Working On a Shave Horse

In continuing my self-apprenticeship in woodworking (and taking a slight although not altogether unexpected detour from the current Shaker Bench), I’ve arrived by happenstance at the world of chair making, or more specifically, making things on which you can sit. When I first got interested in woodworking I remember coming across George Nakashima’s Conoid Chair,


which if so you’re so inclined can be had for $40,000 for a set of 4. Three things struck me about this chair, the first being the name, i.e. in my ignorance I had no idea what a Conoid was. Second, the fact that rather than have four legs, it had two bottom “rails” for feet (the better to slide across the carpet with my dear), and third-ly, the spindles. More specifically, how to make them, especially w/o a lathe. That was about 5 years ago.

In the intervening years I’ve tried all kinds of different projects, trying to build tables and desks and lots of frames and some kumiko work, and bookshelves, etc…all mostly flat, all mostly about a B or B+ (definitely a few D’s and F’s too), but I never tried many curves and I definitely didn’t try chairs. Chairs have always kind of been this far-off odd thing to me and yet over time it seems like every woodworker who ever made a name for themselves, built some kind of unique chair that was their standard, defining work. And so I’ve been through a lot of different projects and it seems only fitting that one of my last self-taught endeavors should be chairs. Which brings me back to lathes and curves, which brings me to the shave horse. Like how to make spindles and legs without a lathe. Turns out a shave horse is the way to go.

And what better shave horse to build than Brian Bogg’s designed horse? You can see the article in issue #139 of Fine Woodworking (members only…or borrowed from your local library). I had a nice piece of Ash lying around and was able to nearly lay out the entire shave horse on it. (8’x10″x2″).


I drew out the various pieces according to the article plans-everything is basically 2″ thick so it’s a fairly easy layout. Notice the blueish staining on the picture below…more on that later.



Due to the size/heft of the piece I used a combination of power and hand tools for the initial dimensioning. Here’s the first rail.IMG_4643 (1)


And the second, waiting to be cut to size.IMG_4645


You can barely make out the rear legs along with the various smaller parts; the ratchet riser, ratchet pivot key, rear block, etc.
IMG_4646Remember that discoloration from before? Surprise! It’s a nail.



After some severe encouragement, it decided to come out. Scrapbook.



Here’s the majority of parts, save the treadle mechanism. I didn’t have enough Ash for that, but do have some Cherry that’ll use once I get to that point.



I cut a 45 degree sawing jig to clear out the ratchet riser parts. Very handy.IMG_5001



And fitting the mostly hand carved ratchet pivot key to the ratchet riser. It kind of looks like a dove. Put a bird on it.



Here’s most of the parts clamped together to get a decent idea of the fit.



And now for clearing out the lap joints for the rear legs. I think the router plane is one of my favorite tools.



And Ash is a fun wood to cross-plane.IMG_5011



Fitting the rear leg to the rail. Nice solid fit. There’s a joy that comes with sliding a joint together, held only by the compression of the wood.



And here’s the saddle blank. I’m using a piece of White Oak that was a cut-off from when I built my workbench. I’ve never carved a seat before and I am very much looking forward to it, although using Oak for the first time should be super fun…and not hard at all.



2 thoughts on “Working On a Shave Horse

    • Thanks, Patrick. I’m really looking forward to using it this summer in the backyard.

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