Friday, May 29, 2015

Combining a Shaving Horse and Bowl Carving Bench - My "Mk III" Shaving Horse.

I've got about 8 shaving horses, which I use for running public workshops. I had previously made a batch of shaving horses from packing crate material and other recycled wood, which I did a post about  in July 2014.
Since then I have made another version, like a super-modified saw horse. Let's call it the Mk II - a multifunctional shaving horse and bowl carving horse combo. My favourite horse, it is about 7 feet long, has fixed legs, and a heavy vise built into the tail of the bench. All this limits its portability.
Some of the original shaving horses, English Bodger style on the left and Dumbhead style on the right.

The Mk II Shaving Horse / Carving bench combo. A beautiful beast - with a tail vise!
The Mk II has fixed legs, as it is a supermodified saw horse at it's core. Being all jarrah, it is heavy. It is very versatile in its holding capacity, but there are times when it is too big or tricky to transport. 

I was invited by Timbecon to demonstrate Green Woodworking at the Brisbane "Timber & Working with Wood" Show on 15-17 May 2015. With my gear needing to be transported three thousand kilometres across the continent, I had the need to make a portable and versatile bench fairly quickly to catch the truck. Hence the Mk III was conceived. I was going to Brisbane, as the Mk II was not going to be friendly to ship on a pallet of stuff.

OK, so lets make a shaving horse combo which will be easier to ship. This means its got to have folding or removable legs...

Deciding on the Characteristics of the Mk III.Shaving Horse.
I built my first shaving horse, Mr Smiley, at the legendary Roy Underhill's Woodwright's School in North Carolina in late 2013. This was a classic "dumb-head" style, made entirely by hand from timber we mostly extracted from the forest using cross-cut saw and axe, then fashioned with side axe, adze, shaving horse, draw knife, brace and bit, etc. Amid the stable of horses at Roy's, there were a couple of shaving horses of the English Bodger's style. I particularly liked this style.
Me using Mr Smiley. I left him in Roy Underhill's Woodwright's School stable. 
Mr Smiley, with embedded Australian $2 coins for eyes. 

Horse-cam. Making Mr Smiley's walnut legs on an English Bodger's style shaving horse at Roy's.
Not sure why, but I seem to prefer the English Bodger's style of Shaving Horse. Hence the Mk II and Mk III were both made in this style.

Veritas Tools used to have free Shaving Horse plans available on their website, which I saw before planning the Mk II. One of the things which caught my eye was the use of the back end of the bench/seat for additional holding options. Now there was an idea...

When doing bowl carving, I have been using a very low wide-topped saw horse which has dog holes in its top for gripping he bowl blanks. What if these functions were built into the back end of a shaving horse? When I made the Mk II, I even installed a big vise in the back end of the bench. Awesome.

As the Mk III was to be portable, I would make the horse a little shorter than the MkII, put a twin row of dog holes in the bench for bowl carving, and not install the vise (which would add a lot to the weight).

Of course, it would be made from recycled wood. I happened to have a couple of ancient house beams, of Oregon (known outside Australia as Douglas Fir). I docked one of these to length, dressed the stick, and bored dog holes in it. It would be a nice solid bench/seat. Jarrah would be used for the legs, treadle frame, the ramp, and the bench accessories. The legs would fold, and be held flat to the bench when packed flat, using a couple of coach screws. To put up the legs, undo the coach screws, fold the legs out, and wind in the same coach screws in at the base of the struts. Solid as a rock.

The horse/bench folded flat, with all the accessories.

Fold up the legs, and wind in the coach screw at the base of the prop.
The assembled shaving horse. A rotating head on the treadle frame.
Variability with 3 hole positions in the bench, and 3 holes in the treadle frame.
Rotating head, and a sliding support block under the ramp.
Bowl holding on edge. The foot vise is fantastic. You sit behind the end post.
A couple of sets of folding wedges and side blocks.
Great gripping power when adzing out bowls.
Holdfasts go well for holding work too.
Not a bad beast. Solid, reliable, and versatile.
It's also much easier to ship and to pack away than the Mk II.
You still need a small box to hold the bolts, head, and accessories.
The Mk III takes about 5 minutes to assemble, creating a very solid saving horse, bowl carving bench, and general low bench. ... I do miss that tail vise though!

I love the way ideas evolve...
The Mk III was test driven for the first time at the Brisbane Wood Show. A nice horse too.
The film crew from QUT did a story around my demo area.
Here you can see the Mk III in action, ridden by Bernie the Journo.
This pic gives an idea of the size of the horse.

Don't worry, I am already thinking about the possible characteristics of the Mk IV!!
The buzz-"phrase is "Continuous Improvement", isn't it?

It is exciting that so many people are interested in Green Woodworking.

As a consequence I have been contacted by an overwhelming number of people seeking more info and measurements for the Mk III Combined Shaving and Bowl Carving Bench.
You will be pleased to learn that I will have detailed plans for sale in the near future, soon after the upcoming launch of my website. Yes! A proper website after all these years! This should be on line before Christmas 2017. There will be other plans available too, and other resources, as I am always cooking up new devices, like my new Tilting Bowl Carving Bench. 

Here are a few pics of the prototype. A couple of tweaks and small changes, and this awesome device will also be up on the new website with plans available for sale.  

The bowl blank is held between the two end stops by a pair of folding wedges.

The Tilting Bowl Carving Bench has 4 angle positions in which your bowl blank can be held.
Flat (0 degrees), 30 degrees, 45 degrees and 60 degrees. 

Work raised in the 60 degree position. It also can be held at 45, 30, and 0 degrees (flat, as per the previous pic)

In the flat position it is also good for paring with your gouges after the adze work.

Remember, Folks, plans for the MkIII Shaving Horse (a combined Shaving Horse and Bowl Carving Bench) and the Tilting Bowl Carving Bench will both be be available soon just after the launch of our new web site - along with other plans, plus lots of free information and inspiration to help you on your green woodworking journey.

I just love to share the joy of traditional woodworking with others.
Wood is a gift from the trees. Honour the trees by making beautiful things from them.

Greg Miller, Perth, Western Australia.  31 October 2017.   

Note: the plans are now available to purchase. They are quite comprehensive, being 9 A3 pages made up of scale drawings and some photos, but you can always print them out in A4 if you wish. Available in pdf format, the cost is AUD$50, which in the current exchange rate is approx US$37. To all those who have been waiting, my sincere apologies. I had hoped the plans would be available on my hew website, but this is not yet operational.

To purchase these plans, please email me and right now Paypal would be the easiest way to go, until the E-commerce site is up and running. Sorry about any inconvenience!
Kind regards,


Love that Double Spring Pole Lathe!

It all started when I did the Woodcraft Week with Roy Underhill in North Carolina in November 2013. I saw and tried Roy's Double Spring Pole Lathe.

Roy Underhill at work on his Spring Pole Lathe.
Roy's lathe knocks down and all fits into a golf bag! It was the first time I had seen a pole lathe in action, and I knew I would have to make one when I returned to Australia. Of course I had seen many pics of the English style with the massive long poles, but this version, which Roy says he found in a 17th Century German Technical manual, is more compact. Nice one...

So I made two of the Roy-type double spring pole lathes at the same time - all made from recycled timber. I made them in time for a green woodworking workshop I was running in September 2014. Sometimes a deadline helps to ensure things get done! Over a period of about 3 weeks, doing a little bit each day, I managed had complete the two lathes  - just in time for the workshop.

Doing a demo on the new lathes, Sept 2014. With Foot Pedal Version I, like Roy's.
Making the Lathes.
I had found a copy of the plan for Roy's Spring Pole Lathe on the internet. ((Months later I would find the plans in his book: "The Woodwrights Guide - Working Wood with Wedge and Edge", (2008)

So I set about finding the material for the components. As I am very committed to wood recycling, I used a combination of pre-used material as follows:
  • Yellow Pine from the USA, ex. packing crates, for the beds, tool rests, and lower spreaders.
  • Some unknown Northern Hemispherical pine-type softwood ex. packing crates from the UK, for the top lever arms, and the foot pedals.
  • Some unknown Northern Hemispherical pine-type softwood ex.packing crates from Belgium, for the feet.
  • Jarrah ex. building salvage for the uprights, bed wedges, poppets (tail stocks), and tool rest platforms.
In addition the following new timber was used:
  • Tassie Oak 1" dowelling for the spring poles, the tool rest posts, and for the round peg wedges on the ends of the lower stretchers.
The Hardware used:
  • Too much ZP steel in the 3/8" nuts, bolts and washers ... Oh for a friendly blacksmith!
  • Old square headed bolts from an ancient bed frame, for the tailstock centres.
  • Woven nylon cord, for the drive cord etc. 
  • Galvanised 4" nails, bent, as pegs for the spring poles. 

I'm taller than Roy, so I made my lathes about 8" taller. The lever arms are a little longer too. The tool rest is a bit more like that off a powered lathe, too. it works very nicely.

Dovetailed joint of bed to uprights, pulled up with jarrah wedges.
There are several ways jointing the uprights to the bed. I opted to do a dovetailed variation, where the top of the bed is flat, and the wedges driven in along this help to pull up the bottom dovetail while completing the top dovetail. Great for a knock-down construction.

Round tapered pegs pull up the joints for the lower stretcher. 

The main spring pole is held in the static end with a bent 4" nail pin each side of the upright. 

Starting with a hexagonal/roughed round blank. Foot Pedal Version II - with hinged board.

The finished product... a low stool's leg. Tenon left slightly oversize until required for use.
The nylon drive cord has gotta go! Looking for a leather one...
Foot pedal Version II - attached to a hinged board.

I have used the lathes at several workshops, and many people at my home had had a go. When using the lathe for the first time, the single board type treadle is very tricky for people to use while simultaneously getting the foot action going smoothly as well as the tool subtlely moving in and out. There's lots going on, and in a workshop environment, there isn't a lot of time for people to put it all together. Hence Version II, which made it a bit easier for beginners, and then Version III foot pedal which has made a huge difference.

Ready for a demo at the West Australian Woodturners Association,
with the current Foot Pedal Version III - hinged on a sliding platform.
Version III Foot Pedal, though big, works like a dream with beginners. The platform, to which the Y-shaped foot pedal is hinged, slides along a big dowel which is housed into each of the lathe's feet. This removes any tilting action out of the lathe body, caused by the lateral pull of the longer foot pedal. The longer pedal gives a bigger rotating action. Beautiful. By sliding the platform along its dowel, you can shift the position of the drive cord on the workpiece.

A nice drive cord! Leather skipping rope.
At my local flea market a couple of months ago, I was stoked to find a leather skipping rope for sale for $3. Fantastic! At last I have a leather drive cord! After removing the handles, the length proved to be just perfect. Awesome! Now I need to find 3 more of these, to remove all nylon cord from the 2 lathes...

I was demonstrating Green Woodworking skills for Timbecon recently at the Brisbane Timber and Working with Wood Show. Along with a shaving horse, chopping block and heaps of tools and wood, I had my Double Spring Pole Lathe there. Doing demos on this was always a crowd magnet. People were fascinated by the action of my 18th Century lathe, which would have been cutting edge German engineering in its day!
Doing a demonstration in Brisbane.
 It was fun doing demos, and of course I like to invite punters from the crowd to come and have a go. This includes people from the Turning fraternity who were at the Show.
Here is a short clip of the one of the volunteers having a go:

My lathe is a joy to use... and a work in progress as I seek to make it more authentic. The leather drive cord was a step in the right direction.

Two nice sets of Cape Lilac stool legs, turned on the lathe.
Sometimes I just use it to turn tenons on shaved legs.
   Sometime soon I hope to make a kids sized double spring pole lathe. Yep. Kids sized.
Meanwhile, I love my lathe, and look forward to doing demos with it at the Sydney Timber & Working with Wood Show, in a few weeks time.

Roy, thanks for inspiring me (and so many other people) with this beautiful compact lathe.