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What is a Shave Horse?

By B. Turner
Updated May 17, 2024
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The shave horse is one of the most important pieces of equipment used in green woodworking. During green woodworking, craftsmen transform logs into lumber, furniture, or other goods. The shave horse serves as a simple vise to hold the wood in place as the user works. This specialty work bench got its name because of the way users sit astride the workbench as they would a horse. It also has a shape rather like a horse, with the vise mechanism resembling the head of a horse.

A standard shave horse resembles a simple wooden bench, and is approximately the height of a chair or bench. A sloped shelf sits along one end of the bench, and a wooden cross bar connects the bench to the top of the shelf. The bottom of the cross bar mechanism acts as a footrest for the user as he sits at the bench. When the craftsman presses his feet into the footrest, the top of the cross bar clamps down on the wooden object like a vise.

Users can easily adjust the shave horse to hold objects of varying sizes simply by changing the pressure on the foot rest. Some benches also feature pegs to adjust the height of the sloping shelf to accommodate different types of objects. While store-bought shave horses are available, many woodworkers naturally choose to make their own models out of lumber or green wood.

While the average shave horse can adjust to handle different types of wood, some workers may require a specialty shave horse when working with larger objects. The Black Forest style of this workbench features a second bench placed on top of the first. This second bench allows the user to work with large pieces of wood, and also creates added leverage to hold the object more tightly in place.

Traditional woodworkers used shave horses to shave freshly cut logs. This may involve removing the bark to prep the log for further work, or cutting and shaping the wood to form an object. These workers often used a draw knife to pull bark or wood shavings off of the wood.

Today, craftsmen use a variety of tools when working on a shave horse. They may rely on traditional draw knives, as well as modern power tools. Some use these benches for wood turning or carving sculptures, furniture, and other items. Finally, the shave horse may be used to prepare unseasoned lumber for further finishing on a wood-turning lathe.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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