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Ben’s shaving horse

Ben has been a student with me on my afternoon class for quite a few months now and has just completed his first shaving horse. This is no lightweight, which is not a problem as it will sit in his garden. To give an idea of scale, the bench part is made from 3 inch thick green oak.

I like to stretch my students and if we can use new joints and various construction techniques then all the better. No metal is used in this shave horse. The table is held onto the bench by oak dowels. The legs are the sliding tapered dovetail joint, one of the best green wood joints of all time. For easy knock down these legs will tap out with a light hammer blow even when wet. Try doing that with a round mortice and tenon joint. The wood is green so this type of joint will still work after warping and drying.

 The shave horse has 3 leg the one at the front will act like a wedge in the bench forcing a split down the length of it. To overcome this Ben carved a special joint in the rear table support, so no matter how the leg acts as a wedge the wood will not split.

I will be working, over the winter, on plans and instructions of how to make these shaving horses, pole lathes, benches, saw horses and cleaving breaks. In the autumn I will be setting up a dedicated photographic studio in part of my workshop, so I can get consistent lighting and more importantly a single colour temperature. I have a mixture of tube and tungsten lighting in my workshop which makes colour correction of my photographs a nightmare..

If you want to see another bench made using the sliding tapered dovetail method have a look at this post:

and this one for green wood:

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New shaving horse

Peter Galbert, chair maker, has come up with a new shave horse design, I have just made one and I am very impressed with it. One of my main problems with these tools is the time it takes to change the height of the head so that I can use smaller or larger billets of wood. In the past if I was shaving a largish bit of wood and then needed to do small spindles then my legs would be at full stretch. With the Smarthead horse, as Peter calls it, I just need to pull the head forward and click it into a new position on the internal ratchet. Moving it backwards to have a greater mouth opening is just as easy.

I have had to thin down and wax the internal components as they were a bit stiff. I do wonder how it will operate if kept outside or in wet conditions. I suppose if everything is made a bit looser and it should be okay, make it out of oak and it should last well outside.
The other great thing about this design is that it may be able to be retro fitted to your existing horse.

Peter has a whole series of videos and even full scale plans, all free, on his blog at
The Smarthead horse is fun and satisfying to make and suits my style of working perfectly.

It will be going on tour with me at the shows I attend, Exeter Craft festival, Spoonfest, Treefest, APF, and the Bentley wood fair. so pop along and have a go on it.

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Shaving horses

I love shaving horses and have made a few over the years. I love there simplicity and yet they are a highly efficient and usable tool, or as some of mine turn out to be, a work bench. In essence a shave horse is a quick release vice that you sit on, the cutting tool that is used with it is the drawknife.
Most of the time I like to work high, I have spent years on shaving horses that are to low for me and have suffered from shoulder and back ache.

The above photo was taken about 6 years ago, I still use it, but it is to low, especially for detailed work.

Made last year for a show where I only had a small space, designed for making fan birds on, hence the vice for holding the wood while I rive the feathers out.

A beast made from, ash, oak, Douglas fir and western red cedar. I have never finished it, but use it all the time in my workshop. The great thing about it is that is adjustable in almost every way. I was going to make a detachable chopping block that fits over the leg at the end. The dumb head is not fixed in any way and adjusts easily up and down, it wedges into place and a quick tap releases it so that it can be moved.

My most recent horse inspired by Ralph ( For Woodness sake), I first saw it on the paleoplant forum and then on the Bodgers forum. The seat is quickly adjustable up and down depending on what is being shaved. The dumbhead is easily adjustable, and apart from one piece, the horse was made using hand tools only. The seat was hewn from a large log of aspen and fixed using oak pegs into the seat supports.

These horses, on the whole, are for spoon making and fan birds, I can happily make chair legs and the likes on them, but some people may prefer something a bit more substantial.

I soon added a tool tray, not really a tray but a plank with holes drilled in it to hold:- chisels, axe, knife, drawknife and saws. This plank is held up with a peg near the seat and a small branch that comes out of the leg.

You may have also noticed that the red cedar block that I have put under the dumbhead does not come all the way to the end of the branch, this is because I like a little ledge to rest the fan birds on when carving the birds head or spoons with a knife.