The Millers Falls No.1 spokeshave

One of the more interesting Millers Falls tools is the No.1 cigar-shaped spokeshave. The spokeshave was sold from the late nineteenth century, until approximately 1910. It is possible that in the context of a workshop, the cutter was two finicky to adjust, or maybe just too difficult to use, eventually leading to it disappearing from the market.


Fig.1: The cigar shaped spokeshave


Fig. 2: Description from a 1904 Millers Falls catalog

This spokeshave originated from a patent issued to Albert D. Goodell of Millers Falls, Massachusetts in 1884 (Patent# 293,651).


Fig.3: Drawing from the original patent No.293,651

In the patent, Goodell claims that the circular cutter is used in “order to obtain a clean cut instead of a scraping action, so common to most tools of the same purpose“. The opening in the body (see Fig.6) under the knife supposedly prevents clogging, and easy discharge of shavings. The semi-tubular blade is held onto the body of the spokeshave by means of two rounded headed set screws. As the blade overlaps the body, this prevents the cutter corners digging into the wood whilst cutting. This supposedly prevents chatter in the blade, and allows the user to skew the shave. Goodell also claimed that the tool will “work effectively in almost any position and upon either flat or round surfaces“.


Fig.4: Two views of the blade and mouth opening


Fig.5: Structure of the spokeshave, without and with the blade attached

The length of the spokeshave is 10 inches. In early versions of the spokeshave, the handles are made of Cocobolo, and either side can be detached for working in cramped situations. In Fig.5 you can see the red portion of the spokeshave structure representing the throat of the plane, and the simplicity of the holding mechanism.


Fig. 6: The back opening of the spokeshave, and the  handle being detached

The shave was supposedly good for small-radius and concave work. There are two issues with the spokeshave. The first is that it is tricky to adjust the depth of the blade, requiring the blade to be moved manually, and each screw tightened independently. This means that adjusting the blade can’t be done as one continuous movement – tightening the screw on one side may invariably slide the blade along the other screw in a skewing fashion. The second issue is the difficulty in sharpening the blade, and likely requires some sort of a jig. The other caveat is the difficulty acquiring spare curved blades.


Fig.7: The curved blade

How well does it work? Adjusting the blade to the right depth is tricky, to say the least. Fine shavings need an extremely small mouth opening. The opening shown in Fig.8 is 1/32″, and the (rather thick) shaving is from a piece of pine, which was easy. Attempting to conjure a shaving from maple was more challenging – partially because it requires a force applied to the spokeshave which can cause movement in the blade (due to an inadequacy in the ability of the holding screws), and there is nothing impeding the blade from “rolling” backwards.


Fig.8: Sample shaving from the spokeshave

As to sharpening the blade, I did the test-piece with the blade as-is. Some have suggested that sharpening involves flattening the outside of the blade (I would try this manually on a diamond stone), and then adding a micro-bevel on the inside. More on this one day.


2 thoughts on “The Millers Falls No.1 spokeshave

  1. bobmckee1 says:

    My hat’s off to you. I have a nearly mint No. 1 purchased at the last Donnelly Live Free or Die Tool Auction and I can’t get it to work for love or money.

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