Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Making a shaving horse, part I

Time to start talking about woodworking at Chalupy. I do two kinds of woodworking: making things out of scrap or found wood, and making things out of "greenwood." The term green woodworking was coined by (as far as I know) John (now Jennie) Alexander to mean stuff that is hewn (hacked, perhaps) out of green wood. You may see his web page at greenwoodworking home page. Other excellent pages include Drew Langsner's pages at Country Workshops.

The first order of business for any green woodworker is to build a shaving horse. This contraption is hundreds, if not thousands, of years old. In german, for example, it is called a Schnitzelbank. The German-speaking Swiss (just to be different) call it a Zugstuhl. You may remember the Pennsylvania Dutch "ja, das ist ein schnitzelbank" song. Or you may have read the Firefox series by Eliot Wigginton.

All right, you say, what in the expletive-deleted is the expletive-deleted thing? I'm glad you asked.

The thing in the center of the picture is my shaving horse. It is basically a bench with a yoke to hold the work while you shave it with a drawknife, the blade with two handles hanging over the front of the bench, right before the riser. The yoke is an English-style, AKA bodger's yoke. I prefer it to the German/Swiss/PA Dutch/all experts/ etc. dumbhead yoke, and I don't know why, because as the experts all say, the dumbhead holds better. At least, Jennie Alexander is on my side. I now own three drawknives. The American Greenlee, shown in the picture, I bought seconhand in Juneau. I have also an Austrian Stubai , a superb knife, and a French 6-cm drawknife which I bought for the kids that cluster around in the summer.

Here is Maurice using my little drawknife:

This is a mini-shaving horse I built so that the kids had something their size, Notice the dumbhead holding the work. The kids need all the mechanical advantage they can get. (Also notice traditional Russian costume.) Anyone can use a shaving horse:

I can't remember what Neoni is shaving, The boy is (of course) shaving out a lethal weapon, no doubt a sword.

Well, today the crossbar on the yoke of the shaving horse broke. Now I must make a new one. Nice thing about shaving horeses: can't buy them. So make your own spare parts. Next installment: making of a horse.


  1. You may want to check out a book by Ray Tabor which I believe the title of is The Encyclopedia of Green Woodworking. He has a comprehensive overview of numerous "machines" like the shaving horse, cleaving break, on and on through a couple hundred pages. I do not have Drew's book but I have this one above(currently on loan)and Mike Abbott's second book Living Wood and a couple of Roy's books. I recently moved to Belgium and have taken to green woodworking as a means of continuing to learn "new ways" to manage. Alex Bealer's Old Ways of Working Wood has good info as well. There is a website called APT which is Association of Pole Lathe Turners that has much info of that subject and most others associated to managing that endeavor as well. If you would like to contact me personally my e-mail addy is, I always had a yearning to see Alaska but it is looking like I won't make it. I've made the rounds of the lower 48 but I truly love my Wisconsin and the U.P. Later, Terry.

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