Making a Folding Shave Horse

Before becoming an apprentice instructor, I like many others who choose to take this path, may have attended a number of courses with Woodland Ways. One of those courses for me was the Bow making course. After crafting my own bow, I was hooked and so I decided I needed to make myself a shave horse to continue the passion. I could have made a simple frame that would hold the bow stave however after doing a little research I decided a folding, sit on horse was what I really wanted to do.

The design I had chosen is based loosely around the MaFeSan shave horse and there are a number of places where this can be found online. I was trying to do this on a budget so my first task was to gather together any offcuts and suitable pieces of wood that when pulled together would create what I wanted.

Setting out the shave horse

The main backbone frame for the horse consisted of two 4×2 timber offcuts that I rescued from a pile of wood destined for a bonfire and a number of 2×2 sections that would be used for the legs.

Setting the front leg

The two 4x2s were set parallel with blocks placed between them, the remaining gaps between the two main sections had three functions, the first was to allow the single front leg to fold up between (see above), the second was to allow height adjustment and a guide for the working platform and the third was to locate the sliding seat. More on those later.

To make this a stable platform it would have three legs, the first, as you can see folds up into the frame, but the two rear legs would splay out from the rear of the horse. They would sit in slots and would clamp in place with threaded bar and wing nuts allowing them to be folded down.

Two rear legs in position for a stable platform

The rear legs were positioned in place and then it was a case of cutting to the correct length. Placing packing under the feet until the horse was level then allowed marking out cut lines around the legs. To do this a pencil in a block of wood was used on all three legs and finally they were trimmed to the lines.

Marking out the legs

With the basic platform complete, attention then turned to the adjustable platform on which the bow stave would sit. Two more offcuts were used, one as a platform and the other to guide and prop the platform at the correct angle.

Adjustable platform

An old door hinge was fitted at the lower end and notches were added along the guide to facilitate different angles of the platform. A length of hazel was then used to support the guide at the notches. A surplus kitchen shelf was used for the seat, and it was cut and sanded to give a comfortable shape. Another block was attached under the seat between the two rails allowing for-aft sliding adjustment.

Kitchen shelf makes a nice seat

The final component was the ladder frame that would be used to clamp the bow stave in place. A couple of bits of pallet wood and some old bits of dowl were all that were needed for this task.

R-clips and cut down anchor bolts

To allow adjustment for different thicknesses of wood a quick release mechanism was required. After rummaging through my shed I came up with the idea of R-clips and cut down anchor bolts. The tapered section at the end was perfect for the clips to locate on.

The ladder frame fully assembled.
Here is the completed shave horse all ready for action.

This was a really fun project using wooden offcuts and bits and pieces I found in my shed. If you get the opportunity to attend the bow making course, I would highly recommend it, but be warned it is highly addictive and you may find yourself coming back to this blog to make your own shave horse.


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