Lee Valley Tools Woodworking Newsletter
Vol. 2, Issue 2
November 2007
Featured Patents

Millers Falls Spokeshave

The United States Patent Office granted the original patent (#293,651) for this unique shave to Albert D. Goodell of Millers Falls, Massachusetts, on February 19, 1884. The patent was immediately assigned to the Millers Falls Company, and the shave was marketed as Goodell's Spoke Shave. At that time, Goodell was the plant superintendent at the company. By 1888, he had left to set up the Goodell Brothers Company with his sibling, Henry. This company eventually became the Goodell-Pratt Company, which merged with the Millers Falls Company in 1931.

In the patent papers, Goodell claims that the circular cutter provides a clean cut, rather than the scraping action common to other shaves. He further states that the unique method of holding the blade and capturing the ends of the cutter prevents digging in while cutting. This mechanism also prevents chatter, guarantees the operator's safety while using it, and allows the operator to skew the shave. Free discharge of any shavings produced is ensured, as the holding method does not allow any protuberances to impede the shaving.

Millers Falls spokeshave

The circular cutter is also most innovative. Manufactured to the same tolerances as the body, it allows for repeatable and consistent manufacturing tolerances. However, in practice, sharpening this cutter is problematic, as figuring out a holding method borders on a new invention itself. Traditionally, the bottom bevel is ground as a regular edge would be, and the inside is honed in whatever manner is practical. Setting the blade for a fine cut can be challenging for a new owner, and requires some practice.

This shave was made in three versions, the difference being the profile of the handle, which is often manufactured from cocobolo and other exotic woods. The tool shown is a type 2 model. Other manufacturers have copied this shave and the circular cutter system.

This Millers Falls spokeshave is known—and consistently referred to by collectors—as the cigar shave because of its slim, tubular shape. It is exceptional for cutting to an obstruction or for maneuvering in a restricted space, since one or both handles can be removed. It is also useful for refining an internal circular profile.

D.S. Orr


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