A “Shaving Horse” from a dead tree

DSCN0915Ir was a beautiful weekend in April of 2011, and I decided to make a shaving horse.  The shaving horse is a great manual vice for holding a piece you are working on. It is a sort of bench with a foot operated “jaw”. You sit on the bench and press on the pedal to hold your piece securely, then use a draw knife or spokeshave to shape the wood. It holds the piece firmly and gives you a lot of control. It’s great for making furniture legs, tool handles, wooden spoons and anything else where a lot of wood has to be taken off with draw knives and spokeshaves.

We had a dead white oak near our raised bed garden. You could tell from the bark on the trunk that the grain was probably not straight, but I hated to waste a chance to build a new shaving horse, I hadn’t had one in years.DSCN0913


I had a couple of axes needing new handles and a lot of small projects that a shaving horse would really help with.

Tree climbing rraThe tree was felled and the bench was constructed using only non-powered hand tools.  5/8″ x 150′ Arbor Plex climbing ropes were attached to the tree and anchored to other nearby trees to direct the fall of the tree.  Naturally, I had to have a little fun climbing while I was setting the ropes (DON’T LOOK YVETTE!)




DSCN0922The quickest method to get the ropes on high limbs is to use a throw bag, connect the larger ropes to the throw line and pull it over limbs.






A series of knots & hitches were used to limit and direct the travel of the trunk as it fell.

DSCN0924Butterfly Knot

DSCN0923 Figure 8 Knot

DSCN0920 Modified Trucker’s Hitch

Proper tethering allowed for gentle, accurate placement of the trunk.



I used an ax and a bow saw to fell the tree and cut to lengthShaving horse twist 02Shaving horse slabs

You can see there was a lot of twist in the trunk in the pictures above.

I made dogwood gluts (wedges) and a Hickory mallet or maul to split the logs.

DSCN0804DSCN0872 DSCN0881.


Shaving horse with dumbhead

The bench itself is a slab of wood split from the trunk and is about as long as I am tall.

Shaving horse twist 04

Shaving horse twist 02

I cut a length of wood from the other slab for the work surface and marked where the dumbhead would pivot. A second, shorter piece was cut to make the upright support. Four holes were drilled at the marked corners, and the waste was chisled out.
Shaving horse bench and bridge

The dumbhead was made from a piece of white oak from the same tree the mallet was made from. Saw cuts were made into the log, and the waste was split away with the dogwood wedges. This is where a froe would really come in handy (that’s another story).
Shaving horse dumbhead

The bench was marked with the approximate opening for the dumbhead to travel. Again, holes were drilled at marked corners and the waste was chiseled out.
Shaving horse bench mortise

Holes were drilled for the legs, which were simply small pieces of tree trunks cut to length.
Shaving horse legs

Holes were drilled for the work surface and upright, and everything was fastened together with pegs made from scrap wood. The whole thing looked really awkward and unworkable at first.

Shaving horse twist 01

A lot of wood was split off to even out the twist in the bench.

Shaving horse twist 03

A pedal was made from left over scraps. The small pieces fastened across the ends are to limit splitting potential. A hole was drilled through the bottom of the dumbhead, the pedal was slid onto it and a peg was inserted to keep the pedal from falling off.
Shaving horse pedal 01

The finished shaving horse, ready to go to work.

Lumber Shaving HorseShaving horse with dumbhead