Shaving Horse build

Shave horse (Bodgers Bench)
My (nearly) finished English Shaving Horse

I have been building chairs and stools for a long time without a Shaving Horse. So why would I really need to build one? Since I have no lathe, I shape all the parts with edge tools. To do this I have been holding the various components in a lot of non-conventional ways. As I was struggling with this recently, it finally dawned on me that I was being either stubborn or silly. Turns out, a Bodger’s bench is handy for chair making. Who knew?

I started this project with a bit of fir I was given as a gift. It was custom sawn from local stock and a full 1/4″ thicker than lumberyard Fir. Making it a good choice for staked furniture. The thicker the seat the stronger the joints for the legs. I was also able to get some good straight-grained rift-cut pieces for the legs from the same piece.

Looking on the internet for ideas I came across everything from ax cut log benches with components turned on a pole lathe. To the very fine and almost omnipresent ultimate shave horse by Brian Boggs. I settled for something in between. And so far, in using this horse I do not regret it.

A german style Schnitzelbank or shaving horse

The design I settled on is a variation of a pretty standard English shaving horse. Sometimes called, a Bodger’s Bench. These differ from the presumably older German style which sports a large solid head on a single peddle that goes through the center of the horse. As I researched this I found that it seems to be a thoroughly subjective decision as to which is better. And as always, each builder thinks his preferred version is the best.

Advantages of the English style shaving horse

The style I chose has no real advantage over the German style in ease of construction. However, in watching people use the various types on YouTube I found myself drawn to the English style. It seemed to fit my style of working and temperament better somehow. Since I do not work outside much and all the components I am working fall within a pretty narrow range of sizes.

In using my horse I am shocked at how well it grips the work with virtually no force required. I can sit perfectly relaxed working on my chair parts. And although the height adjustment is nothing more than a wedge under the clamping surface, I can adjust it instantly by just moving it slightly forward and back. I am glad I did not opt for all the extra work and engineering involved with making the sophisticated ratchet adjuster that so many modern shaving horses seem to think is essential.

If you enjoy chair making or think you might, this is a good project to start with. It is a three-legged bench so you can work on your chair leg technique. And also a tool for making chairs! It’s is win, win!


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