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 www.green-shopping.co.uk.
For pictures, drawings and step by step instructions, please download the pdf original version of this article. Download Champion the Lumber Horse