Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Spoon making 101 - Work holding devices.

If you want to try your hand at spoon carving then the first thing you will need is a way to hold your work while you carve away.  The shaving horse is without a doubt the best tool for the job.  Shaving horses have existed in one form or another for hundreds of years.  There is a seat, a platform and a dumbhead that holds the work down on the platform.  The dumbhead is attached to a foot peddle and pushing down on the peddle brings the dumbhead down to press the piece you are working against the platform.  Simple and efficient.  It is designed for working somewhat long pieces of wood with the draw knife or spoke shave.  In days past most things were made by splitting or riving green wood into sections or billets and then worked down with the draw knife.  Axe handles, wooden hay forks, rakes, basket handles and especially post and rung chair parts.  My shaving horse is sort of special.  Its a combination of a standard horse and a bodger's horse.  Bodgers where people in England who lived out in the woods and made chair parts to sell to Windsor chair makers in towns.  They cut down beech trees, rived them into billets, shaved the billets down and then turned them on spring pole lathes that they built right in the forest.

My shaving horse came from Country Workshops in western North Carolina. A  school for traditional woodworking,  they teach traditional Swedish bowl and spoon carving as well as all manner of chair making.  They have a fantastic tool store where you can get really fine hand tools, many of them handmade by master Swedish smiths.  The horse, which they call a Shaving Mule,  has an adjustable table that helps when working different sized pieces.  A small block of Maple which pivots is mounted between arms connected to the peddle which pivot on a bolt run through the beam of the horse.  If you need to turn the piece just let up pressure on the peddle, turn to the desired position and reapply pressure.  I use mine for shaving the rough billets to rasping and final sanding.  There is a piece of leather glued to one side of the pivot block that helps protect the work piece.  It is an elegantly simple and highly enjoyable thing to use.  The  best $250.00 ever spent and it is an absolute people magnet at shows and demonstrations.  Next time I'll tell you about another device to hold your work as well as the tools you will need.  Here is the link for the Country Workshops store:  www.countryworkshops.org/Store.html


  1. Nice work! I haven't made a mule yet but I hope to sometime soon.

  2. Hi Troy. It will revolutionize your spoon carving.

  3. By the way Troy, I love your figured cherry spoons. Where do you get your wood?

  4. I have my own sawmill and I also cut my own firewood. So I am always on the look out for amazing and unusual wood. Next week I will be cutting walnut that will have the same flame figure as the cherry spoon.

  5. I just posted a new spoon to Etsy and to my blog at


    Let me know what you think.