Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Stanley 151

I couldn't resist taking this photo. Lately, I have been making chairs in cherry, which has me at the lathe more than the shavehorse. When I started on a couple of combback rockers, I guess I got a bit excited at just shaving the day away!
Below is a Stanley 151 spokeshave with a replacement blade by Ron Hock. A spokeshave is the equivalent of a small hand plane, only it works in the world of the curved as well as the flat. This is a great spokeshave and the only flat soled shave that you ever really "need". I like it because it is inexpensive (ebay), adjustable, has readily available replacement blades and feels great using. The blade replacement is the key to transforming the tools from suitable to excellent. By adding a thicker blade, you tighten the throat opening (often too wide with the original thin blades) and dampen vibration, not to mention the keener and longer lasting edge. The only problem is that the blade will cost more than twice the cost of the tool! I figure on about $45 dollars by the time I've got it together. Now for that cash you may be happy with some other tools such as a Lee Valley shave. They seem to me to be a fine choice, although I find them a bit top heavy. There are some other higher end shaves designed by Brian Boggs and produced by Lie-Nielson. Wow, are they ever gorgeous (see, there's a tool junkie in me after all). But they don't have adjusters which can confound early attempts to get good results. I wouldn't recommend one until after you can comfortably handle an adjustable shave. Honestly, there is no task that I haven't been able to achieve with my trusty 151. I do use some old wooden spokeshaves, but I only use them for carving tasks (where their low angle blade shears well) and find no advantage to them when shaving spindles etc... There is a cottage industry in the production and promotion of these shaves and they are well made tools. I just don't find them necessary or advantageous for the cost. And remember, my goal in these recommendations is to enable folks to aquire some basic tools that are going to form a solid chairmaking collection.


PhilipF said...

And I thought I was a bit crazy to have the S-151 as my top shave! Thanks for the confirmation that my choice was perfect, although it did require a bit of flattening of the sole. I kept the original blade and it works just fine- -after an intense sharpening session.

Rooch said...

I guess I take the other view - in my opinion the ease of ajustability with the Boggs style shave is far superior. with the right setting on the thumb screws you can go from ultra light to heavy and back again, before you can adjust even one screw on the stanley. Cost is of course a factor. I also have a stanley - but keep it adusted for really aggressive cutting.
have a great day!

Anonymous said...

And remember that Brian Boggs (no less) wrote an article in Fine Woodworking, I think, on how to tune a 151, which is very helpful.