Shaving Horse #1: Going Green

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Blog entry by Tom posted 11-23-2020 03:35 PM 449 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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This is a project that has been on my mind for several years. I enjoy hand tool woodworking and I like to try my hand at many different types of woodworking projects. For the most part, I tend to avoid green woodworking. Usually I don’t have green wood available and I don’t seek it out. At 56 years old, I tend to protect my body from the kind of heavy work required to split out sections of wood from a log. Also, I lack the proper equipment and tools to do it efficiently. Some of that changed recently when one of my oak trees at my home needed to be removed. I asked the contractor to save a couple 8 foot lengths so that my friend could cut it into slabs with his Alaskan chain saw mill. For me, chain saws are like boats. It’s good to know someone that has one!

This was right before the pandemic hit, so the logs proceeded to sit for several months and get bug infested. But finally, we decided to mill the logs before the bugs and rot took over. We milled the largest log into two 2” slabs and a 5” slab. Fortunately, the worms had not got into the heart of the log yet.

The 5” slab will be set aside to be used as a mantel over a fire place at my home after it dries for a few years at least. I couldn’t resist starting a project with one of those 2” slabs, so I decided it was finally time to make the shaving horse.

If you search the internet, there is a huge variety in designs for a shaving horse. It seems that no two are alike and they are all customized to the user or to the work. Often they are very ruggedly constructed using simple tools like the axe, framing chisel and auger. There is a bodger style of shaving horse that uses a frame to hold the work. I think this style is preferred for chair making with shorter workpieces, but can be used for most anything. The style that I am partial to is the dumbhead version called a schnitzelbank. The reason I like this version is that the work can be clamped from the side of the dumbhead. So if the workpiece is long, you don’t have to feed it into a frame. But either one is fine really.

Roy Underhill has made both versions on his show. My favorite is from season 1 of the Woodwright’s shop where he makes the dumbhead version from a single log. Even if you don’t make a shaving horse this way, it is fun to watch Roy make this thing. It seems like a miracle to me that he doesn’t cut off his hand with the hatchet. In season 17, Roy makes a version from construction lumber which has a couple of helpful techniques. In season 24, Roy makes the bodger style with the frame style clamp, again from a log. You can purchase the episodes for lifetime streaming here:

Here is a sketch of the dumbhead version that I will make from Roy Underhill’s book, The Woodwright’s Guide page 23.

Roy provides rough dimensions, but I will adapt it to my available wood slabs. I will try to stay in the spirit of this kind of rugged woodworking and use a minimal tool kit including a hatchet, framing chisel, T-auger, handsaw and jack plane. I will minimally use a couple power tools to facilitate the process including a circular saw and a powered lathe.

I will share a couple future posts on the green woodworking fun. Stay tuned… :)

-- Tom

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