Shaping Wood by Hand
A few tools let you create any shape imaginable
Synopsis: Even if you have an impressive stable of power tools at your disposal, sometimes it is easier and quicker to shape wood the old-fashioned way. Used for generations because they are efficient, the spokeshave, rasp, bench chisel, and scraper are still the best and often the safest tools for a wide variety of shaping jobs. Alfred Sharp demonstrates how to shape wood quickly and accurately using a spokeshave, and how to tune up a spokeshave for the best performance. He also explains how to sculpt wood using rasps and files, carve with a bench chisel, and clean up the surface with a card scraper.
From Fine Woodworking #208
Before the days of portable power tools—or any power tools for that matter—craftsmen were able to generate any shape they wished in any wood. Remarkably, the tools they used—the spokeshave, the rasp, the bench chisel, and the scraper—are still the best tools for a wide variety of shaping jobs. Indeed, some tasks can only be accomplished using these tools. And even when a power tool can do the job, the hand tools are often quicker to use, especially if only one or two pieces of wood are involved. A power tool may require considerable setup time, whereas you can just whip out these hand tools and start making shavings.
There are other benefits to mastering these tools. They are much safer than power tools, with minimal noise and no power-propelled chips and dust, so you’re freed from earmuffs and eye protectors. And often little or no sanding is needed before starting the finish.
To demonstrate, I’ll create parts for a Queen Anne chair. The varying curves and shapes of the legs, back splat, crest rail, and shoe are best shaped with hand tools.
The tools I’ll…