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Am I uncomfortable with the idea that spokeshaving is done differently
according to gender.  I have been binding books since the early 70's.   Like
my male teachers;  I have a minimum of the blade exposed.  I am very
successful with this method and feel that it is repeated practice which has
honed my skill.  When there is a larger amount of  blade sticking out, I
tend to gouge the leather and/or create ridges.

One thing I am conscience of doing, is drawing my spokeshave out to the edge
of the leather on an angle rather than parallel to the leather's edge.  The
angle is around 30 degrees.   This may or may not be a difference in you
personal spokeshaving success.  I have taught many people how to spokeshave
since the mid 70's.   Generally, I have found that changing the orientation
of the spokeshave to the leather's edge did make a difference in how
successful the students were in their attempts at using the spokeshave with
a minimum of blade exposed.  I just had lunch with a retired woman whom I
had taught to spokeshave in 1978.  She uses the spokeshave with a minimum
amount of blade sticking out.   She actually brought a piece of leather she
had recently pared with her to our lunch!  .....it was done perfectly.  I
really do not think it is a gender issue.  Try holding the spokeshave on
different angles and see if you can begin to use the spokeshave with less of
the blade exposed.  With a minimum of blade exposed I think you can speed up
the process because you will not have to work as gingerly to prevent a

About 5 years ago I began working at the Folger with Frank Mowery who uses
the Sharfix almost exclusively.  At that time, I had not used one.  I did
learn how to use it and am now comfortable teaching Folger interns how to
use it.  My personal tools of choice are still the English paring knife and
the spokeshave.  Last fall Frank and I did a workshop on the English paring
style verses the Sharfix for the Potomac Chapter of the GBW.   We were both
able to pare a piece of leather in the about same amount of time.  We each
told  how and why we choose our paring styles and most importantly when and
where we thought the different techniques were appropriate to use.  I truly
believe that practice is the key to whichever method you choose.  I am also
firm in the belief that it is best to learn as many methods as possible
inorder to expand your professional capabilities.

Linda A. Blaser
Senior Book Conservator

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