Shaving Horses and Portable Woodworking

For bow makers and other wood crafters…A shaving horse is an invaluable tool if you create or work with odd-shaped objects that are otherwise difficult to clamp or need to constantly move around.

This simple horse was created in a morning from a large oak branch blown down in a storm and a couple spars from recent clearing.

I don’t know how I would get half my projects done without one.  A horse, in combination with a small bench or two of the same height can act as a complete workshop that is reasonably portable and adaptable.  Carpenters, furniture makers, coopers, shoemakers, jewelers, and carvers all have their specific designs and no one type will be the best at everything.  Some need to be very adjustable, while others have a very fixed purpose.  With a little patience, planning, and luck a great horse can be built for cheap or free with just a very few tools.

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A Cooper’s Horse.

I’ve collected few images of shaving horse (a.k.a. work horses) images and show some I created over the years.  If you are looking for inspiration or information on designing one for yourself, these should give an adequate starting point.  I wish I had photos of my very first horse but unfortunately, it existed at a time when I seem to have taken very few photos of my own projects and the internet wasn’t much of a place for sharing this sort of thing.

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Click the image to learn what this peasant is making.

In the old days of pre-internet (some of you may recall this with me) there was very little information floating around about these simple but nifty devices.  People like Roy Underhill (The Woodwright’s Shop) and Drew Langsner (Country Woodcraft) had them.  I recall seeing them rotting in yards in the Ozarks or slowly decaying in the back of family barns as a kid. While researching them later, the one consistency I discovered was the complete lack of consistency on their size, shape, height, length, or actual use.  Obviously, every bodger, tinker, and shingle maker had his own ideas and was probably limited by material availability. This ancient tool is as unique as each builder.

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“Goodman identifies the (above) relief as a cobbler making a wooden last sitting astride a small bench (‘horse’). The workpiece is held firmly on a sort of anvil by means of a strap passing down through the bench top, and held taut with his left foot. (Photo: Goodman 1964, p. 184, Museo di Civilta Romana, E.U.R., Rome. Reproduced without permission citing fair use).”

While my first horse was designed primarily around dimensional lumber found in my shop an it’s ability to fit cross-ways in a truck bed (F-150) with ease, it was perfectly functional for what I needed; primarily for shaping bows but also for carving things like spear throwers and tool handles.  Experience and use taught me the good and bad points about this model and the result has been these  better and later designs…

0106This was a good horse designed for the bowyer. Hickory arm and head, poplar cross-stretchers and a long, adjustable-tilt table to accommodate a wide variety of bow stave thicknesses.

0699Another of similar design. The base is the same but is has a square head and wider treadle to use easily with either or both feet.

0658A horse in use.  This is how they are best seen.  I actually stopped tillering for a moment to take an “action” photo in the old shop.

0321Here is another action shot fixing the tiller on someone’s bow at Winter Count several years ago. I wouldn’t normally have a giant, heavy stave leaning on the horse but the photographer insisted on it for some reason. I was just hoping it wouldn’t bean me with a very sharp draw-knife in my hand (hence my switch to the rasp for the photo).

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This is not my herd but that of a fellow bowyer.

Here are a few others I encountered at a bow making class in the Midwest several years ago. I liked the simplicity of these made for teaching new bowyers at the Bois d’Arc Rendezvous hosted by FirstEarth. You could make one of these with nothing but a few well-chosen scraps and a few bolts.

And my personal favorite…

Design was kept as short as possible for transport. The cross bolt where the arm hinges is a salvaged bolt from an old truck spare tire holder.

This design was kept as short as possible for transport while still being practical. The cross bolt where the arm hinges is a salvaged from an old truck spare tire holder.

Higher, more ergonomic table.

A higher, more ergonomic table and a large treadle area make this one more practical for me.

Finally, the horse above has been my more-or-less permanent workstation for the last few years and has traveled many miles around the western U.S.  Used in conjunction with a small saw bench (built Winter 2015), I have a very complete work setup that packs into the bed of the tiny Toyota pick-up.

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Click the image for more information about this project.

With all the gentrification of woodworking that has grown out of some fine blogs and books of the past few years I think it’s important to remember the roots.

Bench hook and tools. The holdfasts store in the legs so that they are always handy.

Not everyone needs to own every tool, jig, or gizmo… nor should we want to.

Few amateurs can have an enormous, dedicated work space surrounding a one-ton French-style Roubo split-top workbench, nor will he need one.  Once you figure out what you want to create, then the tools can follow as needed.  Sometimes, the big projects can be goals for the future.

The sawbench in operation with a few years, many projects, and a lot of miles on it.

If you are in need of a sturdy place to work, a portable setup that includes a saw bench and a shave horse will really improve your life.

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Priorities

“A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

“The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

“The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

“The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed..

“‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things; your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions. If everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else—-the small stuff.

“‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

“If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

“Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

“Take care of the golf balls first—-the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

“One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.”

An older story but a good lesson to remember.

The Stonebridge Folding Lantern

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Unfolded, ready for use.

The Stonebridge Lantern; a classic, lightweight, packable candle lantern that was very popular once upon a time in the U.S.  The Stonebridge is an ingenious piece of design work as it folds almost perfectly flat for travel; like origami in tin.  Weighing in at only 11 ounces (.31 kilos) without a candle it’s a camp luxury without much sacrifice to weight.  The downside, it only delivers one candle-power of light, assuming a very clean and clear window.  I’ll be honest, we like this stuff just because it’s clever sometimes; and who doesn’t need a bit light on a dark night?

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Rear view, showing hole for wall mounting.

The body is held together by rivets and hinge pins and the windows are comprised of clear mica.  There is a handy hole punched in the back, reinforced with a grommet, so that the lantern can be hung on a nail against a wall.

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Folded for travel or storage.

What kept this little piece of genius from vanishing into the obscurity of time was the continued enthusiasm around classic wilderness gear expounded on by Horace Kephart and other classic campers throughout the century.  Before I owned this one, it obviously saw years of hard service either in the wilds or, as often happens, as a kid’s toy.  A couple reset rivets and a little cleaning went a long way to make this lantern great again.

I have to admit, I don’t really need this gizmo in the wilderness, but I like it enough to pack it along when I can.  If nothing else, it keeps a candle lit in nearly all weather and provides a little warm, cheery light on a dismal night.

Click for full sized image. Maybe a tinsmith out there can make use of this.

Click for full-sized image. Maybe an ambitious tinsmith out there can make use of these plans.

I am considering replacing the mica windows on my lantern as they have been a bit abused over the years.  From scanning around the web it seems that mica is fairly cheap and easy to find for crafters.  If it seems feasible, I’ll try to document the process to help others who may need to undertake this.

Garret Wade Tool Company sells a copy of the lantern.  Click the image below for the link.

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Replica sold at Garrett Wade. Click image for lnk.

Happy trails…

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A Fun Little Fashion Project

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Here is a little Boho Chic bag made from a beautifully bark-tanned hide by Joe Brandl (#absarokajoe). It’s a bit outside my normal style but people have loved these bags over the years. Heading to the Oregon Country Fair, Burning Man, or just the beach? This is an accessory for you. Oh yeah, it makes a a great possibles bag too!

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Here’s my unapologetic SALES PITCH…

This hand-made bag was created by me and is adorned with a lunar crescent and four sea-shells collected on the Oregon coast. The leather is extremely soft to the touch and was tanned with an all natural process using the natural tannins from tree bark. It is double needle stitched with heavyweight hemp thread waxed with pure beeswax from another friend, Benjamin Pixie. The strap is a three-strand braid from the same hide and is very soft and supple.

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The crescent and shells are stitched with real buckskin (not commercially made) in keeping with the authenticity of this bag. It is the perfect size for a day in the wilderness, beach, or at a festival. It is beautiful enough to work as an everyday Bohemian purse in town. I have made several of these over the years and they have always been the envy in any crowd.  Wanna look like the coolest Shaman on the block?  This bag will get you there.

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The edge is bound for stiffness to hold its shape.

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Specifications:

  • Length – 7″ (17.75cm) long
  • Width –  5″ (12.75) wide
  • 4″ (10 cm) fringe
  • Strap length – 58″ (147 cm) to hang low on the hip

If you are looking for the perfect gift for the outdoorsy Lady or Gent, we are here to help you out.  Our new webstore will be filling up as we learn our way through the Matrix.  In the mean time, check us out at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LostWorldCrafts

Frugal Friday ~1917

Another gem from Erin O’Reilly’s blog.

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Convivial Supper

Happy Friday, all! Made it through another week. I was in the car the other day with The Boy and we heard a public service message about food waste. Did you know:

Consumers are responsible for more wasted food than farmers, grocery stores, restaurants, or any other part of the food supply chain, so changing household behavior is key to reducing the problem of food waste. 21 percent of the food each person buys goes to waste, with the average American family of four spending $1,800 per year on food that they don’t eat and each individual tosses about 20 pounds of food per month, adding up to 238 pounds of wasted food a year.

The Ad Council put together this video on the life and times of a strawberry, a product that’s near and dear to my local heart.

Now, our family is as guilty as the next. Leftovers…

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Ida Tarbell says:

Here is a great and insightful quote from over on Musclehead’s blog by Ida Tarbel.
“Ida Minerva Tarbell was an American writer, investigative journalist, biographer and lecturer. She was one of the leading muckrakers of the progressive era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and pioneered investigative journalism.”

The Müscleheaded Blog

“If it has taught us anything, it is that our present law-makers, as a body, are ignorant, corrupt and unprincipled; that the majority of them are, directly or indirectly, under the control of the very monopolies against whose acts we have been seeking relief.”

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A Concise History of Home Distillery

I’m sharing this little introduction to home distilling. If you’ve never thought about this before, it may be worth looking into. Enjoy!

Convivial Supper

Distillery.

The science of distillation has been around since 3000 BCE. There are four types of distillation: laboratory, industrial, herbal/perfumery, and food processing. These last two, herbal/perfumery and food processing, are the two we concern ourselves with today.

What Is Distillation?

Distillation is a process of purifying liquids through controlled boiling and condensation. A liquid is converted into a gas/vapour through heat, and then recondensed through cooling to return the vapor to a liquid form.

How Do You Distill?

You’ve probably seen an apparatus called a retort, or alembic, a glass container with a long, bent neck sloping downwards. As the substance heats up, the vapor travels down the neck and cools. A separate container catches the vapor as it returns to a liquid state. Figures III and VII below show two vessels that could be used to distill (1727).

Chemical_Vessels_1727-Alembic-Retort Fig. VII shows a distillation setup. 1727

As you can…

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Cocoa ~1861

A perfect for a wintry day. I agree that once you make the real stuff you’ll not want to go back to the package junk.

Convivial Supper

To Make Cocoa.

Who doesn’t love a mug of hot cocoa in mid-winter? This particular recipe, I believe, is missing a key ingredient: sugar.

I was out of instant hot chocolate the other weekend and was scouring the cupboard for a special breakfast treat for the kids. The Hershey’s powdered baking cocoa has a phenomenal recipe on the label. Will never go back to the instant stuff again: 1/4 cup cocoa powder dissolved into 1/2 cup water whisked and heated in a pot. Add 1/2 cup sugar, 4 cups milk, dash of salt, dash of vanilla. Heat until warm. Rich. Delicious. Amazing. Mrs. Beeton’s version is no doubt equally as delicious, assuming you add sugar. Bitter!

From Mrs. Beeton’s recipe collection c. 1861.

To keeping warm in January!

More Fun Discoveries from Antique Cookbooks

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