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QUESTION: New Spokeshaves: Has anybody tried the new Boggs/Lie- Nielsen spokeshaves, or the Kelly #1 spokeshave, both in Highland Hardware's catalog? BG-WKG 5/66/04

REPLY: I own a Kelly "#1" cigar spokeshave. One of the most important things that comes with this tool is a sheet with sharpening instructions. It is a fussy tool(I would not classify adjustment as "easy".), and the instructions helped me master it more quickly than if I was left to my own devices. Its forte is shaping concave surfaces, and the fact that you can adjust the tool to a wide range of throat openings allows you to vary the amount of wood you are removing on each pass. In use you need to treat it differently than other types of spoke shaves because it doesn't have as much support surface area on the 'sole'. This allows some pretty tight radius work, but is, well, persnickety in comparison to other types of shaves. You have to get used to holding it so that it doesn't roll as the cutting edge starts doing its thing.

I also own one each of the LN Boggs spokeshaves. They are very well made and are super nice to look at. The combination of a thick blade and a fine throat make this a finishing tool. For example, if you are planning on using this to knock off the octagonal facets of spindles in green wood to make them round, this tool is probably a bit too fine. The convex sole version is made to enable the shaping of convex surfaces. The radius on this sole is so large that the tool comes with a note that tells the new owner to put a straight edge on it to prove that there is a radius. But in use, there is a marked difference.

I also own a pair of Lee Valley Veritas spoke shaves. They are similar to the LN Boggs in size, and are also very nicely made. They have a slightly more open throat, and come with shims if you want to do finer work. The radiused shave has a tighter radius than the Boggs. They also have two thumb screws for blade depth adjustment that for me make them the better tools to own, despite their lower cost. Another thing I liked was the instruction sheet that explained the care and feeding of the tool. I especially appreciated the explanation of the geometry behind sharpening the blade, and the purpose of the microbevel, etc.

Of course these are opinions. You have to be careful who you listen to. For example, if you want a tool to knock off the facets on a piece of green spindle stock, I wouldn't recommend any of those pricey spoke shaves. I would recommend a concave sole (side-to-side) spoke shave. Either a Stanley #55 or the Kuntz knock-off. (The latter will need its blade reground to a less steep angle before it will work.) My point is: you won't find too many other people saying nice things about the Kuntz tool. I've heard it maligned all over the place on different hand tool forums. I may very well be a ranting heretic. Too bad you can't sit on my shaving horse for a couple hours and fool with these tools so that you can make your own opinion, because that's the only real way to discover the right tool for you. GB 5/6/04

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