Skip to main content

My Forty Year Old Shaving Horse

I've made all my tools, matter a'fact, everything I got. Well, this shaving horse I guess is about fifty years old.

Alex Stewart, bucket and butter churn maker, Foxfire 3, 1975


I made this shaving horse in 1978, when I was fifteen years old. I was tired of trying to hold stock in the leg vise on our grandfather's workbench, sticks of wood often would slip out when I took Grandpa's drawknife to it, and the jaws limited access to the wood I was trying to shape. I saw a photo of one in Foxfire 3 and decided I could make one.




My parents had all sorts of pieces of wood cached up in the attic of the old workshop, both were children of the Great Depression, they squirreled stuff away "because you never know when you are going to need it!" There was a five foot long piece of chainsaw milled incense cedar, pieces of old painted window, miscellaneous Douglas fir 2x2's and one piece of old growth Douglas fir that was just right for the bridge table.




I can't remember if my father helped me build this bench. There were no plans, I built the thing "by hand and by eye", something both my parents preached every time something was to be made.

I tried to smooth the bench board as best I could with a No.5 Stanley jack plane, there was an Atkins crosscut saw to use, plus a Stanley brace with Winchester auger bits and probably an old Plumb claw hand drove that nails.




The dumbhead was the bottom chunk of young ponderosa pine I cut down and hewed out with a double bit axe and at one point in its life, there was a treadle on the other end of the dumbhead.



The entire contraption is put together with nails...




and the bridge is pinned down to the riser with hand chopped Douglas fir dowels.  After I made this horse my mother saw that I had used that nice Douglas fir board for the bridge,  and boy, did I catch hell for that! She told me I should have used a "different" piece of wood.

I spent many an hour on this horse in the mid 1990's shaping out parts for stick Windsor chairs and other stock that got turned on a bungee cord lathe. The only "bad thing" about this horse is the bench is one foot too short, I have fallen off the end several times when I was draw-knifing some very long pieces.

Yes, I made two or three copies of Drew Langsner's shaving horse from dimensional Douglas fir lumber and I made sure the benches were long enough. However, those horses never worked as well as this one, maybe that style is not organic enough for me. I ended up giving all of them away.

I don't think I have used this horse in seven or eight years, I really don't need one for guitar making, but it does my heart good to know that it is in a nice shed protected from the elements and I can use it whenever I want.

It's hard to believe that in ten years this horse will be fifty years old!


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How to Make a Traditional Froe Mallet

What holds the Holy of the Holies, what did Brahma become? Wood. Why will aspen always tremble? For the nails driven into the cross. What makes the color of wood? The soil it tastes. Cradle, fiddle, coffin, bed: wood is a column of earth made ambitious by light, and made of beauty by the rain.

Kim R. Stafford, Having Everything Right, 1986.

Rive, verb, to split
Shake, noun, a split in a piece wood. (Heart shake, ring shake)
Shake, verb, (Middle English), to split.

I know I should have been in the studio working on my back log of guitars, but the day was so nice and warm with a tall blue canopy, I couldn't stay inside. I decided that I needed to make a proper froe mallet. This style of mallet is traditional to northeastern California, primarily Tehama (where I'm from), Butte, Shasta and Plumas counties where making shingles by hand from sugar pines was an industry. I don't know if it was used in any other region along the Pacific Rim, other parts of the United States or even o…

The Guitar's Scale Length, Your Hand Size and a Chart

I will cite the case of a marvelous concert player, a Japanese lady who is barely 5 ft. tall and with hands that are real miniatures. She plays a 664 mm 10 string guitar and demanded that I build this guitar with an action 1 mm higher than normal, which she handles with incredible ease. This is serious study!


Jose Ramirez III, Things About the Guitar, 1990




Here is the hand size and scale length that I found on the forum at delcamp.com.

Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 250+ 664mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 230 to 250 656mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 210 to 230 650mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 190 to 210 640mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 170 to 190 630mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of below 170 615mm scale length



Here is my flexible imperial/metric ruler.




Here is my hand properly placed on the flexible imperial/metric ruler.




Today my reach from little finger to thumb is 240mm. I should more or less be playing a…

Basic Hand Tool Kit for Making a Classical Guitar, Revised

Ours is really a simple craft.

James Krenov, The Impractical Cabinetmaker, 1979


So, you want to build a guitar.

Since the original post, Basic Hand Tool Kit for Guitar Making, click here to see it, is the most popular post on this blog, I thought I would revisit it and adjust it to what I am using now to make a classical guitar.

The first thing I recommend doing is to buy or borrow copies of the following books:

Guitar Making: Tradition and Technology, by William Cumpiano and Jonathan Natelson
Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall
The Guitar Maker's Workshop, by Rik Middleton

These are required reading before you begin making a guitar.

Also required reading are these books by Roy Underhill:

The Woodwright's Shop
The Woodwright's Companion
The Woodwright's Workbench
The Woodwright's Apprentice


Why these books by Mr. Underhill? You will learn valuable wood working techniques if you make any of his projects. The dovetail joints used to join a drawer together are far mor…