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Building a Frame Saw
Forging a Copper Kettle
Making a pair of leather work boots
Forging and Fletching a Bodkin
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Monday, August 3, 2015

Sharpening: Spokeshaves

In the wake of a recent project and beginnings of a new, I had significant demand for a wonderful tool that I do not get the occasion to use as often as I would like. Spoke shaves are very similar to planes in that they have a straight, removable iron that sits at a fixed angle in the throat of the tool. Unlike planes, however, the iron is usually significantly shorter, making it much more difficult to use sharpening jigs. For that reason, I sharpen blades for the spokeshave freehand.

This spokeshave belonged to my grandfather, an old Stanley No. 52 that has seen a fair bit of use through the years. Because there is a spot or two of rust in various places, I'll be cleaning that up while I have it in mind.

First, I find the angle of the edge bevel. For spokeshaves I like to keep it around 25 degrees, and this one happens to be at 24, so I'll hone what is already here. Finding the angle can be tricky if it is rounded or uneven. To get a gauge for it, I lie the iron flat on the stone and lift gradually, watching for the first sign of contact between the edge and the stone, rolling on the back corner of the bevel. There, I lock my arms at my sides and use my entire body to pass the steel from one end of the stone to the other.

The progression I use is 220#, 1000#, 5000#, 8000#, leather strop

A few passes revealed that the corners are a bit more heavily worn than the belly. Not a huge deal, as I like to have the corners a hair farther back anyway to prevent digging in on pieces wider than the blade. To facilitate this, I curl my index fingers around the iron, pressing on one corner with each thumb, again locking my arms at my sides. (sorry, don't have a third arm to photograph it)

While the 1000# stone is out, I use it to resurface the face of the spokeshave. The rust was a little deeper than I thought, so it took some time to polish. If I were to do it again, I would have dropped down to the 220# stone first, especially to fix the very slight convex surface from side to side.

Here are the blade and body after 1000#.

More sharpening and stropping to bring the edge to a razor. At this stage, I also slide the blade flat against the stone to polish the back edge and remove any burr that might have formed.

Light is the best way to check how even an edge is. On things this small, it is fairly easy to get a planar bevel, which will reflect the light in a uniform strip without any distortion or waves.

That's all! Reassembling the spokeshave, setting the depth, and it's ready for use again. From here out, unless the edge is particularly dull, I will not drop below the 1000# stone, and it should take significantly less time to bring back up to shaving sharpness.

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