Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stalled Horse

I've been talking about making a shaving horse for a while now. So what's the hold up?

It's because I keep finding images of benches with features that I'd like to incorporate into mine and because of woodworkers like Ian McLeod from Australia (pictured with his shop dog, Woody), who sent me photos of his functional and beautiful shaving horse.

Ian used reclaimed iron bark wood from a 1904 foot bridge for his self-designed, multi-use bench that functions as a shaving horse, saw horse, planing bench, general work table, and metal bending jig.

The bridge can be removed by knocking out wooden wedges and removing the spindle on which it pivots. At that point, the four short spindles that sit beneath the bridge can be used for bending light metal rod.

When the bridge, the head/footrest assembly, and the seat are removed (all attached with wooden wedges), the top surface of the side rails can be used as a workbench. The rectangular post that hangs beneath the shaving horse is used as a bench stop.

Ian hand carved the decorative designs. The color and texture of the wood is natural and is finished with Danish oil once a year.

Ian's shaving horse is an impressive example of where form and function are equally important.

The group photo page below shows shaving horses and bowl benches I found on the internet. I don't remember where they were originally posted, so if you see one that belongs to you please let me know so I can give you credit. Or let me know if you prefer that I remove your image(s) from this post.

Here is a link to a clever cutting bench for bowl making.

At some point I'll need to commit to a design so I can finally get my horse out of the starting gate.


Al Navas said...


No rush... ;-) But maybe this time next week? Take your time. I know exactly what you mean, though - I really, really do. The best research always leads to *the* best results.


Sgt42RHR said...

I think I've been working (on and off) on the 18th century folding field bedstead for about five years. My last big research project related to it is 18th century clear finishes. Almost done, hope to debut it at our first event Memorial Day weekend at Vincennnes.

Kathy Storm said...

Holy moly that is some contraption! I'm going to have to spend some time staring at it just to figure out all the parts. And the wood is really beautiful! I sympathize with how doing research can end up paralyzing you with indecision. Just go for it. You'll probably eventually want to make another one anyway and incorporate some things you will learn from actually using the horse, so the the sooner you get started on that part of the "research" the better. Looking forward to seeing your progress.

Bob Easton said...

Choices, choices. Isn't it great to have so many choices, and to have this internet thingy to help us find the choices?

Ian's bench sure is beautiful! Lots of good ideas in the others.

Synthesis, not paralysis, is the order of the day.

will said...

Seems to me the first questions are - "Why do you want a shaving horse and what do you want to use it for?" Design then follows those questions.

Jeff Skory said...

I started my bench last weekend, just making it out of big box fir and some scrap oak that I have. This morning I was watching the Woodwright shop and saw Brian Bogg's shaving bench. May have to build a second bench in the future. lol

Jeff Skory said...

Doh! Just saw that you can get the plans for Brian Bogg's shaving horse in issue #139 of Fine Woodworking.

Vic Hubbard said...

Gorgeous piece, Ian!! If I had enough room in the house, I'd have it as an art piece.

Steve Branam said...

I built Drew Langsner's shaving horse several years ago. Very simple and functional. I was at Scout camp in NH that summer and saw a bunch of oaks they had felled to clear for a new shower house, so I ran home and brought it back with a box of tools. For a couple sunny afternoons several of us Scoutmasters worked in the shade by the pond making a little rustic slab side-table. Pure woodworking bliss. I couldn't quite remember Don Weber's side table, so I did legs similar to the shaving horse.

Tico Vogt said...

The recent post by Robin Woods, "Lawrence Neal Chairmaker," showed Edward Gardiner's shave horse. It was the nicest one I've seen. It has been used for a couple generations. That tells it all.

rookster said...


While you are still thinking on the design: here's a link to a great folding shaving horse. It collapses flat so you can store it or take it with you to WWIA ;)


Kari Hultman said...

Al, I imagine that many of us can relate to the idea of not knowing when to "jump" into a project.

Sgt42RHR, those are cool beds. I saw a reproduction of George Washington's campaign bed last year at the Fort Frederick Market Faire in MD. It's easy to see how it could take a very long time to build one.

Kathy, isn't it cool??? When I first saw the photos, it looked so much like handtooled leather, not wood. I think what sometimes paralyzes people into starting a project is that so many of us have such little time to spend in our shops, we don't want it to be "wasted" on building something that isn't "perfect." You're right, though—you just have to start.

Bob, indeed! The internet has changed our woodworking world for the better. There's so much good information out there.

Bill, good advice, as always.

Jeff, Brian's bench is great--well thought out and efficient. Did you catch the bit about tilting the seat forward so that your feet naturally push into the footrest. Subtle feature, but an important one.

Vic, I bet Sylvia wouldn't mind having your shaving horse in the living room. What a conversation piece. ; )

Steve, that sounds like heaven to me.

Tico, thanks for the reminder. I hadn't watched that video yet on Robin's site.

Karl, wow!! I love that shaving horse. Thanks for the link. :o)

Woodbloke said...

Hi Kari - I used a shaving horse last summer (what there was of it) which was pretty basic in it's worked very well though. Even more fun is to build and use a pole lathe, for green spindle wood turning, surprisingly hard work!
Something else guaranteed to make you feel less guilty about tucking into that bucket of ice cream...Rob

Kari Hultman said...

Rob, Bob Easton is building a lathe at
Looks like fun!

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