Modifying a spokeshave for paring leather
By Emma Lau, MA Conservation Studies: Books and Library Materials.
At the beginning of each year, books students participate in a three-day course in knife making and sharpening led by Bernard Allen, a designer-craftsman with 20 years of experience teaching sharpening to conservators. We learned about the principles of sharpening and using basic machinery to produce an English paring knife. I had tremendous fun making my own tool and decided that I wanted to look into modifying a spokeshave.
English trained bookbinders often use a modified spokeshave to reduce the thickness of a piece of leather. While there are a few articles written on what needs to be done in order for it to cut leather efficiently, for a books student it is rather difficult to wrap my head around how to achieve it.
So this is a time to take advantage of the multi-disciplinary community of West Dean: I had a chat with Sam, a second-year FdA furniture student, and he was able to show me how to modify my spokeshave specifically for leather paring. I began with researching around the subject to gain a better idea of the modification process and consulted my books lecturer, Abby, about the reasons behind these modifications. In addition, I was able to observe a properly modified spokeshave which one of my fellow students, Lauren, had modified during a course she took with Jeff Peachey at the North Bennet Street School, Boston.