Friday, February 6, 2009

Shaving horse is finally done!

I finally get to post finished pictures! So, the thing you see in the picture is basically a very large clamp, developed over the years for chair making. Because there's a lot of work with a drawknife and spokeshave, and because there's a need to keep repositioning the work as it gets completed, this particular way of holding a long piece of work is pretty popular. Sit on the seat, use one foot to push on the treadle, which in turn clamps down on whatever is being held in the clamp, and pull back on the draw knife, or spoke shave. Becuase the natural reflex is to push off of hthe treadle when pulling a tool, the harder you work, the more tightly the piece of wood is held in place.

This particular design was developed by a guy named Brian Boggs, down in Kentucky. I took a class with him ayear and a half ago, and I'm still really excited to do the kind of work he taught us about, but this post is about the horse here, and not about building chairs just yet.

One of the nice things about shave horses in general is that they're designed to hold the work at an angle, to make working a stick into a spindle a little easier. The design I learned on was basically a bench with a hinged board attached to it, and it held the work at a much lower height. At the end of the day, my ribs felt a little weird, becuase I was folded in half at about the bottom of the ribcage, to get my shoulders low enough to make efficient work possible. And after a while, my lower back felt the strain, as well. One of the advantages of this particular design, though, is that the jaw is adjustable from below, instead of from above, which means that while you sit, the top of the work will always be at more or less the same height, regardless of how big the piece is. That means I can work while sitting upright, or leaning slightly back while working. AND, the seat actually positions the pelvis in such a way that the natural curvature of hte spine is restored, meaning the lower back isn't quite tso uncomfortable after long stretches in the saddle. In short, it's a much different animal from the one I learned on. That class was the last time I found myself on a shave horse, and I noticed almost right away that I felt a lot more comfortable working on this one. Or, rather, I remembered very clearly how uncomfortable I was, last time I was working wood in this particular way.

Last shot is a picture of my shop mate Don, taking the horse for a ride, so you can see the thing in use.

I have a few more things to build before I can really dig into making chairs. But they'll be coming soon enough...


Alan DuBoff said...

Wow, kudos to you!

This same horse has been on my todo list, and I really would like to have one. Maybe this will inspire me to work on it.

Nice job!


James Watriss said...

Thanks Alan!

It's been on my to do list for about a year and a half now. It's great to finally have it done.

I took teh design from Boggs, but I also was reading along with an article he wrote for Fine WW way back when. And I can say that it's definitely one of those projects where each thing gets fitted to the last. The base and seat have to be done before the clamp can be built, but they also have to be low enough, so you can sit comfortably with your feet in front of you. Then the lower jaw has to be built so you can mess with comfortable work height while you figure out where you want the whole thing to hold the work... the upper jaw is static, so that determines where the top, or working surface, of the work will be... but you can't figure that out until you have the rest done.

I can say that once it was all done, man, it's magic. The last horse I worked on was a Veritas design, and it was the most uncomfortable thing ever. I was folded in half at the rib cage, back was bent forward at the hips, and I was tired, with a kinked rib cage, at the end of every day. Now I can shave in a comfortable position, work at a comfortable height, and have my back in an ergonomically correct posture.

I can't wait to put this thing through its paces, for long days at a time.

Alan DuBoff said...


Yes, I have that article from FWW, although all of the measurements are not 100% clear, like the length of the legs (since they are angled). I see how the main body is 8" tall, but drops down to 5 1/2", and then to 3 1/2", which is exactly what your talking about with the height of those components. I don't see any measurement for the legs, though. There's enough there to figure it all out though...

Nice job on yours, I hope to do this in the near future.