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Spokeshave vs Drawknife: What’s the Difference?

spokeshave vs drawknife whats the difference

Most, if not all, woodworkers would agree that having to choose between a drawknife and a spokeshave is the woodworking equivalent of deciding whether to have Coke or Pepsi. Even though the tools have similar functions and can be used interchangeably, the belief that one is better than the other still lingers. By identifying exactly what each tool does and the kind of work it would be best for, you will be in a better position to pick the one that will best suit your needs. We are therefore going to analyze these tools’ features and functions and their shortcomings.

The Drawknife

The drawknife consists of a long blade positioned between two handles. The blade allows you to slice the wood thinly or remove larger chunks of wood. The blade can either be straight or curved, depending on the task.

As the name suggests, the drawknife is used by placing it on the material to be worked on, preferably at an angle, and pulling it towards you. It is often used for debarking trees, trimming beams of wood, and chamfering edges. With advanced skill and precision, it is used to carve wooden sculptures.

Because a drawknife can remove thin slices, as well as big chunks, of wood from a trunk, it is often regarded as the “all-rounder” woodworking tool. However, the main issue with the drawknife is that it requires experience to use effectively. One can easily remove much larger chunks of wood than intended, thus leading to wastage.

a drawknife
A drawknife.
  • It’s a multipurpose shaving tool, used to shave a beam of wood thinly, or remove thicker shavings
  • Allows you to remove shavings much faster than any other woodworking tool
  • Using the tool effectively requires lots of experience
  • Requires regular sharpening

The Spokeshave

A spokeshave is a woodworking tool that is also used for shaving and trimming. However, it is much smaller than the drawknife. It consists of a much smaller blade and handles that are closer to the blade than on a drawknife.

The spokeshave is often used for more specialized tasks, such as smoothing curved wooden surfaces and refining delicate tasks.

a spokeshave
A spokeshave.
  • It’s easier to control than a drawknife
  • Good for precise and refined work
  • Does not require regular maintenance
  • Allows you to reach surfaces such as cylindrical and edged wooden pieces
  • Because you have to make smaller and finer cuts, using it could be time-consuming
  • Not as versatile as the drawknife


Although the drawknife and the spokeshave have similar functions and can possibly be used interchangeably in certain instances, they’re meant to be used in a complementary manner. If we take the process of making a chair as an example, the wood to be pieced together would be thoroughly sliced and shaped using a drawknife. Carving the wood to create designs on the chair would make use of a spokeshave.

Header image credit: Sam Wilson, Flickr

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