Shave Horse


Shave Horse:
Lee Stoffer saddles up and rides his newest project, a shave horse.

Lee Stoffer poses on his completed shave horse.

Lee Stoffer saddles up and rides his newest project, a shave horse

My first proper green woodwork project was making a shave horse on a course run by Mike Abbott many years ago. A shave horse is basically a sit on vice that enables a workpiece, traditionally chair parts, to be held securely using pressure supplied by your legs, while being worked with a drawknife, which requires
the use of both hands.
This particular incarnation was pioneered by the extremely talented American bowl carver, David Fisher, designed around his requirement to grip various sizes of bowl to work on them with a drawknife. My design is heavily based on David’s portable version of his bowl horse with a couple of minor modifications.
In future I hope to expand on this with some modular add-ons for more specific work-holding tasks. The main difference with this design, over more conventional shave horse designs, is the ability to clamp the work end-to-end giving full access to the entire length of the timber being shaped.
The accuracy and tolerances required here are more easily achieved with seasoned wood so I used oak and
ash that I harvested and chainsaw milled a few years ago. 

Tools and equipment
• Circular saw
• Power plane
• Thicknesser
• Drill press
• Power drill/screwdriver
• Lathe and turning tools
• Jigsaw
• Bandsaw
• Jack plane
• Block plane
• Travisher
• Hand saws
• Lamps
• Level
• Digital protractor
• Mallet and chisels
• Oak (Quercus robur)
• Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)
• Pine (Pinus sylvestris)

A detailed plan of the shave horse parts showing cuts, drill points and measurements in milimetres.

The seat board for the shave horse being rough cut with a Japanese pull saw.

1. First I prepared the boards for the main body of the horse. The seat board was roughly shaped, retaining the offcuts for the rear legs before planning to the required thickness

Lee Stoffer using a hand plane to clean up the pair of boards used for the pivot bed.

2. I cut a board in half at a 75° angle to create a pair of boards for the pivot bed. After correcting some warp and wind with a power plane I ran them through the thicknesser then clamped together and cleaned up
as a pair with a hand plane

The main pivot boards being drilled on a drill press.

3. While the boards were still clamped, I drilled a series of 19mm diameter holes for the pivot pin with 55mm between centres

The curves of the seat after one side has been cut. An electric jig saw is being used to make curved cuts.

4. Then it was time to blend the bed section into the seat with some nice curves. I drew them freehand, used a jigsaw to remove the first side, and flipped the waste over to mark the second set of curves for symmetry

A circular saw has just been used to make the rip cuts on the seat allowing the centre portion to be removed.

5. I ripped down between the bed rails, made the release cut with a jigsaw and cleaned up the inside cut surface with a block plane on the skew

Using a drawknife to chamfer the edge of the seat. The workpiece is held in a bench vice.

6. A drawknife was used to chamfer the top edge of the board, then I cleaned up the outside of the bed rails with a jack plane

Cutting the tenon from the front leg with a crosscut saw. The leg is marked up and held in a bench vice.

7. Next I made the front leg, cutting a tenon 40mm wide to fit in between the bed rails in the seat board. The tenon was left long to be trimmed flush after assembly

Clamping and assembling the leg on the seat board. A level is being used to test the angle.

8. The front leg was clamped in place with the rear of the seat board propped so it sat level. Material was then prepared over length for a pair of rear legs

The rear legs being offered up to test the angles and mark up the cuts.

9. The rear legs have a splay and rake angle of 15°. To create the rake angle I clamped the legs together and trimmed one end at 75° before offering them up to mark out the joints

The leg half laps being finished with a Japanese pull saw and a chisel. The angle of the cuts is important.

10. Each leg has a half lap joint with a tricky compound angle, but it looks good and adds stability

The rebate for the legs on the seat board being cut. The relief cuts and final chisel work can be seen on the waste piece.

11. The legs were offered up to mark out the rebate in the seat board to receive the half lap on the legs. I made stop cuts and knocked out the majority of the waste before paring to the correct angle for the splay and test fitted the legs securing them with a screw into the seat board

An electric drill being used to drill pilot holes in one leg and the cross brace piece.

12. I ripped the offcut from the front leg material in half to make a cross brace to fit between the legs. The brace was secured with two screws through each leg and a couple more through the seat board countersunk by at least 10mm to allow for hollowing later. Excess leg length was then trimmed flush

The static clamping head fully cut out and after having the edges rounded with a router.

13. The upright static clamping head was cut from ash to fit the slot in the bed with a 50mm post to drop down through the seat board and protrude by 10mm. The curve cuts were softened with a round over bit and the upright fixed in place with a screw through the underside of the seat board

The side boards being clamped in place and tested for screwing together.

14. Clamping the bed side boards in place flush with the front leg, I used a couple of holdfasts to keep the pivot holes aligned. The seat board was fixed to the front leg with a screw from each side

The piece has been flipped vertical to put screws through the bed of the seat board into the side boards.

15. Accessing the bottom of the bed rails I added screw fixings every 100mm up into the side boards with a pair of coach bolts at either end of the bed to fix through the side boards, front leg and the ash upright

The brace under the seat being shown with the screw holes and connections to the legs and centre upright.

16. I then cut another brace to fit between the rear leg cross brace and the protruding tenon of the ash upright. Screw fixings were made into the cross brace and the upright before securing through the seat board from above, in deeply countersunk holes

Using a travisher to hollow the seat for comfort.

17. I turned a dowel to the diameter of the countersink and plugged all the holes in the seat and trimmed the dowel flush. I used a travisher to slightly hollow and sculpt the seat to improve comfort

The swing arm marked up and clamped on the drill press ready to receive the first 19mm hole.

18. Time for some moving parts! The swing arm was cut from ash planed to fit in the slot of the bed. Pivot holes were drilled at 19mm and 15mm holes at either end to receive locating pegs. I cut a tenon on the top of the swing arm to allow for various clamping heads to be fitted securely fastened with a peg through the 15mm hole

The pivot pin being turned on the lathe.

19. I used the waste from cutting the thinner end of the swing arm to turn a pivot pin. I burnt in some detail and planed flats onto the handle, then turned a couple of tapered pegs that bite half way through the 15mm top and bottom holes in the swing arm

The scrap pine clamping head shown before mounting. The mortise for the swing arm tenon can be seen and the piece has been wrapped in leather for grip.

20. The clamping head was shaped to suit the work I wanted to hold and recessed to fit over the top of the shoulders on the swing arm tenon. I used some scrap pine and made my head reversible with a peg to locate in tang holes on tool handles with a general purpose concave surface on the opposite end

The clamping head mounted in the final position on the shave horse. The tenon from the swing arm is fully through and held with a turned pin.

21. I clad the clamping surfaces with leather for added grip, rubber could be used as an alternative fixed with contact adhesive

The tread plate on the lower end of the swing arm.

22. Now all I needed was a tread plate. This was thinner rough sawn material. I used 28mm thick oak cut to shape then marked out the two mortises, which allows the tread plate to fix to the swing arm in different positions to increase adjustment potential

The mortices on the tread plate being finished with a chisel.

23. The mortices were cleaned up to achieve a slightly ‘baggy’ fit on the swing arm. This allows the tread plate be slid up or down the shaft so it can be adjusted to comfortable height and distance dependant on which pivot holes are used. Friction holds it in a working position and the retaining peg prevents it sliding off the shaft during adjustment

A small tool handle being worked in the shave horse with a drawknife.

24. A quick test shaping a tool handle. A firm grip was achieved with very little effort while sitting in a comfortable working position, then a couple of coats of boiled linseed oil really bring out the beauty in the grain

Lee Stoffer working a long billet on the shave horse.

25. At maximum capacity 650mm long billets can be held, I based this on how far I could comfortably reach the full length of the workpiece. There will be more customisation later!

Check out David Fisher’s plans for the Saw Horse that this is inspired Lee to make this one. Plus, David has great videos on how he uses his bowl horse on YouTube.

Let us know how you get on with your versions of the plans!


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