Making Another Shave Horse, and some other things
Starting with a base, basically somewhere to sit and hang the other
parts of the shave horse onto. As it's "lockdown" in April 2020, the best
material I have for this consists of sections of 3" x 3" fence posts, screwed
together. This may be a heavy horse!
Text in bold highlights tools / words associated with green woodworking
(I may add a popup image or text later, maybe much later).
I've used the symbol " as a shorthand for inches, i.e. 3" = 3 inches.
Splitting an ash log into quarters for the legs. It's about 8"
in diameter, and was felled a few weeks ago. I don't have a froe,
the traditional tool for splitting wood for making things, but a billhook
(or bill hook) works quite well here. Also required is a beetle or
mallet (right); this one is heavy duty, made from yew. The billhook was used to start
the split, then wooden (oak) wedges were hit in to complete splitting.
Easy in this case as there weren't any significant knots in the wood.
Now to shape a leg using a shave horse I made earlier (seat kindly
donated to me). The wood (termed a billet) is gripped by the leg
operated vice (or vise, USA), and it is worked by an essential tool,
a drawknife (or draw knife). This tool looks dangerous because you
are pulling a theoretically very sharp tool towards yourself. The drawknife is probably
relatively safe when being used (both hands out of the way on handles). Dangerous
times can be when swapping tools, it's unsheathed in a toolbox, or when fitting safety
guard etc.. Come to think of it almost everything about woodworking is hazardous!
Here a tenon is starting to be shaped. First the diameter is marked
on the wood, in this case using a 1.375" drill bit. This leg is being made with
a "shoulder" on which the weight of the seat rests. This takes far longer
to work than a simple pole shape, but may be more durable. There may be an easier
way of doing this (without power tools), but it works for me, after an hour or so!
The "shoulder" position is scored around the leg at a slight angle to match
the intended slightly splayed angle of the leg when fitted to the seat, (of the order
of 5 degrees to vertical). Explaining this is almost as difficult as doing it!
After whittling away with a chisel, beetle and fine
saw for quite a while the tenon has taken an approximate shape. The tenon has been
left over-sized because it will shrink as the wood seasons, typically
becoming ovaloid. Since the seat is already seasoned, its mortices
won't change shape (ie reduce in size) in dry conditions. So It's necessary to leave
the legs to season for a while before final adjustment so that the mortice
and tenon joints will be fairly tight, but allow the legs to be removed for
transport & storing of the horse.
I've tried to reduce the weight of the legs a bit, slightly reminiscent of a very
sturdy Shetland pony's leg shape I was hoping. That was before I ran out of energy!
The vice frame is made of oak. It's seasoned (dry) except for the
movable "jaw" (right of center in photo), which needs to dry for a while
to get a good fit of the tenons. It is possible to use dowels in
place of tenons, but there could still be a fitting problem if the parts don't have
a similar moisture content. The joints don't need to be tight, because the jaw needs
to be rotated or repositioned.
The vice is of course operated by the user's legs putting pressure
on the "foot rest" part (above). Here I've split a 2.5" diameter log
and shaped tenons on one half to fit into the vice sides.
The other half of the log (facing the operator) has notches to fit
the vice sides, and I've used wire to tie it all together. With this arrangement most
of the applied force is applied to the sides of the vice, and not to the joints. Of
course it would be simpler to just use a cross piece fixed to the vice sides somehow.
Interlude (while waiting
for saw horse tenons to season)
Got on with a couple of other projects using a pole lathe;
for one thing I needed some cord pulls. This was a quarter of an approximately 5"
diameter oak log, felled some months ago. The turning is going well as can be seen
from the long, thin shavings, but it's easy for it to go wrong especially when using
a skew chisel. (Note: the first half of this
You Tube video shows what can go wrong when a chisel "catches" a spindle
billet, and how to avoid that. It uses a powered lathe, but it's the same principle
for a pole lathe).
Handles (15" and 18") for socketed chisels, turned from
ash. The "cone" shapes on the left side have still to be worked to fit each
chisel socket, but the wood needs to be seasoned before the final fitting is done.
After 2-3 weeks these pieces have become oval in a fairly predictable manner, with
the maximum-minimum diameters varying by about 5%. This is fine for most of the handle,
but not for fitting to the chisel socket, so they'll be left to continue seasoning
slowly before fitting. I have read that hardwood shrinks typically 5% along the radius
of a log, and 10-15% along an arc; the difference explaining the change to ovaloid
cross section as the wood dries. The shrinkage along the length of the log is apparently
much less, at around 1%.
One of the finished handles, shaped to fit the chisel socket. Luckily
in this case the socket was a near conical shape so a lathe could be used, If the
socket cone shape was distorted or had high spots then some whittling would be needed,
with frequent checking of fitting, and marking the orientation of handle to chisel
Trying to solve the problem of holding short lengths of wood while
sawing, I adapted a saw horse which was made earlier in the year. It now has a removable
"flat bed" made from half of a 2" diameter piece of oak. It's located
by notches fitting to the saw horse sides, so that it doesn't slide around. Not essential,
but green & bendy sticks can help hold the "bed" and wood to be cut
...and back to the horse
A few weeks later, the legs have been fitted, seat has been shaped,
vice frame complete, found some fairly flat board for the work surface. A bit more
work and it should be ready to try out.
I decided that two tapped rods with nuts were needed to hold the
seat sections together more securely than just by using screws. A snag was that the
existing screw holes couldn't be counter-sunk cleanly (as in centre
photo), since there was no wood left for one of the drill bits (right photo) to locate
their centre point in. In the old days I expect workers would have used wood to plug
any pre-existing hole, but I used a wall plug. Utilising the top-most bit in photo
with a brace the hole could be sunk to accomodate a nut and washer. The Forstner bit
(3rd from top) also works well (with powered drill); both of these bits score the
circumference of the hole and can produce a relatively "clean" cut.
After some minor development the horse is now in use. A bit more cosmetic
work is needed to infill the counter-sunk holes, and replace the clothes line holding
the vice together at the top. The tenons are not tight on the vice jaw so that its
position can be moved for different work piece diameters. The sides of the vice can
also be moved to three positions located with hardwood pins.
For the first "product" I shaped a re-creation of a possible
stone-age utensil, although I suppose it would have been made from stone then, not
field maple. OK, I admit it, I was trying to make a finely carved spoon/ladle, but
didn't have enough time, energy and skill. At least the horse held together. The wood
had a natural curve, and a wedge was very useful to help keep it gripped in the vice.
I thought I might as well mangle the other half of the small log,
in the manner of stone age man working with blunt flint tools ...
This time a sort of heavy duty ladle / spatula / dog's play-ball thrower
appeared a couple of hours later.
For working on poles the work-board can get in the way. A simple way
of gripping the pole is to substitute a wooden block for the board, with a shallow
groove on the top-front edge of the block. One or more grooves can be cut in the front
edge of the seat to help prevent the pole sliding around.
This is another way to hold a pole using a branch with a "Y"
shaped fork, mounted so that it forms an approximate right angle to a gripped pole.
There is a shallow countersink in the seat, with a 0.75" hole drilled to accomodate
the Y piece tenon. This takes more time to make of course, but a pole can be held
more securely than with a block. I expect there are other methods. Can you spot a
modern method of holding the vice sides together?
The shave horse has been used to prepare billets which are being formed
into a type of pin on a pole lathe. A somewhere near round billet is left of centre
in the photo, along with the main tools being used: a parting chisel, skew chisel,
gouge, calipers and ruler. The wood has a moderate moisture content, and since the
pins need to be a specific diameter (12mm) when the wood stabilises, they are being
left oversized at about 22mm for now. After leaving some time for the wood to season
the pins will be turned a second time so that distortions are removed, possibly to
about 18mm. This process will be repeated until the final size is reached, or near-final
size as it will vary with environmental conditions..
This photo shows a "pin", tool handle, and cord-pull nearing
completion. It's is getting near the minimum diameter (~12mm) it's possible to work
with on this lathe design. Obviously the wood can tend to flex making it difficult
to smooth out, or it could break. It is possible to rig a support for the work piece,
or possibly steady it by hand, if you've got one spare!
A week or two later, these are the pins and other items at their "final"
size hopefully. The wood is a bit smoother than it appears in the photo due to the
low resolution image (maybe you've heard that excuse before).
| Other Green Woodworking Pages
The Association of Polelathe
Turners & Greenwood Workers (website)
The Encyclopedia of Green Woodworking (book) - Ray Tabor, eco-logic books, 2000
Tools for Self Reliance UK (or
in Wales TFSR Cymru) - High quality refurbished