How to Build a Shave Horse. Bowyer’s Woodworking Dream. Traditional Handmade Vice for Wood Carving
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How to Build a Shave Horse. Bowyer’s Woodworking Dream. Traditional Handmade Vice for Wood Carving

August 10, 2019


for me one of the most frustrating
aspects of baking bows is holding the darn wood still whilst I work upon it
today I hope to solve that problem I’ve tried many ways of securing my staves
whilst working on them with draw knives and spokeshave
but none have been especially successful so today I’m going to make myself
something called a shave horse an ancient style a foot-operated vise a
shave horse is a three legged bench with a foot-operated treadle that clamps the
workpiece in place leaving the hands totally free this simple woodworking
aid has been in use for centuries in woodlands and workshops and can be
adapted to the work in hand the one I’m making will be suitable for working bow staves and I’m going to make it entirely from wood scavenged from the workshop
and also from woodland and hedgerow there are numerous types of shave horse
and you can download plans if you wish from the internet and follow these in
detail mine however is just being made from sketches I’ve made myself so my first job is to cut the bench to
length next the legs I’m cutting these from a
piece of deadfall ash so those are the parts that make the
bench next I’m going to cut the component parts for the foot treadle this is a piece of yew it’s an off cut
from a bow stave I’m going to use this as the foot bar this is an off cut of Holly I’ll use
this to make the yoke, that is a piece of wood that bears down on the workpiece I’ll also use Holly to make the pegs to
act as a spindle around which the treadle will move this piece of wood needs no further work
at the moment this will be the table upon which the workpiece sits so from this piece of elm I’m gonna
cut the final piece of this shave horse from this I’m going to make the wedge so those are the major parts of my shave
horse the bench the legs the foot treadle and the work bench now I’ve got to start
joining them all together so my first job is to build the bench and to do that
I will be turning these pieces of ash into legs currently the ends look like this
rough and unfinished this is what I want to do to them so I’ve only got bow
making tools with which to shape this legs I’ll be using a draw knife and a rasp this is exactly the sort of job that is
made much easier with a shape horse so the next stage is to drill three
holes in the bench which act as sockets for the legs now the legs are the shave
holes a slightly splayed not dissimilar to how the legs are set on this
workbench the correct way to set the angle is with a bevel gauge but I
haven’t got one so I’m going to do this entirely by eye now I’m setting these
angles by eye but I’ll put myself some guidelines on the bench just to help me so that’s the shave horse bench now
finished next job is the treadle now the simplest way to understand the treadle
and clamp assembly is to imagine a short three rung ladder the bottom rung is
the foot bar the middle rung is the spindle around which the whole assembly
moves and the top rung is the clamp that holds the workpiece in place a simplest
way to make a treadle and clamp assembly is to use three dowels one for the foot
bar one for the spindle and one for the clamp but the pieces of wood I’m using
are offcuts they’re slightly wonky and a little bit bent so none will make a
straight and long spindle that will pass entirely through the bench and into the
clamp assembly so I’ve got to use my imagination a little bit
I start by rasping a two-sided rebate in the foot bar these will slot into
sockets on the lever arms next I prepare the yoke ends to fit into
sockets I then prepare two pegs that will act as
a spindle next I drill holes in the bench and
hammer in the spindle pegs then I work on the lever arms marking
and drilling out the sockets I test fit the levers before checking
the assembly finally I make open sockets for the
footbar then it’s final assembly I check the angle and height of the
table and then saw off the peg ends so that’s the basic treadle clamp assembly
now put together and fitted to the bench the next and final major job is to fit
this, this is the table against which the clamp operates so I found that the
original wedge that I cut this one from Elm is not really big enough to create
the angle that I’m looking for on this table so I’ve made another wedge
this one’s blackthorn it sits here and sets the table angle just as I’d
like it I shall be using this a piece of Hazel to make a peg or in fact two pegs
that fit through here into the bench and hold it in place
unlock it whilst the pressure is applied to the clamp to avoid the soles of my shoes slipping
on the footbar I’ve bound it in coarse fibred cord I’ve also added a pad of
soft leather to stop the yoke marking soft woods such as yew and if it needs
more I have various other thicknesses of leather to put around it so those are
the finishing touches to my Shave force let’s see how well it works so although
a shave horse will be a fantastic advantage to me in the workshop it’s
here in the English open woodland then I think I’ll get the best and most use out
of this ancient type a foot-operated vise let’s put some work on it so this
is a freshly cut piece of alder just for me to learn the technique of using a
shave horse so that’s my shave horse it cost me
absolutely nothing to build except for time around about six and a half hours to
build a piece of kit that for me will be an incredible advantage during bow
making I hope you enjoyed it and thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Hi guys and gals. I've struggled for two years when making bows to hold the stave steady. I don't know why I wasted so much time before building a shave horse!

  2. Hello Mick
    Just a note to say thank You for another great educational video of the quality workmanship that You always share.
    You are a true inspiration. Looking forward to seeing You put the new Shave Horse to work on many more Bows.
    Best Regards from ONTARIO CANADA

  3. I can't quite put my finger on it, but the video seems a bit … I don't know, hectic (?) when you're building it.
    Maybe I'm just not used to your talking so fast. xD
    Still, very impressive video. Not to mention informative. Didn't know shaving horses were a thing.

  4. It's nice to see you making it 🙂
    I bought lumber some time ago to make one for myself and will probably make it before summer ends here in Poland. I bet that's gonna be way nicer experience getting into bowmaking with it.

  5. And your next challenge is to make a shave horse without using a workmate and battery drill. Thank you Mick, very enjoyable.

  6. Will watch this when I get home .Still at work ,just tillered my yew longbow and got 70lb @27" and BOOM ,ho bugger only took a year to cure and 20 hours work .on to the next.and guess who I thought of when it blew lol
    Cheers
    Pete lol

  7. Hi Mick, nice video. I made my shaving horse probably twice as heavy than yours and it still seems to be too light. I have to make heavier one.

    I have really enjoyed your videos of bowmaking and they have been very inspiring and helpful.

    Many thanks

    Mike from Finland

  8. Very good use of some not very promising wood. I made a rather smart shave horse awhile ago
    , strangely I don't seem use it a lot. Still perfer a big bench vice with soft jaws for most of my bow work. Bye the way, the big yew war bow I made shoots great, once I fond someone strong enoth to draw it past my puny 25 inch effort. 120 lbs at 32 inches!

  9. Nice work buddy ,Ive got a old school gym bench to make one ,but i have got a 10 foot bench in my shed ,"that i need to clean a lot of yew shavings out "lol 😉

  10. Well done!! What I find they do best is keep your work concentrated in a particular area where you can’t “out run” yourself. Many times when you work from a vise you have an entire limb exposed yet you only need to work a small area. The strokes seem to get longer and longer and before you know it you’ve removed more wood than needed.
    A very nice example of ingenuity and workmanship!!

  11. Wonderful Mick! I made one out of old pallets I managed to scrounge. It works but it is not so elegant as yours.
    Flaxen Saxon

  12. Essential "hardware", can't imagine myself working without one. On a side note, don't you find it easier using the drawknife bevel down?

  13. Well done indeed Mick! Here I was, thinking "I really should make a shave horse." and then a video from you pops up on my feed giving me exactly the information I need. I don't have a woodlot, but I have scrap wood around here that I can probably use. Perfect!

  14. This is an other thing who do to made our passion for making bows to be more deep !!!
    great video !!! Thank you!!!!!!!!

  15. Did you used to work for the BBC? this took me back to 'Listen with Mother' I'm just surprised you didn't lead off with "Hello boys and girls!"

  16. Great work! love that you didn't use any glue nails or screws. You got a new subscriber 🙂
    Question, why use the drawknife to scrape with? Wont id dull the knife horribly fast?

  17. This is fabulous, I loved it. I really need to build one. Thankyou for such a great tutorial on how to do it 😀🏹

  18. INSPIRATIONAL VID Mick 🙂
    always thought about buying a shave horse kit, but they were too much money so resorted to the workmate… very wobbly and frustrated! So now have started to make your cost nothing build, and looking forward to shaping another stave without the back ache 😉 Many thanks again.

  19. Well done Mick, sorry you struggled for so long! You can always give the traditional Bowyer`s bench we use a go.

  20. Good to see you back off hols Mick…..For bloody years I have chased "Workmates" around and have often thought that a shave horse would be a nice thing to have (that and a pole lathe) but have never got around to build one. Nice job for your first shave horse….most people cock up on not getting the geometry right and end up with not enough/too much pedal throw, the work hight too high or not enough working distance…but yours looks sweet.

  21. Nice work Mick. I added a hinge (an old door one I had lying around) to the bench/ table. Made a huge difference when working different sized pieces. I can move the wedge back and forth and hold almost anything it a comfortable angle.
    Always great to see your work, take care.

  22. Ah, a great video, as you promised a few weeks ago! Just a little tip, if your pegs start to shrink and slip, saw a kerf in the ends and put a wee wedge in them to tighten them up. Just make sure you have the wedge oriented across the grain so you don't split the bench!

  23. Awesome shave horse Mick, been looking to make something as simple as this myself, I have less room and tools than you :-). Now you have just given me a blueprint, thanks a million mate, cheers and all the best

    DM

  24. Nice one Mick! Can't get much more rustic than that. I think the friction joint are a bit suspect, expect them to work loose after time. But, for zero pounds who's worried, as long as it serves its purpose.

  25. I've watched so many of your videos mick and I'm now trying my first bow a green hazel one and I'm finding one limb curves beautifully whilst the others stiff I'll try thinning it down tomorrow

  26. Very well done Mick!! :-). Well,after looking at your video, I´ve to do myself one of these "0 money" shaving horses, Hahahahaha.
    Easy to build and very elegant.
    Beautifull videos that you make, as usual. Keep up the NICE job!
    Cheers,
    Asier.

  27. That is so easy to build I will be making that as I have a bit of mtn ash that wants to become a bow for the last 5 years about time I get to it.

  28. Amazing video!!! Now I need to learn my trees so I know what kind of branches I'm randomly picking up for legs!

  29. this is the first time I've seen a shaving horse in our part of the province of rizal i've haven't seen a working shaving horse or know someone who used a drawknife we only use spokeshave and planer thank you for sharing this instructional video i show this to my friends

  30. Hi Mike the shave horse is so versatile you will use it for way more projects than you think it also allows for the correct body position for the draw knife and you will find the use of the knife and horse so much easier you will end up making more than one.
    Enjoy

  31. Another professional, entertaining and delightful video Mick, but also the most useful shave horse construction video I've watched (and that's quite a few!). The Youtube video has really come of age, and programmes like yours have allowed people like me to close their satellite and cable accounts, and legitimately stop buying their TV licence.

    I wouldn't know where to begin creating such a wonderful video, but thankfully it has helped me enormously to work out how I can make my own shave horse using the timber I have lying around the place. Then I'll start my first bow, probably made of ash, which is so abundant here in the Mary Rose belt of southern Hampshire. I anticipate lots of ash kindling flooding the market any day soon.

    One can imagine the medieval bowyers who created those marvellous Mary Rose weapons owning one of these, and sitting in the sun gently coaxing a bow out of a yew stave. I understand that England had to scour forestry across Europe for suitable yew wood, and that import duty was for a long time levied in yew staves. Eventually suitable yew became very difficult to come by, both at home and abroad.

    Optimists say that the fourth world war will be fought only with bows and arrows, and I nurture the hope that if true, it will encourage our young people to revive their birthright, the wonderful and historic bowman's hand signal that has sadly been replaced with that silly, single-digit (and deeply inoffensive) gesture, imported recently from the colonies.

    Anyway, thank you for your superb videos Mick. More power to your elbow.

  32. AWESOME..:-).. your great as a bowbuilder but fantastic at explaining your hard work makin the endevour seem a pinch:-)..though we don't see all the inbetween tribulations it is felt and REALLY makes me desire to purchase several of your bows .. bless ya for the heart you share:-)
    TNBS DENMARK

  33. Mick you inspired me. Got up at 5:30 am drinking coffee and looking at a scrap pile of 5 different woods and built the shave horse. I was roughing out bow staves by 12 noon. Thank you Sir.

  34. Mick, thank you so much for doing this tutorial vid. I have poured over tons of 'tubes' looking for a good tute for a working shave-horse. My Sons are aspiring wood workers but to their credit ( I believe it to be) they prefer non electrical tools. I have tried to teach them to appreciate the feel of the wood, the wonderful aromas and the patience (which ironically has been the biggest challenge) with working wood by hand. Consequently, the notion and need for a good shave-horse has been high on the agenda. This vid is simple to follow, easy to understand and it produces a very sturdy and useful tool for the basement wood shop. My hat is off to you in appreciation and I hope you continue to do similar in the future. Keep up the great works my friend….

  35. Hi Mick,
    What a great,simple but effective shave horse. i built one about 2 years ago but I was not happy with it so I built another but that too was not totally successful so I am using my third build which is ok for my spoon carving etc;, . I have watched lots of spoon mule videos and sadly got lost in all the different ways people have to accommodate their needs, in a spoon mule.
    So thank you for that Mick. Plan D will be started soon.
    Take care.
    Regards
    Keith

  36. I never comment on videos, but this video is so DAMN GOOD. Thanks to you I'll be making my first bow soon. Going to make my first shave horse tomorrow!

  37. Mick
    This was a inspiration for me to finely get my shave horse built.
    Like you I've been doing it the hard way. Thank you.

  38. Wonderful job.
    I'm a new subscriber and I think you do great work. Also I noticed you have 12.3k subs and I noticed 12.3k people watched this show. That doesn't happen very often sir, you must produce great shows.?
    Happy Holidays.

  39. Nice build nick ive been a greenwood worker for some years know and even hold courses in our own woodland just one bit of advice if you dont already know using the drawknife as a scraper can damage the cutting edge as most drawknifes are laminated and tend to chip i learnt it the hard way by doing the same thing love the videos keep up the good work mate

  40. a simple but effective piece of kit by the look of things. you could likely just make it wider if you had anything bigger than a bow you wanted to work on, thanks for sharing.

  41. Just came across your great video. I haven't had a shave horse in many years and have been planning on making one for many years :- ( I am now , thanks for the video. Just subbed you also.
    from Illinois in usa

  42. I used a bench vice early in my bow-making, but since converting to a shave horse years ago, I don’t know how I ever survived without it.
    Mine breaks down with the removal of only three long screws and wing nuts, and reassembly is as quick making it easy to carry to and from camp.
    My compliments to you for your resourceful approach to a project.
    PS:
    If you’re ever across the pond in the spring, consider coming to Oklahoma and attending what may be the largest bowyer camp in the land. We set up near a small lake on 20 or more acres and teach bow making over a four-day period. We’ll have fifty or more members teaching sometimes a few hundred interested people. We’re know as the Oklahoma Selfbow Society, OSS, and our spring rendezvous is known as the Oklahoma Jamboree or “OJAM”. This will be our 15th year. Check us out on the Internet.
    We’re preparing now for our February benefit auction and bow trade.
    I have just enough influence with our group to assure you a free cap and tee shirt, and I’ll even through in a few premium Bois d’ arc staves if you make the trip sometime.
    In the meantime, please continue the excellent videos.

  43. Mick, your high quality content and oratory skills remind me of Canada's Britishmuzzleoaders channel. Thank you for inspiring me.

  44. Hey Mick,

    Thanks for sharing. Will you share a link to your bows? I'd love to see more of your work.

    Cheers.

  45. You get an A rating from me for Best Design and Simplest construction. As a beginner this is what beginners tend to look for. Thanks (c=

  46. So do you make recurve bows? This is really quite interesting to do I mean to watch you do thank you for sharing this and do you have any if you do make Recurve Bows do you have any that you can display or website. Thank you it's a pleasure seeing your video

  47. https://youtu.be/jRuDJlJT64E https://youtu.be/P5QVKqw_B-c thought maybe these video's may help you out at home and in the field my friend passing the knowledge forward

  48. I'm disabled but I'm getting my stuff together slowly but surely LOL we're learning this stuff together friend LOL good job

  49. Hi Mick can you recommend a make(s) of draw knife and spoke shave (UK) that are good for green woodworking.Haven't seen a draw knife with such o long blade before.
    Great video .Thank you

  50. I'm usually bored with people overnarrating their builds. However, I'll let this slide because it sounds like the narrator from a kid's movie😃

  51. Been looking for simple non expensive ways to make a shavehorse and this is it, thank you for a well explained video

  52. Put the kettle on, grab the digestives, some marmalade and extra sharp cheddar cheese. Watch this, first for technical advice, secondly to see a thing of practical beauty put together. A perfectly clearly done explanation of how to build a shave horse.

  53. Thank you Mick For your reply. I lived in England till I was 13. That combination of digestive biscuits, marmalade, and extra sharp cheddar cheese, along with cutting wood kept me out of jail my entire life. That and a great wife, who also loves that combo has kept me a happy man. I look forward to any other videos you may post.Cheers.

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