The key feature of a wooden spoke shave is the low angle at which the blade is held in the body. The blades are also usually wider than found in their metal bodied cousins.
The same tool can be used for both fine work and also for rapid stock removal, either by adjusting the position of the blade or, with experience, by feel – by altering the contact between the tool and wood by adjusting where pressure is applied.
Wooden spokeshaves are far more than ‘planes with handles’. The absence of a sole behind the blade means that gentle concave cuts can be made by most tools. They are excellent at creating bevels quickly on curved edges and for blending wood from one line to another to create a shape that would be virtually impossible to make with a machine.
The following clip shows a piece of chestnut being marked out with a bevel on two sides and a complex curved surface above. You will see how quick it is to create these shapes with spokeshaves (less than 5 minutes). It would be almost impossible to create the curved shape using machinery!
For maximum control, the spoke shave should be held with the finger tips and thumbs as close as possible to the centre of the tool. If the tool is pushed then the thumbs should be directly behind the blade so that there is no tendency for the tool to roll forwards. The ‘handles’ which will lie flat under the outer fingers will also help to prevent rotation.
Some old spokeshaves have the handles lying in a plane above the blade. The only justification for this is if the handles might otherwise interfere with the work piece, which would be unusual in a standard spoke shave. Travishers which are designed to hollow wood have to have their handles ‘up in the air’.