First post 2021!

Happy new years! here’s hoping!

First thing this year I am hoping to set up this site to be able to sell the odds and ends that I make for craft shows..

So there are some minor changes in the pipeline..

I’m drawing some plans for various crafting equipment. I’ve decided to ask for donations rather than charge for access to them. I will post them Here as well as other places on the internet. I’m thinking I should also make up directions/instructions for the builds… we’ll see how I feel 😉

I am always delighted to make said equipment for some crafter, but there is a delight in making your own too!

Up for consideration! logo’s ! every one has to have a good logo now! I’ve come up with:

I like the second and third best… debating if the third looks best round or pulled into an ellipse.

be well

stay safe

update 1/11/21

Last post (here) of 2020

While this year has been a downer for some and a good year for a few… We have survived comfortably.

The isolation has been an added weight to my mind, yet I always spend most of my time alone any how… (wife at work, kid at school, friends far away)

I have done a lot too: learned 2 new chairs, got the shingle making at Ft Mifflin off the ground, still looking for more white oak of course, re organized my work area at least twice, still not happy with it… , made some tools, should have made more, Didn’t start Tai Chi, didn’t pick up the banjo, didn’t get enough exercise…

It’s been a rough year, but rougher for other people.

I am grateful that most of my friends are well or have otherwise survived the year. I am grateful for Judy and for Greg. And for having a dry an warm place to live and work.

I’m sort of feeling “I love you all” drunk, but I haven’t been drinking…

stay safe, stay well, and please wear your masks in public.


Broom Making “Machines”

Hi: so I have a long abiding fondness for making and repairing the tools that other crafts-persons use to make their crafts. I have made 4 pottery wheels, repaired at least 6 spinning wheels, repaired one “barn loom”, etc…

So recently I started looking at other crafts that extensively use wooden tools… I came across Broom Making…

There is a variety of tools or “machinery” that broom makers might use. And while I can readily find plans online for pottery wheels, woodworking benches, shaving horses, looms, spinning wheels, glassblowing bats, etc. I find NO plans or instructions for new broom makers to make their equipment (nor for me to do it for them 😉 ).

I Did find some really good sketches though, and I contacted the artist/broom maker to ask for dimensions so that I can draw them up proper! He said he would get them to me…

But for preliminary sketches I now have these waiting on accurate measurements to refine them:

And So soon I hope to be able to post plans to make some of these to the internet!

I’ll keep updating this: so stay tuned 😉

be well

stay well


About 35 years ago getting a new inshave was… Not impossible, but expensive and hard to find.

So I took this old damaged drawknife, stuck it in my forge. And I bent it… I pulled it out and let it cool… And the blade was too hard to file to adjust the bevel…

So I’ve never hardened or heat treated it. It holds an edge well, so I expect I never will…

Be well

Making Tools: Workbenches (partial)

Warning!!! Stream of Consciousness ramblings about workbenches and how I use them! Proceed with Caution!

I cannot think of anything to say about workbenches that hasn’t already been said, and said better by other people. Tolpin and Schwarz both wrote books specifically about workbenches, they are good books. you should read them too. and just about every text on woodworking from Moxon to Hasluck and beyond has at least something to say about workbenches.

In my mind there are 2 basic requirement for all benches.

  1. they don’t bounce when you pound on them (mortising)
  2. they don’t “walk” or slide on the floor when you push on them (hand planing)

An ideal bench would be solid live oak, 30″ x 30″ x 120″. it isn’t going move at all.

Being able to hold your work on them is secondary since it can be accomplished with other tools (see: clamps, “Moxon vise” etc)

Some people view the workbench as a big clamp/work holding device, they aren’t wrong. But I mostly think of it as a woodworkers’ anvil, if it moves or bounces around it’s a failure.

nearly 25 years ago I slapped together a fast and sketchy workbench to facilitate building the kitchen in my house. it met the top two requirements, and holding devices have evolved on it… but I made the top out of 3 layers of flooring grade particle board, which are showing signs of getting softer. and the base is 3 x 4 pallet stickers and plywood, it sags in the center now (I put shims under it to keep the top nearly flat.)


So 25 years ago, I slapped this together promising myself a really nice shaker type bench in 4 or 5 years… yeah, didn’t happen.

Those Shaker benches look really nice, but how I use a bench does not fit with having the space under the bench filled with drawers. Insead of getting more sophisticated over the years I have gotten more and more archaic. Phasing out the power tools and bringing in more hand tools. more and more how it was done 200, 300, 500 years ago… I’m not yet willing to go all the way to Egyptian bronze age tools though… lol

I have been thinking a lot on this lately what with the shop getting rearranged etc., and I realised that there is an obvious reason for why I always seem to have some difficulty working “at home” as opposed to in shops… it’s the set up. at home I have a bench on the wall “in front of” me while I work. In the shops I had a bench like table behind me against the wall, and a bench in front of me that I worked on… that bench was always a KD affair. Something that can easily be gotten out of the way, frequently by getting hung up on the wall… (ask me about trestles and strongbacks)

the point is that the bench behind me was mostly for keeping my tools off the floor. And the other one I did most of my work on. I did have a vise on the one behind me… but it rarely got used.

I’m seeing now that I keep setting up saw horses to work on, while my back is to my “workbench” which is covered with tools and partial projects.

So maybe this old bench “stays” to keep my tools off the floor and I put another bench in the middle of the room. The “room” (cellar) is 15 feet wide. this old bench takes up 2.5′. leaving 12.5 feet… but the new air ducts on the opposite side take up 4′ of head space, leaving 8′ in the middle… so I think maybe a small bench like Curtis Buchanan‘s little 28″ x 30″ chair making bench might right…

Be well

Stay safe

Make a Democratic Chair class with Elia Bizzarri and Curtis Buchanan

Red Oak split out for Democratic Chair class

Oct 10

Last weekend I was antsy about taking this class so I started splitting out some stock early.

Now I’m even worse. They could have told us how to make the templates in the email (I’m going to suggest that). Now my brain is demanding that I have got to get outside and make all of the straight parts!! But it’s time to make supper! 😉

I acquired this wood @ 3 months ago. and you can see by the photos that the sapwood is already too spalted to use, and that except for @ 1/4″ on the exposed faces it’s still sopping wet.

spalted sap wood
dry on the outside

Tomorrow I will turn that stack into chair parts.

Nov 2

Update: December 2

Class is going well, I got my travishers tuned up better… But we won’t use it. 😅 Leg mortises and tenons are all set. So are the outer 2 back rails.

This year so far.

I promised myself I’d keep posting at least once a month if not once a week this year… Apparently not happening.

Back in June I finally got a log of white oak (chinkapin oak specifically) for the roof shingle making project. The Ft Mifflin forge’s roof is in bad shape.

And I also acquired a red oak log at the same time.

So I started a pair of JA chairs.

And on Saturday I’m taking an online class taught by Elia Bizzari and Curtis Buchanan. The class is the first in a series for making Curtis’s “Democratic Chair”. Stay tuned for comments on the class…

Due to the covid pandemic, I had cancelled all classes and craft shows/fairs that I was going to do. And the wildlife refuge has shut the visitor’s center.

So I am actually left with too much time and dithering over what to do next.

But first I should finish the JA Chairs

Be well, stay safe


Experimenting with recording myself

To start with: I should fire the production manager, the cameraman, the sound man, and the lead actor… And all of the post production crew!

But then what would I do?

I used to think that knowing how to make things was enough.

So now if I want to make videos of my work I need to learn to be a cameraman, soundman, script writer, and actor… wish me luck

Testing one one

Two two testing two

One Two Three ____ *!?”#@

There is a lot to not like about this. My voice, clearing my throat, stage manager not making sure the script, stage, and all of the props are ready before we start (fire him too).

Greg (11 yrs old) was learning Photoshop and PowerPoint in school this year. Maybe I can hire him in a year or so to help with this.

It seems as though spending my life learning about and teaching about woodworking was misspent. I see young persons who barely know woodworking making slick videos about woodworking… I should have learned video editing instead 😉.

So there they are in all their pre-production gory, I mean glory. Incidental noises, nothing really prepped… I hope you find it mildly amusing. If I can get it cleaned up some with an editor and maybe a voice over I’ll put it in a post about making this triangle stool when it’s done.

Be well


Isolation time

You’d think that with all of this “spare” time I’d spend more time writing here.

Judy is home but working full time. Greg is home and not working.

And I’m still trying to straighten out the mess in my workspace. I gave myself till the end of April for that, so I’m still right in track.

Here are some pictures of stuff I’ve been doing to get it out of the way.

New Bodger’s horse

Sorting auger bits for keepers and rehoming.

More on the shaving horses, I’m making 2 right now.

Electrolysis rust removal.

The new bench setup

A shop helper all worn out from checking for crickets and mice.

Thomas Latane planing stop finally installed.

Raised the indoor hacking stock on rocket fin legs.

somewhat improved my spokeshave rack.

Be well, stay safe.

Shaving Horse Design, a unitized approach.

First off: making a shaving horse is easy peasy. Don’t over think it or over engineer it. Exact measurements are not as important as making it work for you. and if you make one and it doesn’t work right, change it, rip it apart, rebuild it, burn it at a weekend bonfire and start over… but don’t sweat it.

I have been collecting pictures of shaving horses and drawing them (in SketchUP) for more than a decade. And I am noticing that there are several basic units used, mixed, or remixed to make all of them.

First; what is a “shaving horse?” Well, it’s the original speed clamp! Push with your foot to clamp, let up to release and turn the work around.

It’s an ancient speed clamp. The first illustration of one is in “De Re Metallica” (the whole art of mining). why in a mining manual?… most of mining is wood work, props beams to make sure the roof doesn’t fall in, buckets, barrows, cranes, water pumps, all made out of wood.

oldest shaving horse

Let’s start with the base, the whole reason they are called “horse” or “mule” in their various iterations.

There are base structures, that I am going to call “Slab” and “Beam”. (Or bowl but I’ll get to that later).

A Slab is a 1.5″ to 2″+ thick slice of wood 5″ wide (at least) and at a minimum usually 4′ long. Legs on a slab are usually made to go into a drilled socket and may be removable. The socket may be tapered also.

shave horse bodger's

A beam seems to be a somewhat more recent innovation that allows one to utilize “standard” construction lumber to build one’s horse. These horses tend to look more modern yet are every bit as useful and versatile as more traditional horses.

shaving horse folding

So these bases are pretty much interchangeable design wise. But if you are starting with logs to make your shaving horses, the slab type is easiest or least work, if you are starting with dimensioned lumber the beam type is easiest.

The working or clamping head has several variations depending upon region of origin or work being held.

There is the Bodger’s type, with 2 vertical members and a foot cross piece, a pivot pin and the clamping cross piece. see previous 2  illustrations.

And a center post type favored by Northern Europeans like the German dumbhead or dumbkopf. Which can be carved out of one log or made up from several parts.

shaving horse mine

The bodger’s type can’t hold anything wider than the table, but also holds long things really well. The center post type holds wide short things well and can hold longer things along the sides of the post.

The clamping part on the bodger’s is usually made so that it rotates and has 4 gripping faces to choose from. This allows the maker to have cut outs or different face materials on each face.

The clamping head on a dumbhead only has the one clamping face which is more like an edge and may leave dents/clamp marks in the work.

The work table is where the work is clamped down on. The bodger’s style has less range (open to close) than the dumbhead style so it is usually made with a table that can be raised up and down by the simple expediency of a pivot at the far end and a wedge under the work that slides or rotates to raise and lower the near end. Both types are frequently made with 2 pivot points in the uprights for more extreme openings. The dumbhead usually has a fixed table since the clamping range made available by having the clamping face stick out from the upright is greater.

While designing your shaving horse make sure that the table of either type keeps the work and the drawknife up above your knees, if you should happen to work with only one foot on the pedal and your knee is up too high (in relation) then it is in danger. I like 21 or 22″ for the height of the sitting surface.

Other heads that can be made to swap out or be on their own bases are things like the spoon mule, a saddlers cramp, a bowl clamp. Etc. use your imagination! That is what it’s  for!

I have been using a northern German type for most of 30 years now. The construction is simple.

Get a slab or 2 x 6 at least 48″ long. Shorter than that doesn’t seem to work well. I have seen these made up to 9′ (108″) long in order to get the table angle right.

Bore 2 holes for legs at the end you will sit on. 20 degrees back and 20 out for stability.

The other end can have one or two legs (if one, angle it just 20 degrees forwards).

@ 6″ closer to you (where you sit) bore a 2″ diameter hole, and another one 12″ closer than that. Remove the material between these holes.

The work table can be 18 to 22″ long, make a corresponding slot in it.

On my actual horse the near part of the table is propped up  about 7″. and the far end is propped up@ 3″ (a 2 x 4). and I sit on a piece of 2 x 12 that rides on the bench.

The workpiece is aimed upwards at a nice angle toward my sternum. The pivot point is in the table far enough back to give @ 2″ of table in front of the clamp. And it is in the pivot bar closer to you than center so that “at rest” the clamp head opens on it’s own.

For the bodgers type clamp mechanism; You can split a branch for the two uprights or use 2 pieces of 2 x 4, shave dowels for the foot and pivot, and carve the clamp head or turn it on a lathe. The pivot pin wants to be loose (1″ hole and @ 7/8″ dowel). And the clamping head needs to be able to rotate.

you will notice the pivot point of the Bodgers bench is down in the slab or beam. And you should notice that the table of it is hinged at its far end and uses a block of wood that slides under it to adjust its height and angle.

so it’s sort of: pick a base and pick a clamping mechanism and put them together!

here are some sketches of other types of shaving horses that I have encountered:

shaving horses


shaving horse different


work benches

relax, throw one together, re work the parts you don’t like.

be well

PS addit: you can see in that last illustration that there are many variations. a couple worth noting are the bowl horse, a recent innovation by the bowl carver David Fisher.

bowl horse

and the spoon mule, another of recent origin but I do not know who came up with this one. this is operated by pressing the long sticks outwards with your feet/legs and they clamp on a spoon where they stick out above the table (sort of like a giant pair of pliers mounted in a table).

spoon mule