From the editor Sawdust
A few months ago, I received a visit from Ted Kralicek, the retired creative director for Woodsmith. For over 35 years, Ted designed and built many of the projects that have appeared in Woodsmith. After retiring, he moved to Bentonsport, a historic river town in southeast Iowa. Ted has recently set up a woodworking shop in an old building, where he teaches and does demonstrations of 19th-century woodworking. As part of these demonstrations, Ted designed and built his own shavehorse. (That’s Ted in period costume with his shavehorse in the photo above.)
If you’re not familiar with the shavehorse (sometimes called a shaving horse) it’s a traditional work-holding device used by chairmakers and other green wood furniture makers to hold stock while shaping it with a drawknife or spokeshave. Although there are different variations, they all have one basic feature in common — you straddle the device as if you were riding a horse and apply clamping pressure to the workpiece using your feet.
There’s some debate among woodworkers as to the effectiveness of the shavehorse. Well-known Windsor chairmaker Mike Dunbar is of the opinion that the shavehorse is an inefficient tool for holding chair parts. He argues that working from a sitting position doesn’t allow you to use all your muscle groups together or move around the workpiece very easily.
On the other side of the issue, there are a number of shavehorse users who are committed to keeping traditional methods of chairmaking alive. Now, I don’t have a dog in this shavehorse fight. But I’ll agree that there’s something quaint and appealing about the notion of sitting down at a shavehorse to turn out chair legs and spindles. It harkens back to a slower, simpler time. So, when Ted showed me the drawings for his shavehorse, I thought it would make an interesting project for Woodsmith.
Naturally, once you’ve made your shavehorse, the next question is what you’ll make with it. Which is why we’ve also included plans for a shop stool in this issue (page 40). The legs and stretchers of this stool were all shaped at the shavehorse, using a drawknife and a spokeshave.
Finally, I’m happy to announce that Pam Mapes has recently joined us here at