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 Ken sent this to me privately, but I have his consent to share it with
the list. I hope other beginning spokeshavers will take heart from it,
as I did, and those with more experience will be prompted to add their
own thoughts.

Date: Mon, 2 Jun 97 11:22:58 -0500
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I was very amused by your recent posting concerning using a
spokeshave. I was trained that way and it seems natural to me, but my
students (most of whom are women) have a dickens of a time with it. I
try to photograph the progress of a work and have included many
pictures of students with their fingers poking through the holes in
the leather they have just created with the spokeshave. We finally
purchased a Sharfix parer, but it has its own difficulties. Some use
the Sharfix for the majority of the paring (especially if it is a
large piece of leather) and then the spokeshave. Although the Sharfix
is supposed to be able to do beveling, I have never been successful
with it for that purpose. Neither have my students (perhaps my
hesitancy rubs off on them?) Another interesting difference is that I
prefer English knives for beveling, whereas most of my students (both
the men and the women) prefer the French.

I think that I "relate" to spokeshaving through touch and rhythm. In a
sense I take the opposite approach to yours. When I am down to the
last few paring passes, I try to empty my mind and simply feel what I
am doing. Before this, however, I try to establish the rhythm that
works best with the individual leather. If I am successful with this,
then I don't get ridges and dips. My blade is out usually about 1mm.
LIke you, I do not change it much during most of the work. The length
of the blade, I feel, has a lot to do with the angle of your approach.
I tend to dig, so I consciously try to make my angle as shallow as
possible. After that, I go pretty much by feel.

Most of my binding students are artists, and we have had many
interesting discussions about working with leather and spokeshaves and
knives. Their frame of reference is, of course, to whatever medium
they are most at home in. My reference is, however, to music, and I
wonder just how much that has influenced how I approach my other work.
I was trained as a pianist (and still play), and so I am used to
emptying my mind while I am performing. You may be listening to the
music you are creating but not consciously pressing harder on a
particular key, for instance. On the other hand, you may say to
yourself " this is where I need to slow down," so the consciousness
does sometimes go in and out. When you are not conscious of thinking
about what you are playing and are just enjoying listening to the
music, then you have established your rapport with the music. This is
how I approach working with leather. Does this make any sense at all?

Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to talk about this on a Monday
morning. I don't have any binding students this summer, so it has been
an added pleasure.

Ken Lavender, Curator
Rare Book and Texana Collections
University of North Texas



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