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.