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The WS Manufacturing Company did make some very fine spokeshaves,  and the first variety that I shall deal with here is absolutely unique,  in that nobody else made it.

I shall call this spokeshave a MODEL MAKER'S SPOKESHAVE, because it is so small and so delicate.

In a price sheet dated 1951 is is described as being used  'For pattern and model make, craftsman and handymen',   and priced at 2/9d.


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There were 2 forms to this rare item, one was with a curved base and one with a flat base.  I can find 10 curved bases to 2 flat bases, therefore the flat based variety is very rare.    Both appear as 14cm long, handle end to handle end.  There were no forged in markings on the body to indicate the maker (WS).  The only marks to show that this was a WS brand tool was that the Water Transfer was placed on the Left Hand handle, and this is usually missing.   The FLAT and ROUND styles must have had different castings and are not a modified single casting used for both sorts.  The mouth was always 26mm across (side to side).


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These Spokeshaves were never issued with a 'hanging' hole in either handle.

At this juncture I must advise that you may well see a rounded base that has been ground down to use as a flat base, but you must look closely at the mouth depth to discern the, "correctness".  The mouth across (depth) should be only 4mm or [3mm on later issues], but this would be wider on the modified version.

The blade, which never had any Manufacturer markings, is always held by a slot round-headed BRASS bolt (8mm diameter head) which has a 4mm wide thread 7mm long.

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The blade is 2.5cm wide, 2mm thick and measures 2.5cm from the edge to the rounded top of the blade.  It weighs but 2.1/4 ozs.

The earlier varieties show a shellack application over the paint which has "alligatored", but I have never seen any decal except RHT2. which was placed on the right [as viewed from the front] handle.  I do however have 2 varieties that show a 'porcelain' type appearance but which have no decal attached....but the porcelain finish may well be more prone to having the transfer flake off.

It should be noted that both my 'porcelain' examples show a more rounded aspect to the shoulders at the back near of the working surface (see left photo below) AND are 1mm less in the total width of the handles.  But then again individual grinding may account for these differences, maybe a 'new' grinder was taken on staff who liked a more rounded look.   (The more usual and older angular grind is shown on the right, below).

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The 'A051' was, like other makers, a spokeshave that did not have any depth adjustment feature to the blade, it was a basic spokeshave and the number 51 is shared with most other makers.  A curious note here is that one of my  51 spokeshaves shows   'No'     and  ' 151 '    on the back of the body just underneath the blade holding screw hole, and each is surrounded by a square indentation. But the letters seem to be cast in, not out as in the 151 series and they are very feint, almost ground out. [see below]

More SS details 002


Both examples that I have are FLAT based and have a 'Gold' painted finish to the lever cap, but I am sure that they were also issued as ROUND face.   I have yet to see an early example of  51 with a polished iron surface lever cap, which leads me to conclude that 51 was introduced by WS later in it's history in order to gain a market share.  As you will see, the 'Gold' applied finish was used on the later produced Spokeshaves, probably to emulate the Brass look of the Plane lever caps. There may have been a physical problem as to why these spokeshave lever caps could not have been actually produced in Brass. { See later here under 'An Anomaly' }   The 'Gold' painted lever caps were exactly the same as those found on the 151 Spokeshaves and all of these only had the Gold Lacquer paint applied to the top surface.

Lge Spokeshaxes 001

The cast iron bodies have a hole cast through each handle at the end so as to facilitate hanging up and therefore ease of selection for the craftsman. The total length end to end is 25.2cm. and the mouth is 55mm wide and 4.5-5mm deep. The edge in front of the mouth shows that it was ground flat after the initial casting.  The bodies of the 51 and the 151 are exactly the same casting, [but the 151 has 2 tapped holes on the top of the body to accommodate the threaded adjuster nut rods].

Lge Spokeshaxes 008


The blade is 54mm wide, 2mm thick and has a depth when new (edge to centre of the rounded top) of 48mm and since the 51 is non-adjustable, there are no holes to accommodate the adjusting nuts as in the 151.         Below is the 51 on the left, and the 151 blade on the right.

More SS details 003

To present the blade stampings to the front of the shave requires that the ground bevel be applied to the underside of the blade, but you will find many examples that show that this was not of top priority to the personnel doing the grinding!

The blade markings on the 2 examples that I have are B3 and B3a.      

A130 blades

The Lever Cap screw has a cross knurled edge, showing the diamonds as the surface (lines lowered) and was probably 'blued'.

The RHT2 transfer is seen on the front cross piece in front of the mouth.


On the underside of the handles are inset cast the words     W.S.   and   ENGLAND


Once again, never actually labelled A151, the first of these adjustable spokeshaves, (available in Round[Rare] and Flat face) had a raised indented letter casting behind the body as  No.     151C

Lge Spokeshaxes 006

It is not clear why WS would label this spokeshave with a trailing 'C' , but it is possible that they denoted it thus as a reference to Cast Iron.  They may have envisaged that they would be producing a Malleable Iron version later on (as other manufacturers were doing) and would have called this version  '151M'.   But they may not have got around to this project as none have been seen.  With that in mind the next 'version' that we see is merely labelled   No.   151 

Lge Spokeshaxes 007

It is worth mentioning that the base casting was completed and then the 'Rounded' contour was ground in as required, producing an intrusion into the lettering, as seen below.  I have not noted any widening of the mouth of the 'rounded' variety which theoretically should have been introduced by the use of but a single casting.  Perhaps the depth of the sole negated this happening, unlike that found in the small Model Makers  Spokeshave, noted above.

Picture 020X

The later varieties show no lettering on the back at all.....

Brass Lever cap SS 004

The A151 was adjustable for depth of cut  and lateral blade set by means of the 2 adjuster nuts that travelled on 4mm diameter threaded rods set into the top of the body. The threaded rods are much narrower than are seen on other makers' products.  Once again the tapped adjuster nuts vary in dimensions according to batch characteristics, but generally are 16-18mm high and 14mm in knurled section diameter.  You will also find that the knurling can vary between the 2 nuts on any given spokeshave.  I do feel sure that they would all have been 'blued' initially.

More SS details 004

The Lever cap started off as a polished casting and later was Gold colour Lacquered (top surface only ) to look like brass.

Lge Spokeshaxes 002

Lge Spokeshaxes 001

The steel slotted oval headed lever cap screw is the same as in the '51'.

The blades show markings from B0 to B3a .   B1 is a blade marking that I associate with VERY early WS activity and this therefore shows that Spokeshaves were some of the first items that WS produced.  But the blade B0 [below] is an even earlier format than B1 and this may show that this B0 spokeshave blade may have been the most earliest of all WS activity.

During this study a previously unknown blade marking came to light, B2a . This is a stamping that I have only ever seen on these spokeshave blades. (see 'Characteristics' section for the chronological explanation)

Blade Markings



I cannot recall when this item came into my possession, but I have never seen the like since.   It is an expertly cast Brass Lever Cap for an A51 or A151 spokeshave.  It shows no filing or grinding marks whatsoever and shows great detail in the stipling behind the letters W and S.  The back shows a distinct casting mark of the number '7', which leads me to speculate that this was not a 'one off' in a backyard forge.  You will note that it has been drilled and very finely tapped each side of the 'squares', but not at equal spacing or height!  This may indicate an attempt to use a 2 bolt tightening system to hold the blade secure, as I can discern no hole for the inclusion of the usual Lever Cap screw at the top of the casting.  It may have come from the WS 'research' lab, if such existed.

Brass Lever cap SS 001

Brass Lever cap SS 003


SPOKESHAVE  Type Study (A51 and A151):

Presented here is the best Type study of these spokeshaves that I am able to currently offer.   I will endeavour to fine tune this study as I gather more spokeshaves. Of note at this juncture is the fact that I have found evidence that the 'GOLD' Lever cap may have been introduced earlier than is noted here, but I have discounted that at this stage because I do not physically have those shaves, only Internet images.  And then again, I do not know whether parts may have been interchanged by previous owners.

There are only FOUR characteristics that can be totally counted upon to chronologically date these spokeshaves:  The blade markings; the Transfer (if still present); the treatment on the Lever cap and the markings on the rear of the body (excluding the always present  WS  and  ENGLAND found inside the handles).

Type 1:

This Blade is a new blade that has only recently been discovered having only the words WARRANTED in an arc around the top and SHEFFIELD in a straight line across the bottom around no central image, therefore I must label this blade marking as B0, as this has not been seen before.


The pressure cap is polished and the letters W and S are cast into the front with no background colour added.  All other aspects are as per Type 2.  This is a most recent discovery[ 11/2017] from a reader in the UK, which just goes to show that your input to me, however trivial to you, can lead us to great revelations

Type 2:

Blade: B1

Blade Markings B1

Transfer:  RHT1  [A WS PRODUCT]

Lever Cap:    Polished

Body Marks:  No.  151C

Type 3:

Blade: B2

Blade Markings B2

Transfer:    RHT1


Lever Cap:    Polished

Body Marks:    No. 151C

Type 4:

Blade: B2a

Blade Markings B2a

Transfer:    RHT1

Lever Cap:   Polished

Body Marks:    No.  151C

Type 5:
Blade: B2a

Transfer:    RHT1

Lever Cap:   Polished

Body Marks:    No   151

Type 6:

Blade: B3

Blade Markings B3

Transfer:   RHT2


Lever Cap:   Polished

Body Marks:   No   151

Type 7:

Blade:  B3

Transfer:  RHT2

Lever Cap:   GOLD

Body Marks:   No   151

Type 8:

Blade:  B3

Transfer: RHT2

Lever Cap:   GOLD

Body Marks:   NONE

Type 9:

Blade:  B3a

Blade Markings B3a

Transfer:   RHT2

Lever Cap:   GOLD

Body Marks:   NONE