Metal Spokeshaves

                                        METAL SPOKESHAVES

What must be the earliest of MARPLES Iron Spokeshaves was Patented on 12th March 1885, Patent # 3227. I only have the photos below of this fragile looking shave and I note that it does not appear in the 1897 Catalogue. [See the Wooden Spokeshave section for a Wood equivalent shave]

The ‘M‘ Iron bench planes were introduced in February 1933 with no mention of any forthcoming additions to the line until in the December 1934 Pocket catalogue,  wherein it is stated: ‘Also Routers, Scrapers, Spokeshaves, etc.’ This continued in the Pocket catalogues until only in that of March 1936 are we actually shown a full description with drawings of the Spokeshave line. It is stated that  ‘Cutting Irons of Marples Special Edge Tool Steel. Crucible Cast.’, as shown below.  What you see here was the full line of MARPLES Iron Spokeshaves, as no others were ever introduced and there was only a line reduction from this time forward.
The March 1938 Pocket Catalogue does indicate that the base castings were of ‘Best Grey Iron’ with the cutters still being supplied as above.​ PLEASE NOTE here that the Spokeshaves of pre-war production were manufactured at the ‘Northern Tool Works‘ [a facility owned by Turner Naylor & Co Ltd.   a  Company very closely associated with Wm. Marples & Sons] and it was not until after the war that production was started at ‘Hibernia Works‘.

The chart below will show the availability of the Iron Spokeshaves over time, shown with prices:

  • No.              M51      M51R     M151     M151R     M53     M64     M63     M55
  • Date
  • 3/36           1/6d       1/6d       2/3d        2/3d        2/-        1/3d      1/3d      2/-
  • 9/36          2/-          2/-         2/9d       2/9d        2/6d     1/6d      1/6d     2/3d
  • 3/40          2/-          2/-         2/9d       2/9d        2/6d     1/6d      1/6d     2/3d
  • 12/49        5/-          5/-         6/3d       6/3d        —-    3/6d      3/6d    —-
  • 11/51          6/-         6/-          7/3d       7/3d        —-    4/3d      4/3d    —-
  • 4/52          6/-         6/-          7/3d       7/3d        —-     4/3d      4/3d    —-
  • 9/55          6/9d       6/9d      8/3d       8/3d        —-     4/9d      4/9d   —-
  • 12/59        7/6d       7/6d       9/-         9/-          —-     5/3d       5/3d    —-
  • 4/61          7/6d       7/6d       9/-         9/-          —-     5/3d       5/3d    —-
  • 4/62         7/9d       7/9d       9/6d       9/6d       —-     5/6d      5/6d    —-
  • 1/64          7/9d       7/9d       —-      9/6d       —-     5/6d      5/6d    —-
  • 3/64         7/9d       7/9d       —-      9/6d        —-    5/6d       5/6d    —-
  • 4/65         —-      —MA 12/6d MA 12/6d —-   —-      —-   —-
  • 11/69        —-      —-   WITHDRAWN         —-    —-     —-   —-

RECORD took over MARPLES in 1962 and consequently withdrew the M151 Flat Bottomed Adjustable Shave. Apparently they must have re-introduced that style as the MA151 (and the Round Bottom variety as MA151R) prior to 4/65, these being the only ‘MARPLES‘ Spokeshaves then produced.
Do not forget that RECORD also produced Spokeshaves in direct competition to MARPLES, so this was just a fading out of the MARPLES name.  Sometime before the Price List of November 1969, these MA examples were themselves phased out of production.

So now I will try to Analyse each Iron Spokeshave in order for you to gain a greater depth of understanding.  Please Note: that the information to be found below under ‘M51 and M51R‘ spokeshaves applies to all of the shaves, so reference should be always made back to this section.

M51 and M51R:

This was the standard large non-adjustable spokeshave produced in both Flat and Round base varieties. Manufactured 1936-1964, the Iron body remained unchanged throughout its’ history. As with all the spokeshaves they were initially introduced with a Black body and a Red Lever Cap, changed briefly
c.1942-4 to a Green colour and around 1944 to a Red Body and Black Lever Cap. It is difficult to determine any closer dating.  The body was 10″ long and the Cutter was 2.1/8″ wide. The bolt running through the Lever Cap, and thereby applying pressure to the cutter edge, was 12mm diameter and had vertical parallel knurling on the side, which was 4mm thick. As with all the shaves, the water transfer was applied to the Left Hand Side handle on the Black Body shaves and to the RHS handle on the Red Body shaves.
Now, due to the fact that the only other distinguishing feature to help us date shaves is the marking on the cutter, and given that the cutters can be so easily replaced, we cannot place good faith in the cutter markings to establish a date for the shave and neither the Body nor the underside of the Lever Caps had any markings.
The undersides of the Lever Caps were always un-painted.
At some time these spokeshaves were released having the body painted a Gold colour and having Red Lever Caps.  I had always thought that these shaves were made of Malleable Iron, but I am unable to find ANY reference or Price Listing for such an item.   Other Manufacturers [e.g. RECORD] offered Malleable Iron shaves but these were always at a higher price. If the MARPLES Gold shaves are Malleable Iron, I would expect a similar pricing difference to show up in the Price Lists. But no such reference can be found. I believe that the Gold shaves were produced after 1944 because the Water Transfer seems to occupy the RHS handle [as with the Red body shaves].
When the Body colour was changed c.1944 from Green to Red I think that the Red was initially a Maroon colour and then changed swiftly to a real Red. [I have a Gold M51 with a Maroon Lever Cap, and a totally Maroon M53  {with a transfer on the RHS handle}.]

Transfers: The usual transfer found is the round ‘MARPLES‘ only transfer [below Left] but an earlier one may be the transfer shown on the middle and right below.

The 2 photos above right are of course confusing as the same transfer appears on an early Black bodied shave and on a much later Red bodied M55.  But between these 2 shaves appears the Round transfer above Left!      I cannot explain this.
At some time the Black bodied shave was replaced by a Green body with a Green Cap and I now have surmised that this occurred in the ‘Green‘ time of MARPLES .  The cutter markings seem to back up this fact and it is therefore possible that the Black body was changed to Green c.1942 [and then to Red around 1944/5?]  The ‘Green‘ castings seem quite rough, as if cast my unskilled hands and this may have been due to the fact that many of the ‘apprenticed’ expert male personnel were conscripted into the Forces and women had to be quickly introduced into the MARPLES [and other manufacturers] foundries having literally to learn on the job, with little expert guidance.  See below.

I have found two cutter markings on the ‘Green’ spokeshaves and the earlier one [left below] shows the trefoil, whereas later this is omitted:

M151 and M151R:

These spokeshaves were the Adjustable brothers of the M51 and M51R.     The M151 was produced from 3/36-1962 and the M151R from 3/36-1964.
All the characteristics described under M51 apply to these adjustable spokeshaves.
Obviously the castings were different because the M151 had to have threaded rods inserted into each side handle and also provision was made here for a Thumb Rest each side of the cutter. This makes guidance and control so much easier that I wonder why this feature was not incorporated in all the other spokeshaves.

What may be the very first M151 Flat bottom Spokeshave is shown below….please note the transfer….

Below  you will see the ‘Maroon‘ version c.1944, just before a real Red colour was adopted.

Above is an MA151, produced by RECORD/MARPLES approx. 4/65-11/69.

The above ‘Gold‘ coloured variety is actually a Brown/Gold variety and I have no idea where this fits into the pattern! [Maybe the very first introduction of the ‘Gold‘ colour?]

Above here is one of those Green painted MARPLES spokeshaves [repainted], but judging by the Cutter blade mark seems to put it around 1944.  The castings are not as good as usual for MARPLES , but this may be explained by the date.   MARPLES did go through a GREEN phase which I am presently investigating to narrow down the date. c.1942-44

M63 and M64:
These 2 spokeshaves were again introduced at the onset of Spokeshave production and lasted until circa March 1964. The M63 was Round faced and the M64 was Straight faced. Both of these smaller shaves were described as ‘Straight handled’ and were 9″ long,  having a 1.3/4″ cutter width. The pressure applied by the Lever Cap always seems to have come from a Wingnut [pushing against the back frame], not a Round knurled headed bolt [which pushes against the cutter face], and the cutter has a vertical slot in it to accommodate this Wingnut.

The M53 was the only Spokeshave that had an Adjustable mouth width and it was produced first around 1936 and was phased out around 1944. This latter date I have established because though the Price Lists that I have only show a production period to March 1940, I have a MAROON coloured example [below] which I believe is the first colour introduced by MARPLES after deciding to transition from Black to a Red bodied handle. [Maybe a ‘Green‘ variety was never produced].
The shave was 10″ long and had a cutter width of 2.1/8″. The pressure bolt diameter was 9mm. and impinged directly on the back frame, not the cutter. [much like the M63 and M64 above]. The cutter was held directly captive by a Round headed slotted bolt.

The M55 Spokeshave was introduced at the beginning of MARPLES Spokeshave production c.March 1936 and lasted until at least 1944 and maybe later, as it is not shown in the 12/49 Brochure. This minimum 1944 date is established because I have a photo of an M55 with Red main body paint [Shown below] and this paint configuration was introduced around 1944 as a transition from a Black body paint. I have also seen an M55 with the Maroon body paint…c.1944. [Again, I have yet to see a ‘Green‘ variety of this shave]

Once again, I simply cannot explain why this presumably very early MARPLES transfer would turn up on a c.1944 Spokeshave. If you have any ideas, please email me!

The above tool is in my collection and denotes a pre-war edition.

Cutter Markings:
I have placed here drawings and photos of the Cutter stampings that I have seen on MARPLES Spokeshaves.   I have tried to identify a proposed cronological date of issue, but I may, as always, be wrong!  As I have previously stated, the markings, though present, may well not identify the dating of Spokeshaves, because the cutters may be so easily inter-changed and the Spokeshave bodies give us no clues as to production dates, apart from the paint colour.

I think that the above is the first mark to be seen on spokeshave cutters.

Note the rounded corners to the rectangle in this rare mark [above].

This mark above is around 1944 as it is seen on both Black, Red and Green handled shaves.  Note the Square corners to the rectangle.

This mark is seen on the shaves having either a Maroon cap or a Maroon body and on the early ‘Green’ shaves.  Square corners.

This mark above also occurs as 5mm x 12.5mm, which is earlier, and is seen on Black body shaves. Rounded corners.

Only seen on Red body shaves so far.
Rounded corners…..which I had thought was an earlier shape to the Square corner variety??

Wooden Spokeshaves


Below is a c.1920 picture showing the shop from where those hand-made spokeshaves came and there looks to have been only 6 stations fully occupied by these Craftsmen. We can only guess at just how long  one shave took a skilled workman to produce and how many would they each produce per day. On the left you can see a sweep brush, a shovel and a pile of hessian bags, all in order to clean the shop at the end of the day.  Also there you will see the pre-cut Boxwood or Beech blanks all ready for use.

The Wooden Spokeshaves made by MARPLES were introduced at the very beginning of the Company being in existence, or at least from 1846 , which is the earliest document [Price List/Catalogue] that we have of these items being then for sale {shown below}.

By the time that we get to the 1861 Catalogue we can see at least a few drawings and the information as shown below, but the tools are still not given an Item number:

1873 Catalogue shows the following listings and now they are with Item numbers:

Many Coopers made their own shaves and so the Spare Irons (522) were made with square tangs, as opposed to tapered tangs fitted at the factory, so that the Cooper could more easily make square holes outfitted with wedges to secure the Iron.
But it is still a mystery why MARPLES would sell spare tapered irons anyway when each shave was mated to a specific Iron at the factory and small differences would negate fitting any replacement iron later on.  Hand made shaves can usually be seen with matching marks on both the Iron and the wooden throat of the shave to ensure that the two pieces were matched up, each being specific to the other. [See further down for more details]

1888 Catalogue entries are below:

1897 Catalogue entries are shown below:

1909 Catalogue entries are shown below:
Note: that the Item numbers have now been changed, again.

1921 Catalogue entries are the same as 1909, except that the #3366 Coachmakers’ Spokeshave is no longer listed, see later.

1928 Catalogue entries:

New additions to the line are the Patternmakers’ Boxwood Shaves…above
But I think they just shuffled the Item numbers around and renamed them, as the ‘Patternmakers’ shaves’ were available before under different numbers and as ‘Extra Small Boxwood Spokeshaves’. The radius shaves though were new.  As you can see [below] Item#3366 Coachmakers’ and Wheelers’ Spokeshave is once again listed so was it re-introduced by demand or merely missed being listed in the 1921 Catalogue?

1938 Catalogue entries are almost exactly the same as the 1928 listings [including the prices], all except the main Spokeshave page, and item #2373 Patternmakers Boxwood shave is omitted and never reappears.

As you can see the ‘Special’ spokeshaves are now lettered with a B suffix, for reason unknown, but also I note that the ‘Special’ shaves are priced lower than the Best Beech shaves. Perhaps ‘Special’ is a euphemism for not the highest quality Beech!
NOTE: The following Item #s are no longer listed: 2361A; 2371 and 2371A.

1959 Catalogue entries:

1965 Catalogue entries:

By the mid 1960s the era of hand made shaves ceased and machine turning was introduced so as to prolong the sales of these items.
The last wooden spokeshave #2360 lasted until approximately mid 1973.

From the previously shown Catalogue entries and Price Lists in my possession I have compiled a table to try to show the availability of the MARPLES wooden spokeshaves as they were available over time.  If I am lucky enough to be able to buy any more Catalogues that could fill in the spaces, then I will post the results here.

                                 Wooden Spokeshave Gallery

I will now show some good examples of the shaves that MARPLES produced.

The very earliest Spokeshave that I have is a 11 inch long Ebony example with a 2″ blade and ‘plated with Ivory‘. It has an ‘Anchor‘ mark on the handle, but I am unable to find it in the 1846 List.  Maybe the high class Ebony shaves always had an Ivory wear plate?

Next is an example with a Single Shamrock and HIBERNIA mark, therefore should be before 1875, but is not shown in the 1877 Catalogue [?]. Another case of the continuation of a Trademark by MARPLES beyond its’ expiry date. It does appear in the 1888 catalogue and is described as a ‘Registered Adjustable Screw-iron Spokeshave#668  (I believe this could be the Wood equivalent of Patent # 3227 of 12th March 1885).     We do know that this shave [that could micro adjust the depth of cut] seems to have not been very well received as it may have been perceived to be ‘de-skilling’ (to borrow a phrase from the great Ken Hawley). Instead of having ‘tangs’ the cutter had 2 tapped holes into which 2 metal slot screws, which were secured in the stock, were threaded. This shave may have been introduced before 1888 but it certainly was de-listed by the 1897 catalogue.   It had a Registration number of 12169 which shows as 1884.   Along with the Radius Shaves, this Shave may be the rarest spokeshave to find.

My thanks to Jamie Wood for the above photo.


The next shave started out life in 1861, then as Item #504 in 1873, transitioned into #672 by 1897 and finally into #2362 in 1909.    It last appeared in the 1938 catalogue and was probably dropped then, due to the war, and it never reappeared.   Again it was an adjustable depth shave with Brass thumbscrews on the stock acting upon threaded tangs from the cutter, and was brass plated to prevent wear to the base.  It was probably the most expensive of shaves and was produced in only small batches and then only usually made for specific orders. The rarer Boxwood equivalent was the #2372 which also bowed out around 1938.

The Spokeshave shown below is of Rosewood and quite small, but I am unable to find this listed. The water transfer seems to indicate early 1900’s

The Bread and Butter of the MARPLES Wooden Spoke shave line was definitely the unplated Beechwood shave shown first with no number in 1861 then numbered #501 in 1873, #670 in 1897 and finally #2360 in 1909, and was then in continuous production until 1973.  The plated version again started in 1861, was numbered #502 in 1873, #671 in 1897 and finally #2361 in 1909, and lasted as such until c.1962.  The unplated Boxwood equivalent of #501 was #2370, and the plated Boxwood version of #502 was #2371    See the chart for production dates and more information.

You can here see the difference between the hand made shave and the machine turned [with no human addition] shave…… Immediate 2 photos above.  The machine turned shave has a distinct edge between the back and top surfaces of the body and the stamp on the body may well indicate     ‘MARPLES ENGLAND‘, as opposed to the previous variety having just ‘MARPLES‘ [shown 3rd photo above and hand made]

Below is a rare 4 inch #2360. Most of this size are destroyed by misuse.


The last MARPLES shave or ‘stick’ maker, ‘Cyril Smith‘, retired in the mid 1960’s.

The Patternmakers’ Boxwood shaves were introduced around 1928 [but  maybe before].  The #2373 [Straight Shave, square front] had a short life perhaps until early 1930s.

The rounded version [#2375][below] was preferred because it was easier to manipulate on concave surfaces and being the more popular shave with Craftsmen it lasted until c.1962.  The rare Radius shaves #2376 appear around c.1928 and were probably de-listed on the outbreak of WWII.

As mentioned above, when the Wooden shaves were made individually and by hand the actual shave wood part was matched to the cutter and had to be kept together as a matching pair. [Which is why the sale of individual cutters was not rational because these hand made cutters would never match up and be able to be fitted easily to an already produced wood stock, unless extensive work was done to match the new parts. And then the cutter would have been loose in the body].
So the MARPLES bench spokeshave makers had a system of keeping the cutter and handle together during production by marking both cutter tang and wood body with a unique code, and this code was peculiar to each maker and to each tool made during that day by him.  So you will find matching marks on hand-made shaves such as V111 or 1111 etc, all according to the makers signature.   Then, when the shave was sent to the shellack ‘ladies’, [a department that seems to have been almost always been ‘manned’ by Ladies] they would be able to keep both cutter and wooden stock matching up together before sending on to the shipping dept.

If you need to know whether a certain width Spokeshave of a certain type was available at a certain time, please refer to the Catalogue entries shown above.
To put this information into a table format is beyond my old feeble brain, given that the old catalogues had so many number changes!    So you have to do the work.

Below are the photos taken from my collection of Wooden Spokeshaves to show the makers mark.   I have tried to put them roughly into a date order based upon the evidence seen and noted.  Some of the larger shaves seem to have the mark impressed onto the front face of the mouth portion of the body as opposed to on one of the handles.

No HIBERNIA or trefoil. c.1865/70?

HIBERNIA but no trefoil. c.1870?   HIBERNIA was certainly used as a mark before 1875 when it then became a ‘Trademark’.

[Above} HIBERNIA and Trefoil 1875<

As seen in the above 3 photos SHEFFIELD has been added. [But not ENG.]   Also RD 12169  This Registration # is NOT the same as a Patent and this number may be c.1884.

This mark [immediate above] is from around 1933 as the same mark is used on the early Bench Plane cutters of that era.

This mark [above] enclosed by a rectangular line appears c.1940?

A mark [above] was used prior to 1965 [the end of hand made shaves]

This mark [above] has only been seen so far on Machine produced shaves. 1965<

The mark above is the only one that I have seen and must be a later mark.
I do not know whether it was before or after the Black lettered stamp shown above.

This cutter, from a large 4″ shave, is the only one I have seen that is marked with these 2 separate marks. Indicative of  c.1895?