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Shaving Horses - French shaving horse of Continental design taken by Ruizo.
French shaving horse of Continental design taken by Ruizo.
In our East
Berlin article of Colonial Days, we show a picture of a man using a shaving horse to trim cedar shakes. We also show the use of a shaving horse in our cooper article. Jack the Cooper came up with his own plans to build the shaving horse he uses.

There are two traditional styles of shaving horses, the English bodgeris bench and the Continental schnitzelbank or dumbhead. There is pictorial evidence of the dumbhead being used in the 15th and 16th centuries, although the English style does not show up until the late 19th century.

Shaving Horses - Black Forest or German or Swiss shaving horse taken by Flominator. It gives a longer lever-ratio which traps the workpiece more securely
Black Forest or German or Swiss shaving horse taken by Flominator. It gives a longer lever-ratio which traps the workpiece more securely
Peter Follansbee of Plimoth Plantation prefers the English shaving horse because "the action of gripping the stock is centered, as opposed to the off-center action of the dumbhead style." For the English style shaving horse, two outside posts pivot on the edges of the bench instead of coming up through the middle. In our project, we call this the pivoting arm assembly.

Shaving Horses - A sample of what is possible in primitive design if you have the logs available
A sample of what is possible in primitive design if you have the logs available
You can build your shaving horse out of any type of stock you want. In fact, if you want to make it to suit for colonial times, why not begin your project by cutting down a tree with an ax and leaving the bark on your project?

Shaving Horses Picture
In the shaving horse project Colonial Sense brings you, we use for the English style shaving horse lumber which is hewn from half a log 10 to 12 inches in diameter. The concept of all shaving horses is the same. It is built to grip stock such as cedar shakes, bowls, decoys, chair legs, and staves of a barrel and using draw knives and spokeshaves, shape the piece as needed. The shape is the shaving horse features a bench, a pivoting arm assembly, and an inclined bridge. Using your foot to step down on the foot bar, the workpiece is locked into position. Make sure that your shaving horse is comfortable to your needs. The length of the legs can be adjusted to your height.

Shaving Horses - Attaching the legs and braces to the bench.
Attaching the legs and braces to the bench.
  1. Cut the 2 back legs and 2 front legs 2 X 4 X 19 1/2". If you want a slight incline, make the 2 front legs 1-2" shorter than the back legs. The legs will be cut at a 35 degree angle to make the bench trim-outs.
  2. Cut the bench 3 X 10 X 72".
  3. Take your saw and chisel and notch the bench to accept the four legs. You will be using a T half-lap joint to join the legs to the bench. It is easy to transfer angles with a T-Bevel
  4. Attach the legs to the bench with glue and screws.
  5. Cut 2 braces 1 1/2 X 3 1/2 X 13" for the front and back legs. Place the braces on the legs to get the proper angle.
  6. Attach the braces to the legs with glue and screws.
  7. Cut the bridge 2 X 10 X 35"
  8. Cut the riser 2 X 8 X 10". Use your T-Bevel and bevel the riser at a 15 degree angle.
  9. Place the riser approximately 30 inches from the back of the bench and glue and screw it into place underneath the bench.
Shaving Horses - Attaching the bridge to the riser.
Attaching the bridge to the riser.
  1. Glue and screw the bridge to the riser.
  2. Glue and screw the front of the bridge to the bench.
Shaving Horses - Pivoting Arm Assembly
Pivoting Arm Assembly
  1. Cut the 2 arms of the pivoting arm assembly 1 1/2 X 3 1/2 X 30". The foot bar will be joined to the arms using a bridle joint while the crossbar will be joined using a mortise and tenon joint. Make a set of 3 countersunk holes on each arm to accept lag screws. One set of holes will be used. The other 2 sets are in case you want to adjust the pivoting arm assembly for thicker stock. Cut 1 mortise joint on each arm to accept the cross bar.
  2. Cut the crossbar of the pivoting arm assembly 2 X 2 X 10 1/4". Place a V-notch in the bottom center of the crossbar to hold the stock. Cut round tenons on both ends.
  3. Cut the foot bar of the pivoting arm assembly 2 X 2 X 20". You can make the foot bar an octagonal shape on each side of the arm assembly. Cut dadoes in the foot bar to match the notches in the arms.
  4. Once you attach the foot bar to the arms, the pivoting arm assembly can now placed over the shaving horse. The lag screws should be screwed loosely into place. Do not glue any part of the pivoting arm assembly.
  5. Slip the cross bar into place and do not use glue or screws.
  6. Finish tightening the lag screws.


Shaving Horses Picture
Country Workshops provides plans for a shaving horse which they call a shaving mule. It is a hybrid design which combines elements from a traditional English bodger's shaving horse and the dumbhead Zug Stuhls of Alpine Europe.

Source: Research & text by Bryan Wright

Related Links:

Shaving Mule Plans from Country Workshops

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