The Gathering’s Cabinet of Curiosities: My Goodness, My Spokeshave

If you find yourself in Dublin, a visit to the Guinness storehouse is a must. Who could deny that? So much to learn, so many facts presented to you in such an organised way – plus a free pint!

Traditionally, liquids like Guinness were stored in wooden barrels. Most people know that. But do you know how the barrels were made? On the second floor of the Guinness storehouse, there is an area dedicated to the astounding craftsmanship of barrel making. The craftsmen were so skilled that they did almost all the cutting and fitting by eye, without measurements. The watertight seal was achieved without any adhesives, nails or screws. 

Take a look at this short video showing the superb craftsmanship of highly skilled coopers (barrel makers). If you’re a bookbinder, you will see a familiar tool – a spokeshave! We are familiar with the use of spokeshaves for leather paring, but they are primarily woodworking tools.

(The spokeshave makes an appearance at 5’:41’’ and again at 7’:23’’, but it is referred to by another name.)

If you are appropriately dazzled and would like to know more about this traditional craft, check out this longer video in which a master cooper explains the steps of making a wooden bucket with traditional tools.

(Spokeshave at 15’:35)

All images ©Stefania Signorello

One thought on “The Gathering’s Cabinet of Curiosities: My Goodness, My Spokeshave

  1. The spokeshave – the name tells all – it was originally a wheelwright’s tool, for shaping the spokes for cart and carriage wheels……


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