The Shaving horse

The Shaving Horse

A ‘traditional’ British style shaving horse

One of the most versatile pieces of equipment for working green wood is a shaving horse. This is a device for gripping a length of wood enabling the craftsperson to use both hands to hold a sharp tool, (such as a drawknife or spoke shave), to shave the work piece to the desired shape. There are very many designs of shaving horse depending largely on the specific use for which it is intended and the skills and materials available for its construction. However most shaving horses have certain basic elements in common:

  • A bed: for the operator to sit on and as the foundation for the shaving horse
  • Legs: to support the bed off the ground
  • A platform: to support the work-piece while it is being shaved
  • A swinging arm: pushed by the operator’s feet so as to grip the work-piece tight against the platform

The Bed

The bed might be made from a sturdy plank, half a log, a sawmill off-cut, a frame made out of two beams or some combination thereof. It is normally between 1 and 1.5 metres (3 and 5 feet) long and wide enough at the seat to be comfortable to sit on for some length of time (say 25 to 40cm, 10″ to 16″).

The Legs

There will normally be three or four legs. Four legs are good on a level floor to give the horse stability, whereas on a rough floor, three legs will avoid the horse wobbling. The legs should be long enough to prevent the swinging arm scraping on the floor. The legs might be cylindrical and socketed into the body of the horse. They could be cleft and shaved (or even turned) from a larger log or made from roundwood of a suitable diameter. Alternatively they might be made from sawn, dimensioned timber, somehow jointed to the body.

The Platform

The platform is usually either pivoted or fixed firmly to the body of the horse, often at an angle but it may be horizontal. It may be carved out of the same log as the horse’s body, a short plank supported by a block, a block fixed to the horse’s body, or made out of sawn timber. It should be positioned so that the operator is in a comfortable working position when in action.

The Swinging Arm

The swinging arm is usually either a frame that fits around the body and the platform (more common in Britain) or a single arm socketed through the body (more common in mainland Europe and the USA). Attached to the verticals of the arm(s) are three more components:

  • Some kind of footrest at the bottom (maybe two, to accommodate either tall or short users).
  • A pivot in the middle, either a pin through the arms and bed, turned, shaved or roundwood or large metal screws through the arms into the bed.
  • A grip at the top to grip down onto the work-piece somehow fixed to the top of the arm(s). Fixing an old rasp or some other rough surface to increase friction may enhance the grip. However, this may result in damaging the finish on the work-piece.