A few years ago while perusing some of Curtis Buchanan's Windsor chair videos, I saw him using a small, tightly curved spokeshave to smooth out a carved seat (see here and here). He called it a shoemaker's heel shave and I've been intrigued by it since then, especially because I've had zero luck finding a scorp in the wild.
I found a similar tool recently from a tool dealer. According to the write-up, it was originally made to shape shoe "lasts". Of course, I had to look up what a shoe last is. From Wikipedia, " A last is a mechanical form shaped like a human foot. It is used by shoemakers and cordwainers in the manufacture and repair of shoes" (now, what's a cordwainer?).
|View of the bottom|
The shave's body is 9 1/8" long and the 2" wide iron is curved with about a 2 1/2" radius. Aside from the 6 screws, there are only three parts: the body, the iron and the brass wear plate.
|Exploded view (after some clean-up)|
The following picture shows some details of how it goes together and works. It also shows the condition it was in when I got it.
|How it works|
Two screws (red arrows) extend through slotted holes in the body and thread into the brass wear plate, making the wear plate's location adjustable front to back. Two screws (blue arrows) hold the iron to the shave body. These screws go through slots in the body, making the iron adjustable vertically. The two screws shown with yellow arrows limit the vertical adjustability of the iron. They essentially adjust the depth to which the iron and blue-arrow screws can be tightened in their slots.
The only marking of a maker on the tool is at one end of the brass plate - A. E. Johnson. I could find zero information about this company. At the other end of the brass plate was the number "4".
|A. E. Johnson|
OK, on to the rehab. I let some 3-in-1 oil soak the screws and they turned out not to be too hard to remove. After brushing the parts with a wire wheel in a drill and giving the iron a lot more attention (including grinding tools in a Dremel) to remove heavy rust and corrosion, I gave the iron and screws a 3-hour citric acid bath.
|Lookin' pretty rough before any work|
|Back side of iron: the black areas are pitting|
I used diamond stones to work the back of the iron and got rid of most of the pitting. Fortunately it was mostly shallow. But there's still a little there and I didn't want to thin the iron too much - it's pretty thin already and there's zero chance of ever finding a replacement iron.
For sharpening, I made a simple jig to hold the iron as I filed, ground, sandpapered and stropped the bevel.
|The iron in its jig, with a few implements of sharpening in background|
It took a while and a lot of patience, but I got a pretty good edge.
|Cutting the edge of 3/4" thick pine - nicely curled shaving|
|Here's where it will shine - hollowing the surface of a plank|
|Glamour shot #1: top view|
|Glamour shot #2: bottom view|
Curtis cut off the handles on his heel shaves so that he could get it into tightly curved areas of his chair seats. I'm very reluctant to do the same. But I have tried to hold it as if the handles were not there and there are comfortable ways to do so while getting nice cuts. Maybe when I finally get back to making some chairs I'll cut off the handles. I'll cross that bridge when ...