Shaving Horse

Dobbins” (as Raven dubbed it).

I enjoy woodcarving using a mallet & gouge on the bench, but with that toolkit things tend towards the decorative. But there’s something very appealing about the bodger‘s approach, with minimal tools used outdoors on green wood, generally making functional products. A key tool there is the drawknife, ideally suited for many jobs, but regular bench clamping is really poorly suited to using one.

drawknifeAround the Web are loads of pics of shaving horses, the bench/vice optimized for drawknives. Typically they’re a long low bench with a seat at one end, a rest for the work on the other and a foot-operated lever to hold the work down. I’ve got a fair pile of wood offcuts from various house projects, so decided I’ve have a go at making one. I have promised to make a friend a wooden spoon, so this makes a great Yak Shaving exercise.

oldThere are two general designs, the Continental dumbhead style, as in this engraving , and the possibly more recent English frame style (it’s not illustrated prior to the 19th C unlike the dumbhead for which there are plenty of 15th C pics). I reckoned the frame style would probably be easier to build and also offer more control, so went English.

The design was arrived at by looking at pics of existing horses then mostly doing it by eye, given the wood I had. I made the base a few weeks ago by measuring what felt like a comfortable height and guestimating the kind of reach seemed about right. I angled out the legs about 15°, screwed and glued. At that point I made my first mistake. Before gluing I screwed the legs on to check, unscrewing them splintered off a bit of wood around the holes. Didn’t really affect the structure but was ugly, so after gluing I patched the holes up with filler, making it look worse… Hey ho. Appearance was way down priorities.

Today I added the mechanism, again judging things by eye. The work surface is hinged off the base so:


This could well be another mistake. I didn’t expect the hinge to receive much force so only used one, but I may well have to add another.

Next I needed to figure out the clamp part. I decided to use a length of 12mm (?) threaded rod for the clamp pivot, so needed to figure out where to put that.




I’ve got an upright drill press but no way could I manoeuvre the thing in position, so I made a vertical guide hole in an offcut and used that to keep the hand drill vertical.



Bit more trial and erroring got the clamp frame together. The foot rest is screwed to the uprights, but plenty of adjustments for location of the pivot and top cross piece seemed a good idea.

When planning this thing I anticipated having to come up with a way of locking the riser wedge in position under the workpiece support. Overthinking, it seems a loose offcut and friction locks fine.

DSCN6953.JPGAnd so that’s it basically done. I’ll give it a coat of varnish next, then have a play. First impressions are that it works!

Time to mount up.


(The hat incidentally was an xmas present from Raven’s mum, after she heard I was a fan of McLeod’s Daughters).


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