• Monday, January 14th, 2013

The Veritas flat and round metal spokeshaves are excellent tools that have performed well for several years in my shop. However, I greatly dislike the handles on these tools as supplied by Veritas. I will explain. 

The OEM handles are round in cross section, and rather small. This makes it difficult to control the spokeshave in the most critical aspect – its rotational pitch on the long axis of the tool with respect to the wood surface. This means how you tip the spokeshave to effectively engage the blade into wood. The smallish round handles make it hard to find and maintain proper positioning. The tool tends to rotate unless it is gripped tightly, leading to undue fatigue.

This is true even if you place your fingertips on the body of the spokeshave, as many woodworkers prefer. The fingertips are fine tuners, while stability and power comes from the body of the hand against the handles.

Fortunately, the Veritas design facilitates installing user-made replacements, which I did soon after I bought the tools, using hardware available from Veritas.

I made my handles larger and, most importantly, flatter – vaguely like a chubby beaver tail or an elongated cactus branch. I can feel and maintain the registration of the spokeshave against the wood better than with the OEM handles. My handles originally were longer but I shortened them, so now I can tuck the rounded end against the outer part of my palm.

The flatter handles are a tricky to install because you want them to attach in a specific orientation, unlike the round-cross section OEM handles. One end of the hanger bolt used to attach the handle goes into the tool body with machine threads. Coarse wood threads on the other end go into the wooden handle. The wood threads must enter just right amount into the handle so it will be in the desired position when the machine threads are tightened into the body. There are right hand threads on both sides of the body, and therefore they tighten in opposite directions as they face each other.

I eventually got it right after trial and error. Making the two faces of the handle symmetrical doubles the opportunities to align the two handles.

Perhaps a tang with machine threads on one end that attach to the body would make it easier to align user-made handles that are not round in cross section. I wonder if Veritas would consider such an accessory.

I made the handles from cherry. I like a woody, not slick, feel to tool handles so I applied a single coat of oil-varnish.

As always, woodworkers will have their personal preferences in these matters of the hand and the tool, but here I have explained the reasons for my preferences. Now the Veritas spokeshaves are just right in my hands!

Category: Tools and Shop
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5 Responses

  1. Could you mount the coarse threads into an unshaped block of wood, then attach the handles, seating them fully. Then mark the orientation on the handle blanks and THEN remove them and shape the handles to your liking?

  2. 2

    Yea, Ethan, sounds like a good idea! It still might be a bit tricky after the shaping is done because I found that the final tightening of the machine treaded end into the body slightly moved the wood threads in the wood. Then I readjusted the wood threads, etc, playing the two variables back and forth.
    I didn’t want to risk using epoxy.
    So there’s still bound to be some trial and error but it works out after messing around with it for a while.

  3. Hi Rob,

    You could also install the new handle blanks on the spokeshave first, then shape them. You would likely have less room with which to work, however. Regardless, I’m happy to know that adjustments can be made to get the handles to sit at the proper point of rotation.

    Interesting timing, as I just finished re-handling my Veritas #5-1/4 (blog post coming soon).


  4. 4
    tico vogt 

    Hi Rob,

    Did you try flattening the original handle?



  5. 5

    Thanks, Chris. Veritas is a fine company, innovative, and makes great stuff, but their handles, I don’t know.

    Tico, nah, the OEMs are too small to begin with for my average-sized hands. They also narrow again toward the outside ends; the replacements widen. I really disliked the Veritas handles and chucked them soon after I got the tools several years ago.