How to Make a Shaving Horse

Mike Abbott
Monday, 25th July 2011

Mike Abbott describes how to make a modern shave horse from recycled wood.

After thirty years or more of using shaving horses, the occasion arose to have a total rethink of their design. I had always based my shaving horses on a 1.2 metre (4ft) length of log, about 30cm (1ft) in diameter, but I was aware this is not the sort of thing that most people have lying around the workshop.

For some time I had wanted to come up with a design that used easily obtainable materials – for people without access to woodlands. While recently erecting a new workshop I discovered the effectiveness of using cordless drills to drive modern coachscrews into softwood beams.

I had also spent a few hours that summer chatting to Owen Jones, a swill-basketmaker, while he was sitting astride his shaving horse designed for gripping thin slivers of oak. It had a central arm slotted through a horizontal platform and I had been interested in exploring this design. Despite my lifelong mission to persuade people of the advantages of cleft, unseasoned hardwoods, I ended up with a design made out sawn soft-wood beams. It needed a name and when I used the term 'lumber horse', it rung a bell from my childhood TV viewing – Champion the Wonder Horse – and the name 'Champion the Lumber Horse' has stuck.

Shaving horse plans

It consists mainly of four 2.4 metre (8ft) lengths of sawn, seasoned 100mm x 40mm (4 x 2in) softwood. The only other ingredients are a 50cm (20in) length of roofing batten, a 40cm (16in) length of hazel rod and 35 M6 turbo coach screws, 90mm long (although ordinary screws or nails would be possible but far less fun). It can be made in less than a couple of hours by almost anybody. In future, I intend to use locally grown Western Red Cedar, which should work as well, if not better than the stock from the timber yard. My assistant Tom assures me that a ten minute sortie through the skips along most urban streets would easily yield sufficient raw materials for the job. There are no precise joints needed and the only woodworking skills involved are the ability to wield a hand-saw and a drill.

Mike Abbott runs regular green woodworking and chairmaking courses. He is the author of Living Wood, a book which details many of his improved wood-working devices and projects and more recently Going with the Grain which makes further use of the lumber horse in a modern approach to traditional chair making. Both titles are available from 

For pictures, drawings and step by step instructions, please download the pdf original version of this article. Download Champion the Lumber Horse 

Jim Thomas |
Tue, 26/07/2011 - 06:58
Thank you for the timely input, i wil be giving it a go. I too based my first attempt on the assumption that a heavyish log would be the best way to provide for stability and then realised that once in position most people have enough weight in their bodies to manage that job and that the key to design is good balance. Apart from the obvious convenience of transportation, the light weight has the great advantage of being easily dragged into the shade as time passes, although this may be an irrelevant concern if you are living in Inglan. For those without access to urban skips here is a useful and entertaining clip
voodooalpaca |
Mon, 31/10/2011 - 16:23
Thanks also from me. I've been half planning to build one of these for 18 months, and never got passed the planning stage. The best part being that you have figured all the measurements, the very part which was delaying my project. I didn't use skip wood, but used most of the off cuts which have been knocking about my workshop, or left over / recycled from other projects. It's a sturdy beast! I've only used it to knock up a coulple of wedges - so much easier than the vice! thanks Mike Phill