Spokeshaves are a pleasure to use at the bench. You can smooth curved parts that are rough cut on a bandsaw or put those final hand-sculpted touches anywhere on a piece of furniture. A spokeshave can be pushed or pulled and take off light or heavy shavings. It's one of my favorite hand tools. Spokeshaves are so ancient that Noah probably used one to build the ark. You might think there wouldn't be any room for improvement, but the new Veritas spokeshave ($65) is a big step forward. In fact, it's leaps and bounds better than the commonly used Record A151 ($25) and well worth the extra money. The Record requires quite a bit of tune-up and sharpening; the Veritas is practically ready to go right out of the box. It only needs a light honing. Sharpening a spokeshave's blade has always been tricky because it's so short. The Veritas blade is made from A2 tool steel, which the manufacturer claims will stay sharp five times longer than a common carbon-steel blade. To minimize chatter (another frequent problem with spokeshaves), the Veritas blade is 1/8 in. thick and bedded on a huge support that's ground absolutely flat. Add rosewood handles and brass knurled knobs, and you've got one elegant tool!
Lee Valley, (800) 871-8158, www.leevalley.com, Veritas flat-bottomed spokeshave, #05P33.01, $65, Round-bottomed spokeshave, #05P33.03, $65.