Making a Greenland Paddle with Hand Tools

1890, I checked on line for what’s currently available. The most popular design in the low price range is based on the Stanley 151 model.

When I started building my paddle, I discussed issues I had with another forum member. He correctly identified my spoke shave as a Record 151, and he suggested I tune it. The process is actually simple - the goal is to flatten and true surfaces where parts meet and rub. That improved the performance considerably. Somehow my blade missed heat treatment, but I fixed that. I also bought a higher quality replacement blade.

I own full size planes, but have had very limited exposure to spokeshaves. Based on what I’ve learned, I would buy the same spokeshave. I attached two pictures of used spokeshaves from Ebay. Mine is blue, but otherwise like the pictured Record A151, which has the double nuts adjusters. They advance or withdraw each side of the blade separately (for a light shave on one side/heavy on the other, or equal). I also like the bare metal cap/chip breaker for metal to metal fit against the blade. The model 151 is obviously a favored design that was copied a lit. I’ve used the Stanley 51, but there’s no adjusting screw, and the blade is thinner. I used the wood type you mentioned. The style is good, but not for me, because you have to learn to tap the tool to adjust the blade. I saw models in the $14 range, but I’d avoid them. I looked at reviews on the 151 style Irwin and it was scary. Rockler and Woodcraft sell 151 style models in the $38 range, but they appear to be what Home Depot offers for $22. If you go back over the thread. I can answer any questions that aren’t resolved in the post above



NotThePainter, that was scary and before my coffee, but he did make some good points.

1890, I searched spokeshave - good luck. Actually, it’s not that bad. You’ll find wood, wood kits, and cast iron (gray is cheaper, ductile has greater impact resistance - most don’t specify, except Verita uses ductile; another term is annealed, which improves machinability). You’ll find models where the blade can be adjusted and fixed blade that are adjusted by changing the toe or leading edge; there is also a low angle variety.

To avoid a treatise, I’ll divide into categories: 1) Practical that are easy to disassemble to sharpen, easy to adjust, and easy to find parts. 2) Designs that are aesthetically pleasing, light, maybe a joy to use, but require a learning curve to adjust and even more skill to sharpen the blade). 3) Specialty tools with convex and concave soles or rounded to scoop out hollows. I’ll ignore discussions about all but the 1st category, because you wouldn’t be reading this if you had the skill to set them up and use them.

In my limited opinion, the most practical and popular design is Stanley 151; apparently, there was no patent filed. The top 10 spokeshaves were all the 151 design, which is laughable because they were all knock offs priced in the $15 to $38 range. Descriptions were pointless babble listing hard steel, replaceable blade, adjustable, solid construction, epoxy finish and other buzz words. A noteworthy design is the Stanley 51, an economy version, but I don’t think its being produced. A friend owns one, and I tuned his along with mine. The blade is carbon steel but only about 1/16th inch thick. A drawback is the lacks of easy adjustability, but it works and can be picked up at a flea market, if its cheap.

I’m reluctant to buy mail order, unless an actual brand and current production model can be handled and inspected. Review the above posts to get an ideas of areas to inspect and things to look for. If you find a tool, post a pictures of target areas and ask for comment. If you buy used. Look for cracks, chips, stripped screws, warped parts (check on a flat surface). Inspect blade to see if it’s uneven, angled, rounded or too short to be useful. Blue discoloration shows it overheated during grinding, and the temper will be compromised. A blade for a Stanley 151cost between about $8 and $28. The standard blade is about 3/32nd inch, a Veritas is about 1/8th inch. Get the heavier blade. The cheapest blade will be high carbon; a better blade will be called tool steel, which has a higher alloy content to make the steel harder without being too brittle, to resist abrasion from wood with high mineral content, or a proprietary steel like Veritas PM-V11 which costs more, but claims the edge lasts twice as long before dulling, and it hones as easily as the 01 and A2 steel.

If buying new, the choice is the $22 to $48 price range, or the high end tools from Lee Valley or Lie-Nielsen in the $150 range. If you buy a $14 tool, the question is whether you saved $8 or threw away $14 (see the above video). A $22 tool can be tuned to shave smoothly, and it’ll serve you for life. A $150 tool can be used right out of the box. You might be so impressed, you’ll buy a tool sock and sleep with it.

The difference is quality cast iron, accurate machining, thick flat tool steel blade (± .00005 inch), a hand flattened bed, adjustment knobs/screws with minimal backlash, and a polished sole. There are surely better brands, but who cares. The main difference is that Veritas uses adjusters similar to the Stanley 151 model (picture shows Stanley blade with an enclosed cutout; Veritas has open edges; the thin blade is an example of a low angle blade for the wood tool).

Lie-Nielsen relies on screws to apply pressure to the blade to lock it down. They recommend adjusting it by putting a shim under the toe, to gap the blade from the surface and tightened ? ? ? On the Veritas, turn the adjusting nuts to advance or retract the blade, then turn the adjuster to take up the thread backlash and seat the adjuster against the blade to prevent slipping under shaving load. Veritas also includes two shims to reduce gap between blade and the throat.

I was satisfied with my tuned Record 151. There’s a limited expectation about quality control on a tool that cost $22 about 10 years ago. The Stanley 151 is still the same price. Hmmm? Wonder what corners were cut? If you’re handy, you can make it work. If not, did you throw away $22 or save $120. I think I just talked myself into a new bed partner. I do love my other Veritas tools.

One old fashioned trick that’s nearly forgotten today is to make a contour scrapper from a bar of steel.

What I do when I made my ribbed blades is to take a bar of steel and file out a shape that’s male/female exact opposite of the shape you want in the blade. Smooth out the cut and make sure the edges are square and sharp. I used a 14" bar of steel that was 1" X 1" square. Now I heat it up and if it’s mild steel I case harden the edges. If using spring steel (like 1095 or 8620) simply drop the red-hot steel into a bucket of salt water… Now, take a 3/4" gouge (or something close to that size) and make a groove down the side of where you want your ridge to be. Do it on both sides of the ridge. Next take a broad chisel and remove the excess material so you have left the ridge a bit oversized and the wood is just roughed out.

Clamp the paddle down so it’s held firmly and take the scraper on the blade so the contour will “ride” down the ridge you left with the gouge and chisel. Cutting with the grain you can scrape shaving from soft wood a lot faster they you might believe until you try this tool High spots get a few short scrapes to level them out and as the ridge come up to a ridges top (marked by a pencil line) you simply repeat the process on the other side. You tilt the edge down as you put pressure on the bar and it cuts through soft woods very quickly.
The tool-making can take you over an hour for each contour but the shaping from the roughed-out paddle to being ready for sand-paper takes about 5-7 minutes per flat. Even going slow, from roughed-out to ready for sanding is about 40 minutes.

I make shaped wood sanding blocks with 100, 220 and 320 grit paper glued down to that wood, to do my final polishing and when that’s done I am ready for oil. Making a set that is 11" long makes removing any “wash-boarding” of the wood surface quick and very easy. An 11" long sanding block acts like a float plane and only takes the high spots down until there are none left to remove. When you get there you go to 220 grit and last to 320 grit. The last 2 grits are VERY fast. The scraper and the 80 or 100 grit paper do about 97% of the work, so 220 and 320 grits are very fast.
A set of dedicated sanding blocks will last more then needed for 1 paddle,a nd when you are done you simply throw them away. Scrap wood and 1 sheet of each grit of paper is enough for each paddle. In a pinch you’d get 2 paddles out of them, but at the cost of 3 sheets of new paper (80 or 100, 220 and 320) I don’t see the advantage.

Such a tool may not be worth the time to make if you wanted only 1-2 paddles, but if you are going to make more then 2, spending the time to make the contour scraper is worth the effort.

Here are some pictures of 2 GL style paddle I made using this kind of tool.
PB180001 (1) by Steve Zihn, on Flickr
GL Paddles by Steve Zihn, on Flickr

You’ll see one has a ridge that is a tapering round (in both pictures, the darker paddle) and the other has a ridge that is made by 2 concave sides coming to a crest. Hand cutting those would be very time consuming. But once the scraper is made the final shape is done in about 30 minutes and the paddle is ready for sanding.

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This thread is definitely getting more entertaining; those videos were a riot!

Paul, is the sole of your spokeshave flat or is it rounded front-to-back? It’s hard to tell from the photo, but it looks rounded. If it’s rounded (curved), it’s the wrong tool for shaping blades. Curved sole spokeshaves are meant for cutting concave areas like inside curves. They won’t track at all on a flat-ish surface and will follow any irregularities.

A flat sole spokeshave won’t flatten a surface the way a plane will, but if you feel the flats you’re creating as you shave away wood, you should be able to find and remove irregularities. As long as you get it close without removing too much, you can clean it up during sanding. However, the closer you get to the final shape using your edged tools, the less sanding you’ll need to do.

Flat, but I have both, but I’m using the flat.

It comes from the grain, remember, I’m stupidly not using quarter sawn wood, I couldn’t find any. The good news is the table saw is 90% setup, I just need my father-in-law to help me finish it and teach me to use it. Then I can rip 4x4s into mostly quarter sawn.

Szihn, I now understand what you explained earlier. Tempering high carbon will get RC65 that’s hard as a Japanese chisel or a file, which will definitely scrape. Have you ever tried a Card Scraper. The blank can be kept straight or contoured.

I was suprised to learn that the steel is only in the RC45-50 range, but cutting is achieved by creating a burr on the edge. The secret of a sharp Card Scraper is to start with a squared edge. Then lay the Card flat and run a burnisher down all the sides to turn the edge. Held vertically, the Card will have a shalow U channel. Lock the Card between wood blocks in a vice, then run the burnisher along the top edge, pressing at a very shallow angle. That creates a very fine cutting edge that can be worked one handed or two handed to cut aggressively. One sharpening can easily last through shaping the paddle. I barely use sandpaper, and start with 150 on a block with an old piece of the dark red Scotchbright pad as a cushion under the sand paper.

The advantage is the light weight and flexibility that allows it to aggressively cut both flat and concave surfaces. It also can be used as gauge while cutting to judge flatness.

That’s why I like my Veritas honing guide. I sharpen, then turn the knob, and get a 2 degree burr.

NotThePainter, s it an adjustable burnisher?

Szihn, I noticed another product, an ultimate scraper. It appears to be the same concept as your homemade scraper with a higher hardness.

Hi John.
Yes I have used card (cabinet) scrapers for years. I still do. But for large amounts of wood to be removed the “hog scraper” I describe is better, just because you can move wood nearly as fast as a plane can. I am not trying to go from the scraper right to the oil finish (although, used correctly and with carful sharpening and burnishing, you can do that)

I am just using my large scraper as a a “bulldozer” to get my paddle blades cut to the ridges and to a surface they are ready for sanding. If I were to use .040" annealed 1082 or 1095 steel, I could make a set of scrapers to contour to the various radius’s needed to go right to the oil. But because I am doing this only for myself and friends, and not commercially, I just bring them to shape and then make fitted sanding blocks with glued on paper.
If you start with sharp new 80 grit the work goes very fast and yet is very level and precise.

As a side note to anyone using card scrapers: If the grain is fighting you in both directions use the scraper on an angle. Think of a snow plow instead of a bulldozer. Having a slant to the card in the direction of the cut suspends the soft and hard areas in the grain, and give a smooth and shiny cuts. When scraping is done correctly the wood come off as a thin, nearly transparent sheet, not as powder or saw-dust. The surface will be shiny when the scraper is sharpened right, and the tool is used correctly.

With a “hog scraper” the wood will often have chatter marks and look like it was cut with a course saw. But no matter if your sanding is done with non-flexing blocks that fit the contours. From 80 grit to 320- grit is fast and easy and after 2 “whiskerings” with water and a hair-drier you are ready for oil. The finish can be “gunstock quality” and it’s shiny and beautiful when done.

Thank you for your reply @Jyak. Yes, I am familiar with the concept of tuning the spokeshave. That’s why I was asking about purchasing cheaper ones. I was thinking if I had to spend time tuning them anyway, it could just save a few dollars, but the videos were very helpful. Thank you @NotThePainter. Now I know some extra details to check.

I’ll probably end up buying the modern Stanley 151 for about $45. Unfortunately, being in Canada, once I include shipping, possible duties/import fees, and the currency exchange the used ones on eBay, like your example, end up being more like $80-100 for me.

Yeah, I figured out what you describes earlier, then I saw that heavy scraper. Curious if you had seen it. I started reading, but never got to the grind. It seems there was a slight hollow grind involved. I plan to read more about it, and flagged it to you. I’m sure it cuts. When I was young, I needed to cut a round channel in wood, so I used common mild steel gas pipe with a 90° cut filed to make the face flat. It cut.

1890, yikes, the end price is a shocker! I’m reluctant to recommend a product that I haven’t touched, but after considerable research, if given the choice of the low end tools, I would buy the Stanley 151. (There is a model 951, but the description is helpless). What makes me pause it’s the price. Home Depot has it for $22, the same as 10 or more years ago - what corners did they cut to stabilize prices? A painted cap (mild steel) is the one change. I don’t like paint on contact surfaces that support a blade. My cap is bare metal and corrosion free, so it has at least some stainless properties. Did they swap out Ductile Iron for Gray Cast Iron, which could crack easier if dropped. My blade on the Record wasn’t even tempered. Do they use thicker paint to cover up warped castings or bad machining, or did someone enlarge a throat that’s to wide?

I have two cheap planes, a Stanley Low Angle Block Plane and the Record 151. They work fine once tuned, but not as well as the planes I have that were made before the 50s or 60s. If you can tune a plane, you can assess whether a used one is serviceable. If I had to pay $100, or even $80, for a $22 tool, I’d buy used.

Lee Valley is in your back yard, somewhere. Their tools are a pleasure to use, and they work out of the box. Veritas blades are guaranteed ±.00005". At best, the Stanley has a skimpy carbon steel blade. Veritas offers three tool steel options. The backlash in adjustment is next to nothing. There are lots of wood and carbon paddles available at good prices. If you’re going to build a paddle, enjoy the process. So the question isn’t, did you throw away $80 or save $159.

After doing the research, I plan to eventually buy the Veritas spokeshave.

If you want a precision-made version of the 151, Woodcraft sells this Pinnacle model:

It’s price, but it looks nice. Just ignore the picture of the guy using it; you don’t hold a spokeshave like handlebars.

Bynstrom, I think that was his bicycle handlebar. I can’t laugh, because I probably held it the same way.

I saw the Pinnacle, but ignored it because of the price range, and I couldn’t find a picture of mating surfaces, so I didn’t want to discuss unseen, and I have no experience with Pinnacle, other than favorable experience with Woodcraft products. Based on my limited experience with spokkeshaves, I just applied general knowledge about tools.

The Pinnacle appears to be essentially the same tool as the Stanley with a stainless body. They also upgrade it to a Hock A2 (cryo treated) tool steel blade over the high carbon used by Stanley. Blades are available for the Stanley from Lee Valley for $8 in High Carbon or $21 for the O1 or A2 bladed, the PM-V11 IS $28. So it’s $100 for stainless vs cast Iron. I’m skeptical of reviews, but I didn’t like some of the comments. A comment like “I expected the blade to be sharper” isn’t a valid comment, but it does reflect consistency and quality control standards.

In fact, every Veritas tool I bought came razor sharp out of the box. Ones that I tested or adjusted at industrial shows were well tuned and stayed razor sharp, even after hours of show abuse. The notch at the top edge of the blade of the Stanley is like an hour glass. Polishing the barrel and the slots make adjustment much smoother. I cleaned it up a little since a previous post, buy you can see the rough edges of the Record. The Veritas is clean and I’m sure adjustment is smooth and backlash is minimal. The Pinnacle, I can’t see how the adjustment knobs are capture by the blade to control in/out movement. The Veritas body is Ductile Iron, preferred over Gray Cast Iron which is more brittle. For what it’s worth, the Veritas has a .005"and a .010" shim that effectively reduces the mouth of the plane to allow thick shavings or reduce chip out on thin shavings. It’s not needed on all wood, but adjustable mouth occasionally comes in handy on my block plane.

I spent considerable time and many cups of coffee, mulling over the options. I didn’t want to play with tapping a plane body to adjust the blade, because the Veritas does so well with the knob. For the same money, Veritas comes with the PM-V11 blade. Choice between O1 and A2 is a coin toss, but the PM-V11 appears to have advantages. I never used a skokeshave much before this, now you got me wanting to get a new one so I can make lots of baby paddles. I need an answer when my wife asks “what are you doing with that thing in bed?”

Previous posts still apply, but my choice in a higher end tool comes to the Veritas. I believe you mentioned owning a Veritas, so I’d be interested in your impression if they are different than mine.

I’m certainly not disagreeing with your tool choice; I just stumbled on the Pinnacle and thought it looked interesting (I’m not going to buy one; I have enough spokeshaves for now). If you look closely at the photos, there are slots in the back of the blade that the adjusters fit into. It the same concept as the other 151 clones, but the slots don’t go all the way through the blade.

Figured that had to be the case about the adjusters. It is a tool that also caught my eye. For the reasons cited, I didn’t include it, but somebody else surely might like to give it a try. Thanks Brian.

I’m back! :- )

I worked on the paddle again this weekend. I have 3 of the 4 sides shaped. I’ll make another video when I shape the 4th side since I’ve gotten much better at it. Basically I use a No. 4 plane for much of the work then shift to the spoke shave.

I also ordered the Veritas Short Blade Honing Guide to go with my other guide.

But of course then I’m stuck, I still can’t find the book. LOL! It’s around here somewhere, I’ve seen it in the house!

How many paddles now

It isn’t so much about results but the journey… :- )