Geographical origin: Europe
Primary use: A drawknife or small transverse plane with end handles for planing convex or concave surfaces
Alternative use: none
Pronunciation: spoke·​shave | \ ˈspōk-ˌshāv \
Category: Hand Tool


A spokeshave is a hand tool used to shape and smooth woods in woodworking jobs such as making cart wheel spokes, chair legs, paddles, bows, and arrows. The tool consists of a blade fixed into the body of the tool, which has a handle for each hand. Historically, a spokeshave was made with a wooden body and metal cutting blade. With industrialization metal bodies displaced wood in mass-produced tools. Being a small tool, spokeshaves are not suited to working large surfaces. 1

Descended from the early drawknife, since the 16th century the spokeshave was used by wheelwrights, coopers and bodgers. Today, spokeshaves are still widely used especially for work that requires curved sections on work-pieces, such as shaping the seat parts of chairs and cabriole legs. Its similarities makes it a good choice for shaping and finishing furniture parts, wagon spokes, any work-piece needing chamfered or rounded edges. Consisting of a "frame" and two handles in a single piece, it operates with the blade firmly held between the two edges of the opening on the frame, with the two handles extending lengthwise. 2




The name spokeshave dates back to at least the 16th century, though the early history of the tool is not well documented. The name spokeshave reflects the early use of the tool by wheelwrights.

The first spokeshaves were made of wood – usually beech – with steel blades, before being largely superseded by the development of metal-bodied spokeshaves in the latter half of the 19th century, though many woodworkers still use wooden spokeshaves. Due to their widespread use and versatility vintage wooden spokeshaves remain commonly available and relatively low in price. 1


Spokeshaves consist of a blade or iron secured to the body or stock of the tool, which has two handles – one for each hand. The bottom surface of the tool is called the sole. The blade can be removed for sharpening, and adjusted to vary the depth of the cut.

An early design consisted of a metal blade with a pair of tangs to which the wooden handles were attached, as with a drawknife. Unlike a drawknife, but like a plane, spokeshaves typically have a sole plate that fixes the angle of the blade relative to the surface being worked.

There are a wide variety of different types of spokeshave, suited to different trades and applications. However, based on the shape of the sole and blade spokeshaves can be categorized into the following:

  • Flat bottom – Used for flat and concave surfaces and curves
  • Concave – For use on convex surfaces and curves
  • Convex – For use on concave surfaces and curves
  • Rounded bottom – For use on concave surfaces, especially on tight curves
  • Combination – One edge of the blade is convex, the opposite edge concave, so the tool can be used on concave and convexed surfaces.

Spokeshaves can include one or more sharpened notches along which the wooden shaft is pulled in order to shave it down to the proper diameter.
Some convex, wooden variants of the spokeshave are called travishers. 1

How used


Display some images here showing the tool in this research project.


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1 Wikipedia contributors. "Spokeshave." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 16 Sep. 2022. Web. 8 Oct. 2022.
2 Glossary Spokeshave. http://www.woodworkinghistory.com/glossary_spokeshave.htm Accessed 8 Oct. 2022.


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Page last modified on Saturday October 8, 2022 09:19:37 PDT by admin.