m not a zealot who pushed hand tools over power tools, or vice versa. As most of you who read this blog know, I use mostly hand tools because that is what I have the space for, but yesterday I would have loved to have had a band saw (and a belt sander for that matter).
Some of the shaping underway. The round over was begun with a forstner bit…

Either way, I decided to use the bow saw I made back in December to do the initial sawing. The spoke shave kit came with a template, so that is what I used to define the lines. I was a bit unsure of using the bow saw, but what is the point in making a tool if you are going to be afraid to actually use it? The good news is the saw worked great, the bad news is that my uncertainty caused me to saw the first handle about a quarter inch from the line ( I was worried over how accurately the saw would track). My concerns were unfounded, however, as the saw tracked very well. So the second handle I followed the line very closely.

I first used a 5/8 forstner bit on the drill press to drill out the bulk of the round-over near the body of the spoke shave (before the saw cuts were made to be exact). To refine that I used a 5/8 dowel wrapped in sandpaper. The second arch of the handle was made with a series of saw kerfs and a chisel. I was tempted to use my spoke shave to finish the new spoke shave, I instead used a block plane, chisels, sandpaper (and dowels) to finish. All in all the bulk of the shaping took just about an hour to complete. I added a coat of wax and called it finished (almost).
Top view…

First real shavings…

View of the escapement area…

So the first thing that likely contributed to my sore back was sharpening the iron. I’ll say this, the included iron was actually very sharp, but it was micro-beveled at the factory, which I didn’t care for. Secondly, it is A2 tool steel, which I really don’t care for. I spent 45 minutes regrinding and sharpening the iron, which is completely unacceptable. You can maybe blame my own sharpening technique or medium, but I also sharpened my other spoke shave, which is O1, in 5 minutes. I don’t see the benefit of A2 tool steel. It supposedly holds an edge longer, but if it takes 5 times the amount of time to get that edge then who cares?

As far as the kit is concerned, in general I liked it, but the assembly instructions were way too ambiguous (as is the case with nearly any instruction/plans when woodworking is concerned). For example, the instructions for the iron state that the mortise/recess should be deep enough for the iron the set just under the body. In reality, the iron should probably be recessed closer to 1/16th in order for more adjustment capability. In fact the instructions do mention something to this effect, but it’s on the last page. It would have been nice to know that when I was originally creating that mortise, and in this case I suppose reading the last page first would  have been the intelligent thing to do.

Another area of contention is the 4 degree bevel where the wear strip sits. According to the instructions that bevel should be initially created as soon as the blank is sized and marked. In reality, it probably shouldn’t be made until the wear strip is about the be fitted, as a mortise needs to be created there anyway for the wear strip to set in. The bulk of it is removed during the shaping process regardless. To my mind, creating it at the end of the process and not the beginning is more accurate, but live and learn.

Lastly, this tool supposedly offers “tool free adjustability”. The threaded adjusters, however, work just okay. When I removed the adjusters to sharpen the iron, I waxed all of the threads with furniture wax which helped a little (the threads were surprisingly smooth from the get-go). But this tool does not adjust nearly as easily as a metal shave. As of right now I have the shave set to take a finer cut, which is what I prefer regardless, as I see this more of a refining tool rather than a rough shaper.

The real question is will I make another? I think so, probably sooner rather than later. For this being just a  prototype, I am extremely pleased. Overall the construction process from start to finish probably lasted around 5 hours. Knowing what I know now, I could easily shave two hours from that, as meticulously following the instructions for making the blank took up nearly two hours on its own. I honestly believe I can make another blank in as quickly as twenty minutes now that I have one under my belt. Not that saving time is everything, but that part was one of the more boring aspects of making the tool.

In any event, the second aspect of this project that led to my lower back pain actually had little to do with the project itself. Originally, I was going to continue the project on Friday night after work, but my workbench area was quite frankly a big mess. I generally pride myself on the fact that I keep my work area clean and organized, but that wasn’t the case. The problem is I acquired some new tools over the past three months: the bow saw I made and the saw I purchased, the Superior handsaw that was given to me last week, the tools that my Father-in-Law gave me for Christmas, and now the spoke shave I just completed. I also had several non-woodworking related tools being stored on and around my bench area. So on Saturday afternoon as we were out and about running errands I picked up a 2ft x 4ft sheet of plywood and several dozen Shaker pegs to make another tool rack for the left side wall of my workbench area.

After the spoke shave was completed yesterday, I spent several hours cleaning up my garage, which included a lot of bending and lifting. I then did a rough lay out on the plywood sheet for storing the tools efficiently. At that point I finally called it a day. All in all I was in the garage from 10:30am to 5:15 pm without a single break. That wasn’t so smart after a 55 hour work week and three nights at the gym. I should have known better and now I am paying the price, but in truth it was all well worth the effort.



  1. Greg Merritt says:

    The spokeshave turned out very nice. The project seems a little fussy though. Some tools are suited for being owner made, some are not. This one looks like its riding the fence. At any rate, well done.

    We are not old…but we are not twenty anymore either. LOL I have noticed that the concrete floor of the new garage shop takes a biiger toll on my back than the wood floor of my old shed. Damn…maybe I am old!

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks Greg! You’re right, this is a fussy project. It is much better suited to a full power tool shop. The instructions basically assume that a table saw, band saw, drill press, and router set-up will be used. The drill press is mandatory and I don’t care what anybody will tell you. Every other operation can be done by hand, which is what I did. If I were making a few dozen of these I would make the recommended jigs for the table saw and router table, but for just 1 or 2 it’s simply not worth the effort.

      There’s times I feel old and times I do not; it’s strange. I can’t run 5 miles every morning anymore, but I can walk 12 miles around Valley Forge Park without a problem. I can’t play organized sports (funny thing is I herniated a disc in my back when I was just 23 playing in a flag football tournament) but I can throw a baseball. In general I feel stronger now than I ever have, I just don’t look like I used to look 🙂

      My garage floor is concrete as well, and when it’s cold outside it sure does take a toll. My bench sits on a 4×8 rubber matt, which helps a lot. As I’ve said before, I’m getting close to the point in my life where if we don’t move into a new house soon it will never happen. But if we do, I’ll be sure that there is at least enough space to set up an actual workspace of some kind. Ideally that would be a small barn or a large shed. But until that day comes, if it ever does, I’ll have to deal with jockeying around my wife’s car, and my tools, etc. an unheated workspace, and the occasional sore back. It is what it is, as they say.

  2. Kinderhook88 says:

    I like the look of this tool. I bet it feels nice in your hands, too.

    • billlattpa says:

      I’ll say this for the designers of this kit, the spoke shave fits in my hands just about perfectly. It’s completely ergonomical. I would consider my hands average sized for a guy my height and weight-5ft 11 200lbs, and that is probably average height and weight for most men in general. So it is very comfortable to use.

      They also offer a smaller kit, and that may be a good tool for fine details, but I’m not sure if it would be as comfortable to use, but I would hope that would have been taken into consideration when it was designed. I very nearly ordered the small kit last night, but it is not in stock at LV. They are saying that it will not be available until June. Apparently Woodjoy offers a kit as well, and while it seems easier to construct than this kit was, since I already have one under my belt I would like to make another just to see if I actually learned anything the first time

  3. Brian says:

    A spoke shave build is on my list. Hard telling when I’ll get around to it. Looks like even with some difficulties along the way you made a very nice looking functional shave and that’s saying something In my opinion.

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks! The shave did turn out pretty nicely. I’m probably going to do a few touch ups on it this week.
      To be honest, I’m not sure how “worth it” this project is to make. It is definitely not a beginner project. In fact, I would probably put it right around the advanced category. Just the list of tools needed alone is intimidating.
      I used: 1/4, 3/4, 1 inch bench chisels, 3/4 paring chisel, 1/4 and 3/8 gouges, smooth plane, rasp, files, drill press, tapping wrench, scraper, block plane, bow saw, carcass saw, among other things. I could easily have used a band saw and a bench top sander. Not to mention the fact that I used the table saw to rough size the blank.
      That all being said, I am going to make another one, if for no other reason than to see if I can improve upon the process. But if I were making a batch of these, I would get a band saw first as well as make the recommended jigs for the table saw. To put this in perspective, I made a bow saw in December with two chisels, a block plane, a rasp, and a coping saw.

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February 2016
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