|The shaving horse.|
My horse looks similar to a traditional dumbhead style shaving horse, but the design offers increased holding power and better ergonomics than many of the other horses that I have used. If you have ever had the wind knocked out of you by a piece of wood slipping from the jaws and slamming into your stomach, read on! The clamping geometry of this horse and the reduced racking of the swing arm keep your workpiece in the jaws and away from your sternum.
The horse consists of four components; the base, the platform, the swing arm, and the seat. Dimensional southern yellow pine lumber is the material of choice for this horse. It is rigid, relatively light, affordable, and just hard enough for all of the components. Also if you are willing to sort through the pile, you can buy nearly perfect, knot free boards. Medium soft hardwoods like tulip poplar would also work well.
|Shaving horse base.|
|Rear leg detail.|
|The business end.|
|Forearms form a straight line that is continuous with the workpiece.|
More than a 15 degree work platform slope starts to feel awkward to me and greater angles also reduce the gripping power of the jaws. For an arrangement of optimal holding power the platform should be parallel with the jaw of your horse. In fact, if I were making this horse again I would either make the platform parallel to the rails, or angle the head of my swing arm to match the slope of the platform.
|Laminated platform assembly.|
Notice the orientation of the growth rings on the outer laminations. The pieces are oriented so that they cup away from the swing arm. If the wide boards cup (which they will) and they are oriented with the pith side of the board to the outside of the lamination they will pinch the swing arm and prevent it from swinging. No fun at all.
Some shaving horse users like to leave their horses outside in the rain and snow. The tighter tolerances of this horse will not fair so well in those conditions. This is an inside horse when the weather turns foul. Repeated soaking and drying will make the fit of the swing arm sloppy and increase the racking of the head from side to side. The more the head racks when you press on the treadle, the harder you have to push to hold your workpiece securely.
|Swing arm and treadle.|
|Adjustment holes and groove.|
Shaving horses have better holding power the closer the height of the head is adjusted to the workpiece. For the greatest power, the head should be in the lowest position that the thickness of the workpiece allows. Simplifying the pin mechanism encourages more frequent adjustment of the head.
|Adjusting the head.|
|Pinned head joint.|
|Literally a pain in the butt.|
With all of this clamping power optimization, both the work platform and the head of the shaving horse need some form of padding to prevent them from denting the wood being so firmly held. I lined both with thick leather.
Expect more entries about this shaving horse design in the near future. A good friend of mine is coming to build one with me next weekend, which will provide a great opportunity for me to offer more specific dimensions and construction details for this style of shaving horse.