Making a Spokeshave

I’ve always been fascinated by hand tools, lets just say I appreciate the simplicity and hearkening back to earlier times.

But more than that, I also love the quietness, the slower pace at which the work proceeds, and the knowledge you need to have of wood and how your tool operates. It’s a nice change from working with machinery all day in in a production atmosphere. . .

I also love how approachable building hand tools for yourself can be. For me, the ability to craft my own tools that I will use gives me that sense of gratification and fulfillment that is often difficult to find elsewhere. And I feel like it closes and completes the circle of a craft — knowing how to make something using purchased tools and materials is wonderful, but I feel like I am more knowledgeable and proficient at a craft when I can source my own materials and make the basic tools I will use. Perhaps that’s why I find blacksmithing so much fun, it is an expected part of smithing that you will be making and/or modifying your own tongs, hammers, etc.

At any rate, I didn’t own a spokeshave, never have, and thought it would be a fun project that would result in another useful tool for the workshop! In all honesty, the bug was planted when I followed Paul Sellers’ instructions on making a frame saw. While following his instructions for that saw I noticed that he also had a video series on making a spokeshave and thought that sounded fun as well! (You’ll have to sign up for a free account in order to watch the classes on Woodworking Masterclasses that I linked to, but I think you’ll find it well worth it. Alternatively, you can see some of Paul’s videos on his Youtube channel, also a great place to learn about hand tool woodworking).

What is a spokeshave and why should you make one?

A spokeshave is essentially a different form of hand plane — in use, it could be said that it functions somewhat like a cross between a plane and a drawknife. Traditionally it was used a lot in making curved and rounded items (for example, chair legs and wheel spokes). My immediate plans for it involve making a few more bows this summer. . . and possibly some canoe paddles!

As to why you should make one, if you have any woodworking plans for your future I think it will come in handy for quickly removing material or reducing edges. It’s a welcome addition to the workbench for sure, and I think I’ll be using mine on a frequent basis.

. . . But really, who needs a reason? If you have to ask that then you probably don’t have the same level of interest in old tools that I do to begin with! =)

The actual process of making a spokeshave is pretty simple, but it will help if you have some experience shaping and heat treating metal. Fortunately I’ve been a hobby knife maker for a few years so this one was pretty straightforward.

You’ll start with a small board and a 4 inch long, 3/4 wide and 1/8 inch thick section of high carbon steel. Paul uses 01 tool steel, I did as well because that’s what I have as scrap from making knives. You could use any other high carbon steel (high carbon because it will hold an edge better and stay sharp longer) but if you want to buy 01 tool steel I usually source mine from Jantz Supply

As far as instructions for making spokeshave, I’ll just point you to Paul’s video since this was the first one I’ve made and I feel it might be a little pretentious for me to attempt teaching it at this point! I will say though, as an improvement to his way of holding the blade still while sharpening it (clamped in a vise), I will just mention that I find it significantly easier to screw the blade blank to a scrap block of wood and then place that block in a vise. It is more sturdy, wiggles less, and is less likely to come popping out at you! Ask me how I know…..

I thoroughly enjoyed making one as a weekend project though and highly encourage you all to give it a shot! You’ll get the satisfaction of making something with your hands, an understanding of how spokeshaves work, and a new tool for the workshop!

And is a spokeshave useful? You’re dadgum straight it is! Mine was shaping the handle on a kitchen spoon I was carving within a few hours of being finished! Saved me a lot of effort with a pocket knife!

2020 Reading List

What did you read this year?

Did you read more or less than last year?

Personally, my list of books I went through is significantly shorter this year then it was in 2019– partly intentional and partly due to changing life circumstances. For example, I got a job which no longer allowed me to listen to audio books or podcasts while working. Also, I was camping for a couple months during the summer and didn’t have access to a library. That said, a portion of it was also a deliberate attempt to cut back on my reading because I feel like I am such a book lover that I can, at times, spend more time reading about how to do things than I do actually doing them.

And I wanted to change that.

I do still love books and all that I can learn from them, it just needs to be tempered with a little more hands-on action! So how do the numbers stack up? In 2019 I read 64 books, 4 of which were fiction. In 2020 I read 22 books– 21 non-fiction and 1 fiction. An astounding decrease in the amount read…. Hopefully that correlated to an increase in projects completed and skills learned!

Favorite Books From 2020

You may notice a couple of trends if you compare the reading list from 2020 and 2019. First off, most of the books I read for relaxing “down time” are still non fiction, mostly histories and accounts of explorations. I’ve always been fascinated by what you can pick up about a time period by reading an account of a persons life or specific event.

Secondly, I seem to have this morbid fascination with reading about man eaters! Haha I know I enjoy adventure and hunting stories, but I never realized how many books I read about hunting down man-eaters (mostly felines) that go on killing sprees. In 2019 I read 5 books recounting tales of hunting man-eating animals, in 2020 they comprised 3 of the 22 books I read.

I guess they fill that realm that occupies the nature side of things (you can actually learn lot if looking for it: the hunter needs to be pretty in tune with their surroundings and know wildlife well in order to successfully kill animals that are actively hunting them), overcoming challenges, and the suspense/thriller genre that most people turn to murder mysteries for. . . At any rate, they seem disproportional represented in my reading!

As far as favorites go: my favorite book of 2020 that I read to in the how-to realm was Root Cellaring by Mike and Nancy Bubel. It’s an older book, but it definitely got my wheels turning and will likely result in me putting in a lot of effort to dig a large hole in the ground this next summer. . . Growing and preserving food is a fundamental skill in my mind, and frankly makes me giddy thinking about stocking a cellar full of food. We’ll see if the magic wears off when I have to put in all the work for it instead of just dream about it! Along those same lines, I also REALLY enjoyed Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying,Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation which opened my mind to possibilities that I hadn’t thought about. Read them both.

Outside of the how-to realm, my top books this year were Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kemmerer and Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich. I particularly mention Secondhand Time because we tend to think of the communist russia, the cold war, and the collapse of the USSR from a single perspective. . .the American one. It gives you a very fascinating glimpse into the phyche of the russian people and what it meant to be a soviet. Not from the typical perspective from the other side of all this, but from the common people who lived and died as soviets (the book is a compilation of interviews the author had with various individuals recounting some of what they had lived through). As a warning though, it also has some deeply disturbing parts and you’ll read in graphic detail about the horrific atrocities that some people have and will inflict on others. Not a feel good book.

If you read any particularly good books this year let me know about them, I’m always looking for a good read!

2020 Books in Review

Physical Books

  • Composting Toilets: a Guide to Options, Design, Installation, and Use by Gord & Ann Baird
  • The Grand Canyon Expedition by John Wesley Powell
  • Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman
  • Missing Links Discovered in Assyrian Tablets: The Remarkable Discovery of Assyrian Tablets That reveal The Fate of “The Long Lost Tribes of Israel” by E. Raymond Capt
  • The Year-Round Hoophouse: Polytunnels for all Seasons and all Climates by Pam Dawling
  • Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying,Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation by The Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante
  • The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
  • Navajo Native Dyes: Their Preparation and Use by Nonabah G. Bryan & Stella Young
  • Death in the Dark Continent by Peter Hathaway Capstick
  • Making Native American Hunting, Fighting, and Survival Tools by Monte Burch
  • Bush Craft by Mors Kochanski
  • Montana Native Plants and Early Peoples by Jeff Hart
  • Root Cellaring by Mike and Nancy Bubel
  • The Last Ivory Hunter by Peter Hathaway Capstick
  • Death in the Long Grass by Peter Hathaway Capstick
  • David Thompson’s Narrative of His Explorations in Western America, 1784-1812 by Joseph Burr Tyrrell

Audio Books

  • Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich
  • Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff
  • Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal
  • *The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin Mckinley
  • Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration by David Roberts

2019 Reading List

I talked about my reading and learning on the podcast a few episodes ago and said that I would post my reading list for 2019. I believe that the books (or any content for that matter) someone is reading or owns can tell you quite a bit about them. Here you’ll see both what I read for fun as well as what I read to learn…. And often they are one and the same. I would say that this is a complete list, but alas, I had a computer malfunction last fall that wiped out the document I was keeping track in. These are ones that I have emailed library receipts from or distinctly remember reading– there are probably a few I missed.


Before jumping into the actual reading list I would like to make special mention of a couple of my favorites from the year.

First off, I highly recommend that you all read The Nature Fix by Florence Williams, while I’ve always personally believed in (and noticed in my own life) the benefit of being immersed in nature — and the corresponding issues caused by living in modern cities– it was nice to actually see some of what science says about that. Philosophy wise, another couple I really jived with were Deep Work and Digital Minimalism both by Cal Newport.

As far as instructional “how-to” books, David Asher’s The Art of Natural Cheesemaking was my favorite read of the year (I actually went through it twice)– now I just need to spend more time in the kitchen putting what I learned to use! I highly recommend the book, plan on owning it in the near future, and hope to eventually have him as a guest on the podcast.

I separated the book list into two segments, those I read and those I listened to as an audio book. . . not that it really matters to you, that was simply for my own convenience in keeping track of things. All told, I listened to 29 audio books and read 35 print books for a total of 64 books that I finished in 2019 (I didn’t include any books that I only partially read). Of those books only 4 were non-fiction, and I designated them with an * in front of the title.

2019 Books in Review

Physical Books:

  • Building Wooden Snowshoes and Snowshoe Furniture– Gil Gilpatrick
  • The Morning Miracle– Hal Elrod
  • Absinthe and Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously– William Gurstelle
  • *Brian’s Winter– Gary Paulson
  • The Five-Hour Workday– Stephan Aarstol
  • The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using Traditional, Non-industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to make the World’s Best Cheeses– David Asher
  • The One Thing– Gary Keller
  • Spruce Root Basketry of the Haida and Tlingit– Sharon Busby
  • Digital Minimalism– Cal Newport
  • The Man-eaters of Tsavo and other East African Adventures– John Henry Patterson
  • Primitive Pottery– Hal Reigger
  • The Natural House: A Complete Guide to Healthy, Energy-efficient, Natural Homes– Daniel Chiras
  • North American Bows, Arrows, and Quivers: and Illustrated History– Otis T. Mason
  • Wildwood Wisdom– Ellsworth Jaeger
  • The Natural Way of Farming: The Theory and Practice of Green Philosophy– Masanobu Fukuoka
  • Jungle Lore– Jim Corbett
  • Man-Eaters of Kumaon– Jim Corbett
  • The Temple Tiger– Jim Corbett
  • The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use– J.N. Liles
  • Secrets of Eskimo Skin Sewing– Edna Wilder
  • Shop Class as Soulcraft– Matthew Crawford
  • Indian Fishing– Hilary Stewart
  • Cedar: Tree of Life to the Northwest Coast Indians– Hilary Stewart
  • Participating in Nature– Thomas J. Elpel
  • Deep Work– Cal Newport
  • Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity– David Allen
  • The 4-Hour Workweek– Timothy Ferriss
  • The Longevity Diet– Valter Longo
  • *Jonathan Livingston Seagull– Richard Bach
  • Wild Dyer– Abigail Boothe
  • The Search– Tom Brown Jr.
  • Father Water, Mother Woods– Gary Paulson
  • Meat Smoking & Smokehouse Design– Stanley, Adam and Robert Marianski
  • Duck, Duck, Goose: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Waterfowl, both Farmed and Wild– Hank Shaw

Audio Books:

  • Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance– Alex Hutchinson
  • Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.– Ron Chernow
  • *Origin– Dan Brown
  • The More of Less– Joshua Becker
  • Midnight in Chernobyl: the Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster– Adam Higginbotham
  • Coyote America – Dan Flores
  • Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea – Barbara Demick
  • The Death and Life of the Great Lakes– Dan Egan
  • Skeletons on the Zahara: a True Story of Survival – Dean King
  • The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival– John Vaillant
  • In a Sunburned Country– Bill Bryson
  • The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot– Robert Macfarlane
  • The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt– Darrin Lunde
  • The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors– Dan Jones
  • Tribe: on Homecoming and Belonging– Sebastian Junger
  • The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings– Lars Brownworth
  • The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and more Creative– Florence Williams
  • Desert Solitaire– Edward Abbey
  • Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World’s Most Famous Human Fossils—Lydia Pyne
  • Good to Great—Jim Collins
  • Atlas of a Lost World– Craig Childs
  • Leonardo da Vinci– Walter Isaacson
  • The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic– and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World—Steven Johnson
  • Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates– Brian Kilmeade
  • The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps—Michael Blanding
  • Born to Win– Zig Ziglar
  • Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded– Simon Winchester
  • *The Nightingale– Kristin Hannah

How about you? Any books you’ve read over the last year that you would recommend?

Primitive Skills Gatherings: Learning Traditional Skills

There are a number of ways you can get started in learning traditional skills. Books for one, that’s how I started, and how most of us who became interested in traditional skills more than 15 years ago had to go about learning things. In addition, there have also been a few periodical publications that have existed over the years– things like Woodsmoke and Bulletin of Primitive Technology. In a more modern form, you can find written directions for many skills and crafts online.

These days, Youtube is ever present. Which is understandable, with a lot of these skills being able to actually SEE what’s happening can be way more advantageous than reading about it. And yes, you can actually learn quite a bit from Youtube if you spend the time to sort through videos. I find it very helpful from time to time. That said, you’ll also find mediocre vidoes out there, try to look for quality information (this holds true for books, websites and everything else too).

Best of all is in person learning, the number of personal workshops or traditional skills (primitive, survival, nature awareness, or folk) schools has exploded over the last decade or so (at least it seems like it to me) and they’ve become increasingly more common. Which is a great thing and it makes it easier to find somewhere to learn. Cost can sometimes be prohibitive though depending on the school.

An alternative route to formalized schools, and one that I really like the format of, is a primitive skills gathering. Most skills gatherings are week long camps with workshops held by various subject matter experts throughout the day with time to interact and socialize with other folks interested in similar skills during the evening. Some are weekend or extended weekend events. Don’t be put off by me calling them primitive skills gatherings, you’ll also find many traditional skills like woodworking, felting, blacksmithing, etc as well as the tanning, friction fire and flintknapping type activities. If you enjoy learning pre-modern skills you’re sure to find a class going on that will interest you!

What I really like about traditional skills gatherings is that you get to decide what you want to learn. You’re exposed to projects you may never have tried, or even thought about, before and you have the opportunity to decide which ones you want to learn. Which stands in contrast to something like, say, a survival school where they decide which skills to teach you and that’s what is covered regardless of whether you have been practicing that particular skill for 20 years and are already proficient.

At any rate, I’ve only been to one gathering (Rabbitstick) and can’t provide you with in person thoughts on all of them, but I wanted to provide a list of gatherings so you can check them out, it’s a great way to learn new skills and I think you’ll enjoy the experience.

*Note: I listed gatherings where the focus is on learning hands-on skills in a workshop style format. There are other festivals that take more of a presentation/exhibition approach, I chose to not include those on this current list. If you know of any other gatherings like the ones listed, please let me know and I’ll include them. Hollowtop was a website of particular help in compiling this list, they had several gatherings I didn’t know about, and list several other events that I didn’t include here, check them out for more information. In addition, there are a couple events that are more bushcraft focused, I don’t know the format for them but they look interesting and I’m sure you’d learn a bunch so I included a few of them on this list. If anyone has been to them and can tell me what they were like I would love to hear from you!

Skills Gatherings in the U.S.A (by month)


Wintercount–, Arizona

Florida Earthskills– Florida


Acorn–, California


Rivercane Rendezvous–, South Carolina

Peidmont Earthskills– North Carolina


Buckeye–, California

Slickrock– Utah

Mid-Atlantic Primitive Skills Gathering–, Virginia?

The Sharpening Stone–, Oregon

Between the Rivers–, Washington

Indiana Earthskills–, Indiana

Dirt Time Gathering–, California


Firefly–, North Carolina

Saskatoon Circle–, Washington

Fire to Fire–, Utah

Earth Knack Family Gathering–, Colorado

Cattail Gathering–, Connecticut


Elements–, California

Echoes in Time–, Oregon

Woodsmoke–, Idaho, classic camping (1800’s-1930’s) temporarily on hold

Wilder Waters (aka Dawnland, aka Maine Primitive Gathering)–, Maine

Puckerbrush Primitive Gathering–, Maine

Pathfinder Gathering–, Arkansas (from what I saw I’m not sure this is consistant). More bushcraft oriented.


Lake Superior Traditional Ways–, Wisconsin

Moose Ridge–, Maine

Reeds and Roots Skillshare–, Ohio

Earth Tribe Festival– Colorado

Great Lakes Primitives–, Michigan (not sure if this is still active)


Rabbitstick Rendezvous–, Idaho

Mountaincraft and Music–, West Virginia

Roots School Rendezvous–, Vermont

Bois D’Arc Primitive Skills Camp and Knap-in–, Missouri

Uitwaaien–, Pennsylvania (more bushcraft focused)

Groundnut Gathering–, Massachusetts (small, I only found this one reference)


SkyEarth–, Texas

Falling Leaves Rendezvous–, South Carolina

Three Trees Earthways–, Wisconsin

International Skills Gatherings

Bushmoot–, February, UK

Avnei Derech (Milestones)–, March, Israel

Limina–, April, British Columbia, Canada

Headwaters Earth Skills–, May, Ontario, Canada

Firemaker–, July, British Columbia, Canada

Bushcraft Festivalen (Bushcraft Festival)–, August, Sweden

Bushmoot–, August, UK

Rat Root Rendezvous–, August, Alberta, Canada

Wilderness Gathering–, August, UK

Sheva Avanim–, October, Israel

Wild Heart–, October, NSW Australia

Bushcraft Weekend–, 2x/year, I couldn’t find dates immediately (it’s rough navigating websites in a language you don’t know). Netherlands