A Side Order of Shavings

I want to finish up plinth blocks soon, but meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about the gift-giving season. I always seem to enjoy the holidays more when I make gifts.

One of my holiday side projects is a shavehorse, following the design so generously shared by Pete Galbert. David and I have been talking about building one for months now, once we finish some other projects. He’s been anxious for it, though, so I decided to sneak it in as a Christmas gift for him. It’ll give us some flexibility, letting him work on his projects while I work on mine. (He is, after all, a prolific maker of magic wands.)


David is a big fan of Galbert’s “smarthead” design, but I think I’ll make the simpler dumbhead first and if he feels ambitious enough, we’ll retrofit it with a “smarthead” together.

Since I don’t own dedicated chairmaking tools, my first tasks were to make a tapered reamer and a matching rounder. This weekend I made the tapered reamer, following Jennie Alexander’s plan, with a turned stock and a saw blade as a scraper. Alexander’s writing is not the kind you can skim, but I appreciate the generosity with which it’s offered. Case in point: it took me hours to figure out that the scraper blade stuck out both sides of the conical stock. I couldn’t figure out why it mattered whether the blade was tapered in width!

I don’t claim to be anything more than a novice at wood turning, but I’m incredibly lucky to have my grandfather around as a coach. He rescued me last weekend when my rough and pitted tail center threatened to burn away my workpiece. Not only did he demonstrate how to grind the tip of my tail center to reduce the friction, he also sent me home with a cup center that fit this project perfectly. The man is a treasure.

While dialing in the fit of the handle to the stock, I was reminded of why I’m doing this in the first place. We need a shavehorse! (Hopefully David won’t mind sharing his once in a while.) I plan to make it adjustable so he can continue to use it as he grows.

With the stock and handle of the reamer ready, I cut out the scraper blade and sharpened it with a 45 degree bevel and a burr.

my tapered reamer

Next up is a rounder with the corresponding taper, and then it’s time to make the shavehorse. Who knows? Maybe there will be some chairmaking in my future.

A Great Day for Woodworking

Sunday turned out to be a great day in the workshop.

David and I kicked off the day by cleaning up our workshop and getting things rearranged. He’s a great little apprentice. After he cleaned up his piles, I set him up with the push broom while I moved my drill press and sharpening station farther back and moved this rolling cart closer to the workbench. I filled it with planes, liberating my workbench.

rolling cart

I built the cart originally as a rolling base for an intermediate tool cabinet, but earlier this year I inherited my stepfather’s rolling tool chest, leaving this stand floating around without a purpose. The machinist’s chest belonged to my great-grandfather. Maybe someday I’ll get around to restoring it.

I can’t claim that this cart is an efficient storage solution, but it’s better than my workbench. Eventually I plan to build my own Anarchist’s Tool Chest, ditching both the rolling cart and the metal cabinet I use as a sharpening station. The wooden planes store so much more compactly on end, and these shelves are leaving a lot of wasted space.

The metal cabinet is a decent surface for my sharpening stones (I’m an oilstone guy), but the drawer and cabinet below are mostly opportunities for clutter. once I have a proper tool chest, I’ll store my oilstones there and ditch the cabinet. I’ll make some kind of tray to place on my workbench to keep it clean when I sharpen.

sharpening station

With a clean workbench, it was time to plane the core for my tail vise. I got it planed four square at 2-3/4″ thick, only to realize my plan was wrong, and it needed to be 2-7/16″ thick, meaning I needed to waste more than 1/4″ of hard maple. After a workout with my rip saw, I got it four square again. Good practice, I guess.

All of that practice reminded me how much I’m going to appreciate my tail vise, and also how much I need a saw bench. Luckily, while I was getting all of this practice, David was making our “someday maybe list” of projects, and he made sure to add a saw bench.

At some point after planing the end grain for one end of my vise core, I got sidetracked putting my miter box back together (I’m pretty sure it was when I measured the workpiece and found I had 1/4″ to trim from it). This led to dragging sawhorses from storage, using a circular saw to cut a 4″ wide piece of 1/2″ plywood for the table of the miter box, and remembering why I like hand tools in the first place: fine dust particles. Hand tools don’t make them. And, aside from the circular saw, the loudest noise in my shop today was the box fan in the window.

my miter box

Hooray for the miter box! Soon I need to make a platform for it with a cleat, so it doesn’t wander across the workbench while I’m sawing.

After dinner, I got a chance to meet up with Greg, who had some cool Stanley bevel-edge socket chisels set aside for me. The backs of the chisels flattened pretty nicely, and they look right at home in the tool cabinet.


It was one of those fine, rare days when I get to lose myself in the work. And yes, I forgot to eat lunch.