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Spokeshave vs Drawknife: What’s the Difference?

spokeshave-vs-drawknife

There are some tools that are so different in both form and function that choosing between them is an obvious no-brainer (think a saw vs. a hammer). Unfortunately, that is not the case for the spokeshave and drawknife. These two tools are extremely similar and can sometimes be used interchangeably.

Nonetheless, there is a difference between the two tools. Notably, the spokeshave is much smaller than the drawknife, making it better for more delicate or specific jobs. Still, the difference between the two tools is very subtle and warrants more discussion.

Let’s take a closer look at these two tools to fully understand their differences.

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Overview of Spokeshaves

Spokeshaves standard and rounded
Image credit: Simon A. Eugster, Wikimedia Commons

The spokeshave is a woodworking tool that involves a blade and handles. This tool is relatively small, meaning that the blade between the two handles is shorter. This causes the handles for both your right and left hand to be closer together.

In many ways, the handles on the spokeshave look like they extend from the blade like a pair of wings. Beside looking cool, this design helps the spokeshave make fine and controlled cuts. Although spokeshaves can come in many sizes, they are almost always smaller than the drawknife.

Additionally, there are different types of spokeshaves. You will have your choice between a flat, concave, or convex blade, as well as a flat, concave, and convex sole.

How to Use

Since the spokeshave tends to have smaller handles, you will hold each handle between your first 2 fingers on each hand. The thumb should be behind the blade. Place the sole against the wood you’re working on, and pull the spokeshave toward you. Give the tool a slight downward pressure to make the work more balanced. You can also push a spokeshave instead of pulling it.

Benefits

Because of the smaller size of most spokeshaves, they are best for small details or designs. For example, they are great for chair legs, spokes, or paddles. Though this tool does not go down deep, it is highly beneficial because of how delicate and detail-oriented it can be.

Drawbacks

the drawback of the spokeshave is that you really can’t cut big pieces out of the log. This tool is not designed to make big cuts or chunks. This makes it less versatile since you can only use it for detail work.

Best For

Due to the more delicate and detailed nature of the spokeshave, this tool is best for small detail work. It is especially helpful if you find detail work to be a challenge. The small design will make it much easier to get into the crevices without damaging the wood piece.

Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Great for detail work
Cons
  • Not suitable for large cuts

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Overview of Drawknives

a drawknife

The drawknife includes two handles and a blade between the handles. Many people think that drawknives look similar to handlebars on a bicycle. Depending on the task at hand, the blade can either be straight or curved. Either way, it allows you to thinly slice wood or remove large chunks. Drawknives are often used for debarking trees, trimming beams, and wooden sculptures.

Since drawknives are suitable for both removing thin slices and big chunks, you will sometimes hear the tool called an “all-rounder.”

How to Use

How you use the tool is suggested in the name. You will place the drawknife on the wood you are working on. It is best to place it at an angle. Then, you pull or draw the tool towards your body. This allows for the slices of wood to easily come off the main log.

You could actually use the drawknife in two ways: bevel up or bevel down. Using the tool bevel up gives you more control, making it easier to create finer shavings or deeper cuts. Conversely, bevel down helps you to not cut too deep. This is great for hollowing out pieces, but it dulls the blade.

Benefits

The benefit of the drawknife is its versatility. Whether you need to thinly slice a log or take off a large chunk, the drawknife can do it. This makes it a highly versatile tool that is necessary for almost all commercial woodworking purposes.

Drawbacks

The drawback of the drawknife is that it is difficult to use. Especially if you want to use it for more fine or detailed work, you must know how to use the tool beforehand. If not, you could injure yourself or butcher the wooden log.

Best For

Drawknives are best for professional woodworkers. Since they are difficult to use, they require the experience and care of a professional. At the same time, their versatility ensures that professionals will get good use of the tool.

Pros
  • Versatile
  • Good for cutting big chunks
  • Good for thin slices
Cons
  • More difficult to use

What’s the difference?

Spokeshave Drawknife
Ease of use Easy to use Difficult to use
Control over cuts High control Low control
Depth control High control Low control
Tool movement Push and pull Pull only
Blade design Slotted sole Handles
Best for Delicate detail work Quick and easy cuts; versatile use with experience

For the most part, spokeshaves and drawknives have very similar designs, with the exception of the smaller frame of the spokeshave. Most of the differences between these two tools lie in their function, not necessarily the design.

Control Over Cuts

Spokeshaves give you more control over your cuts. This makes them better for detailed work. Drawknives, on the other hand, give you less control and are better suited for rough cuts. The rougher cuts make them great if you need to get a job done fast and don’t care about the appearance.

Depth Control

Depth control is another big area of difference between these two tools. A spokeshave will give you more depth control since they are smaller. The smaller frame means it will naturally be more difficult to cut too much off the wood log. A drawknife, in contrast, gives you minimal depth control, requiring a bit of a learning curve when working with the tool.

Tool Movement

How you move the two tools differs as well. A spokeshave can both be pulled towards you or pushed away from you. Drawknives can only be pulled.

Blade Design

The last area of difference between these two tools is the blade. A spokeshave blade is designed to fit into a slotted sole. The blade on the drawknife is simply supported by the handles, giving it a handlebar shape.

Which should you get?

At this point, you may be wondering, “Which tool should I get?” The answer to this question relies on two factors: the job you are working on and experience level.

Job

The job you are working on will largely determine which tool to use. For delicate detail work, it will probably be best to go with the spokeshave. Its design will make it much easier to create delicate shapes that are beautiful from start to finish.

If you need to just make rough cuts on the go, the drawknife will probably be your best bet. If you don’t care too much about the appearance, the drawknife will get the job done efficiently and quickly.

Experience Level

Experience level is another factor you should consider. Drawknives, though highly efficient, can be more difficult to use if you don’t have the experience. If you are a beginner, you might want to select a spokeshave for this reason. You will benefit from the more controlled design that comes with a spokeshave, even though it may take a bit longer.

Professionals might want to get both tools. The drawknife will give you a super versatile and convenient tool for making both delicate and larger cuts, while the spokeshave helps you make delicate design details that your drawknife simply can’t do.

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Quick Look: Our Top Choices

Image Product Details
Our Favorite Spokeshave STANLEY Spokeshave STANLEY Spokeshave
  • Durable
  • Efficient
  • Easy to use
  • Our Favorite Drawknife Timber Tuff TMB-08DS Straight Draw Shave Tool Timber Tuff TMB-08DS Straight Draw Shave Tool
  • Provides fast and accurate work
  • Comes with 1-year limited manufacturer’s warranty
  • Our Favorite Spokeshave: STANLEY Spokeshave

    STANLEY Hand Planer SpokeShave

    The STANLEY Spokeshave is a durable, efficient, and easy to use tool. It is designed specifically for curved work, such as when you are shaping a chair seat. The cutters are designed so that they can be adjusted according to depth of cut and thickness for the job. The tool is designed with a flat base for both flat and convex surfaces, making it more versatile. It also comes with a vinyl pouch for easy and safe storage. STANLEY backs the product with a limited lifetime warranty.


    Our Favorite Drawknife: Timber Tuff TMB-08DS Straight Draw Shave Tool

    Timber Tuff TMB-08DS Straight Draw Shave Tool

    This Timber Tuff Drawknife includes a sharp 8-inch straight blade that is 5 millimeters thick and angled at 30 degrees. This provides fast and accurate work. The blade is also made of steel, ensuring that it is hard and long-lasting. Meanwhile, the handles are made with wood so that you can have a comfortable yet secure hold. This tool comes with a 1-year limited manufacturer’s warranty.

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    Conclusion

    Even though some experts may be able to use spokeshaves and drawknives interchangeably, the two tools are different. Spokeshaves are better for more delicate work and beginners, while drawknives are better for experienced users and rougher cuts. Professionals will be wise to get both tools because of their different functions and benefits.

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