Well, I couldn’t sit still too long.

I knew I had some 8/4 poplar sitting at a friend’s house, drying in the field.  I couldn’t remember how much I had cut; I don’t usually earmark too much of a log for 8/4.  I’m starting to change that way of thinking, but last year, when I had this cut, I just blurted out some numbers to the sawyer.  It turns out I had just enough cut to build this most essential of work-holding tools.

It started, interestingly enough, in OCM.  It was beautiful this time of year, and I got to spend some time reading on the beach.  I had Peter Galbert’s new book, and I eventually got to the part where he talks about building a shavehorse.

As the three or four of you who read the ramblings regularly posted here may know, I just finished my first chair, and I’m hooked.  All of the romanticizing about working the wood from the tree with minimal power tools aside, there really is something to the beauty of shaving sopping wet wood on the shavehorse with a drawknife.  In fact, I didn’t realize how much I missed it already.  Luckily my hands didn’t forget the work, and they went right back to the skills I learned at chaircamp without missing a beat.

The legs are the only thing a little out of the ordinary.  I decided to go with tapered octagons.  The big-on-bottom small-on-top shape is different for a leg, but I like the look.  The octagonal shape falls more in line with the right-angle, straight and square nature of the thing.

To make a tapered octagon is really pretty simple.  Decide how much taper you want, then taper the leg.  Lay out the octagon on both ends of the leg, connect the lines from top to bottom, and cut to the lines.  Sounds simple, right?  The devil is in the details.  How do you taper four sides of a leg symmetrically?  What’s the best way to cut to the lines?  Where the heck did I set my beer?


What I did was lay out the octagons first.  Find the center with diagonal lines, set a compass to reach from a corner to the center, then make a mark on each side.  do this for each corner and you have an octagon.

On the small end, you have to lay out the size the leg will be after tapering, then lay out the octagon according to that square.IMG_0318

First you taper all four sides.  There is a very slick trick to this on the jointer that I can’t explain here, but you can watch it here.  Glen Huey is the man.

After you taper all four sides, you connect the lines on both ends, then cut to the lines.  I started wasting material with a jack plane, but that took too long.  I set up the jointer fence to cut at the right angle and cut mostly to the lines, then finished up with a jointer plane.IMG_0317IMG_0320IMG_0323IMG_0324

I can’t believe I didn’t take any pics of the finished octagons.  You can see them on the horse.  A little labor-intensive, but the effect is worth it.

The rest of the horse was just milling, cutting to size, and assembling.  I used The Country Workshop’s plans, found here.  They are a little vague on some things, but some inferences and intuition are all you need to complete it.

It took me two Saturdays and a week after work to finish it, mostly because I had to mill and glue up stock for thickness.  I really only had enough 8/4 for the bench, legs, and head.

My family wasn’t sure what to think, looking warily at it like cavemen seeing fire for the first time, but I got two of them to come around.IMG_0336IMG_0342IMG_0331IMG_0332IMG_0334

About Sam

Young, good-looking, manly--you get the picture. Novice woodworker with just too much rolling around upstairs to keep to myself. Random thoughts, philosophical questions, the occasional flash of insight or just dumb luck that needs to be shared with anyone who cares.
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4 Responses to Shavehorse

  1. Fantastic Sam! So great to see the kids getting in on it!

  2. What do are you going to shave on it?

    • Sam says:

      Hi there.
      Mostly chair parts; spindles, legs, stretchers. It’s mostly a chairmaker’s tool.
      However, you can shave just about anything you need to shape freehand.
      Thanks for commenting!

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