Monday, May 23, 2011

On the Razor's Edge

Or A Close Shave.

I have a feeling I skipped the shaves, so as I'm not actually moving in a forward direction at present, let us instead back-pedal a tad. Now in general it seems to be considered pretty much par for the course to have a, um, wide range of spokeshaves and associated tools from which to choose. Or maybe that's just the company I keep... But it's not just a case of rampant acquisition and a total inability to say "no". Au contraire; like planes, different shaves lend themselves to different jobs.

Well this lot do, at any rate. Very low on duplication here, no? I mean the rounder shouldn't even really be in there at all. Okay, so two adjustable mouth shaves may be pushing it, but one has gull winged handles and the other straight. See? Quite different. Oddly enough I probably come closest to duplication in the esoteric world of travishers - even though only one of them actually is a travisher. But the genuine article will move quite a bit of material in a hurry, while the amputated Stanley #51 is strictly detail work only. Again, perfectly justified to have both. And anyway, I feel I should keep the Stanley as visible reproach for what happens When Tool Users Attack. And tools you make yourself, such as the scrapers, don't count at all - everyone knows that. That's why making your own tools is such a doubly Good Thing.

On which reasoning, this otherwise slightly more embarrassing collection - um, selection - isn't actually so bad, 'cos two of them simply don't count. If I'd taken this portrait with them all sole up, even fewer would count. The tool gods, in their fickle way, have elected to present me with two or three shaves with irons in a shocking state, but sound bodies - and conversely, two or three sound irons in bodies who's mouths are worn to the nubbin. Naturally irons and bodies are not interchangeable... At some point I intend to look into just how tricky it is the re-sole an old spokeshave, but it's already been around six years and counting since I first thought that, so don't hold your breath.

The surprise package of them all is the little Chinese Mujingfang jobbie at the top of the pic. Most obvious difference from other wooden shaves is, of course, that the iron is of the bevel down, bench plane variety set up - like most metal shaves. It's just wedged in, like their planes, and there's a brass sole to reduce wear. But honestly, it works like a champ. Plus it's very cute, which, unfortunately, seems to go a long way with me these days. Getting girly in me old age, so I am.

So anyway, after all that, how many shaves made it to the "to go" pile? I hear you ask. Um... two.

Well, actually maybe only one...


  1. Hi Alf

    I'd love to know more about your metal travisher. I acquired one just like it recently and despite my best efforts on the web, I couldn't find any details. I've not come across anything like it before. Mostly, the travishers we see out here (Aussie) are of the wooden variety.
    (love your "selection")

  2. Hi Claire,

    Well technically it's not a travisher at all, but apparently a 'heel shave', although they frequently get co-opted into woodworking of all sorts. More details back in the mists of time at the bottom of the post here. Hopefully there's enough info there to open up your options on Google - or better still, if you can get a look-see at Lamond's fabulous book on Spokeshaves and Similar Tools, there's a lot of info on them in there. If you have no luck but can bung me some more details and maybe a pic or two, I could take a look in my copy - email's on the website. :)

  3. Gidday.

    Gosh, maybe it's just the antipodes, but NZ too lacks much in the way of rust requiring renovation.

    Alf, what's your take on mouth gap for shaves? I've got the two modern Stanley abominations and get a just passable job but only after converting the irons to razors. Would closing the mouths up with either thicker irons or building up the bed make that much difference?

    Oh, got given a Preston flat bottomed spokeshave that I promise to clean up and use one day. I so love the dark green japaning (spelling?) it's got, that I think I'll call it Bentley after the 1930s "blower".

    As for the wooden ones...worth a try?

    Stephen R
    in NZ

  4. G'day, Stephen. I've shimmed up the bed of Stanley shaves and, yes, I think it's well worth it. They can't take much of a thickness of shaving before juddering like crazy anyway. As to wooden shaves - I love 'em and would heartily recommend giving one (or six) a home.

  5. Hi Alf
    Thanks for pointing me in the direction of "heel shaves". Mystery solved. Mine is a strange gold/dull yellow colour with a star on the end of one handle and the number 5 on the end of the other. I have found some useful info on woodworkers using them and in this link, Bob Smalser has a terrific picture of a series of heel shaves showing the different radii. It looks like his "3" has the biggest radius, with the"6" and "7" being quite tight. Mine is in the middle.
    The only reason I haven't given it a go is because I wasn't sure how to sharpen it. Do you have any thoughts on this. Small sanding drum in a Dremel, perhaps?


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