Friday, February 29, 2008

Shaving Horse - Improvement

Back when I blogged about my first attempt at a Shaving Horse with scrap wood, I mentioned my error of making the slot for the anvil too wide. This resulted in the anvil head leaning to one side and not fully clamping the paddle when pressed. So to solve the problem I needed a new clamping head that would be as wide as the workstation.

I found what I was looking for in my growing scrap pieces pile - a piece of rough-sawn yellow poplar that had been severly chiped on one edge, resulting in a bit of a natural point. I cut off a 5.5 inch wide piece, the actual width of the 2x6 board used in making the horse. The picture shows where I cut it from the stock and a rectangular through mortise I cut out to attach it to the anvil.

I quickly realized that a scrap piece of disfigured maple (with a major knothole) I had been keeping would be the perfect piece to complete the anvil. It was just a slight bit more narrow than the slot I had cut in the horse so there was no chance of the anvil wiggling from side to side when pressed with the foot pedal. By cutting a through tenon that would fit in the poplar head piece, I'd be able to make a stronger anvil that would still be able to be disassembled. This would be my first attempt at cutting something like this, but with a few careful measurements I proceeded to cut out the maple stock with my regular cross-cut saw and ended up with a crude, but satisfactory tenon for this project. To finish off, I used a 1 1/4" spade drill bit to cut a hole for a hardwood dowel. This I ensured was a 1/4 inch lower than where the anvil head would rest so that I could custom fit a dowel and secure the head in place.

Measured tenon lines and final anvil

The hardwood dowel scrap I had lying around was flatten on one edge by clamping it to a vise and using the handy spokeshave. This way, when inserted in the hole it would press flat against the top of the poplar anvil head and hold it in place tightly. This took some trial and error to get right as I didn't want to over shave the dowel piece I had on hand. Everything worked out well and the head fits nice and tight. On the horse, I drilled 2 more hole positions for the 6inch carriage bolt used as the fulcrum so as to be able to move the vise closer or further away as the project demanded.

Flattened Dowel & Assembled Headpiece

Ultimately, I wanted to re-install the foot pedal system on the first edition, but fitting it with the maple piece required to much extra reshaping of the wood. So I just used the spade bit to drill another hole for the remaining bit of scrap dowel and that is used as a pedal. I could cut another through mortise in another scrap piece to use as a peddle and hold it in place on the bottom with a smaller piece of dowel, but I'm lazy and want to get back to paddle making.

My horse isn't going to win any prizes for looks, but this new edition folds down well for storage & transport and suits my current paddle making needs.

By the way, for anyone else who wants to build their own, I basically adapted my horse from the info gleamed on the following links:

• Richard Burton's plan
• Bob Smalser article at
• Tom Rettie's article at
• The photo intensive page at


Jeff said...

Great work!
I am thinking about building oen very similar. I am curious- how stable is it whiel in use? Are those saw-horse brackets pretty rock solid while you are working away on it?

I do not necesarily need for mine ot be foldable, so I am wondering whether I shoudl just make beefier more permenant legs...

Murat said...

Thanks for reading my blog Jeff. I found these brackets to be strong enough for my needs. I'm not that heavy a guy so they seem tough enough although they require regular tightening with the included wing nut after about an hour or two of steady work. The brackets are molded plastic however and I'm sure they will inevitably fail.

I've seen metal brackets that were obviously stronger but not practical enough for my foldable needs. That said, if I had the space, I'd definitely make something a bit beefier. Don Duncan was the volunteer who built the permanent horses at the Canoe Museum and they were fantastic.

Let me know how yours turns out.


Anonymous said...

Hi Murat! I'm in the process of making a shaving bench from your plans and I'm curious about the dimensions of your bench plank. I was thinking a 2x10 bench would be comfortable for long sits, but I'm not sure that I can find sawhorse brackets that will work well with lumber wider than 8 inches. What are your general thoughts on this?

Thank you!!


Murat said...

Hi Erin. The bench plank was made from a piece of 2x6 so it's 5.5 inches wide. It fits into a premade groove in the plastic sawhorse bracket so the whole thing is quite sturdy. The seat plank is a narrow but I've never found it uncomfortable for my needs. Maybe the best solution for you is to add some plywood to the rear for a proper seat - something like in this example HERE. I once saw a homemade horse that had one of those molded tractor-style seats from an old canoe screwed onto the plank too.

The brackets I got from HomeDepot (product link) can take up to a 2x12 so your 2x10 bench idea should work as well, but the plank will sit on top of the existing groove in the bracket and might wiggle more. Hope that helps.

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