Space-Saving Shavehorses

by | Aug 6, 2020 | 7 comments

My first online class about drawknives was quite a success last weekend. Fifty-eight people registered for the class and Roy Underhill showed up with lots of equipment and proceeded to film the entire class for me. We had lots of good questions.

One question that came up was working wood without a shave horse. Shave horses do take up a lot of real estate in the shop. I hang my collection in an out door shed:

The horses hang from this little dowel in the front leg of the horse.  There’s also a neat idea for a knock-down shavehorse.

Bob Simmons, who has taken three classes from me, sent these ideas for compact shave horses:  In his words:

Some woodworkers want to shave with drawknife or spokeshave but have difficulty committing to a shaving horse to hold the work. The issue is usually floor space for storage.  This simple pipe clamp, wooden block, lag screw device holds stock at convenient height for shaving while standing and allows the stock to be rotated. It does not work well when shaping chair spindles which are flexible since this device uses compressive forces and the spindles tend to buckle.

This device uses the foot actuated lever mechanism associated with a shaving horse and mounts it into a bench vice. Alternate designs clamp directly to a bench top.  It can be operated while standing or perched on a stool. The generic name is “Shaving Pony” and a web-search will present many different options.  The advantage is easy storage.  A disadvantage is it must be clamped to a sturdy workbench.

I’ve been reading a book about Shaving horses, Lap Shaves and Woodland devices. From those ideas I made this simple frame. I sit on the end, on any convenient stool or stump. The work surface elevation and angle are designed for my comfort. The work surface is grooved to easily accept spindles. Rather than use a foot actuated lever clamp, I use a foot actuated strap.

This image shows the Simmons’ Sit Shave in use atop a 3-legged Windsor stool. The strap loops over the work and is actuated using a dowel for the feet to push on.  The advantage is I can take it anywhere.  Practice is needed to master the foot strap  

Clamping wood in a vice “on the square” provides reasonable access to two edges and one face. Then the work stock will need to be rotated. Not as convenient as using a shaving horse. However, a simple “V-block” can be used to alter the orientation of the wood. Now, there is convenient access to two faces and an edge. I find, working on an edge, when the edge is “vertical” allows me to obtain a better shape.  This device is the ultimate in low cost.  But rotating the stock requires loosening the bench clamp.

The last idea is that there are plans available for folding shaving horses. IF the user complication is scant storage, these might work. This design horse can be adapted quickly to allow the legs to fold. Remove one bolt, loosen the second so the legs rotate, and (when in use) replace the missing bolt with a wooden dowel pin.

Bob would be happy to answer questions:

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3 years ago

I have shave horses (Alexander/Follansbee model) I use when teaching chair making and the horses breakdown fairly easily for storage and for transport.

3 years ago

I was in the drawknife class last weekend and enjoyed it very much. So far I use a bench vise and the V-block like Bob mentions. But I love his idea of a bench-vise-mounted pony used with a stool. Gotta look into that. Now if I only had access to riven green wood …

Paul Saffold
3 years ago

Oops. The plans I posted a link to are for a bowl horse not a shave horse. My bad. But I bet they could be adapted for a shave horse.

Paul Saffold
3 years ago

folding shavehorse plans from I have not used them but this showed up on my instagram feed.

Bob Simmons
3 years ago

I teach hand tool classes at a WoodShop where I belong. We shave “spindles” starting with 8/4 stock to become stool legs or legs for side tables. IF all our shaving was thinner stock, destined to become spindles in a chair back, the shave holding devices would not have to be so large. Bob

3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Simmons

Bob I like your “Sit-n-Shave” apparatus. I may just have to give this a try.

Bob Simmons
3 years ago

From my perspective, the advantage is how easy it is to customize work surface height and angle. And then, of course, how easy it is to take it with. Throw it in the RV and then sit on a park bench or stump and shave away.

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