Introduction: 'Shave Mouse' Aka Revisited Shave Horse

About: Failure is not the opposite of success, it's part of success.

It's been a while since my last posts on the site. In the meantime I went on a few other projects, reviewed personal priorities, thought deeply about a lot of nonsense, discovered a lof of new beers and continued my dugout canoe.

Now that this one really starts looking like a canoe I'm paddling the project a bit further. The canoe is one thing, though, the future crossing of the Channel - and the invasion of England - another. Additional hardware will be needed, for example. Banks to sit on, an outrigger for more stability, safety gear, and also paddles.

Making paddles is one of those awesome side-projects of the whole Sooky-thing. Making paddles is just a whole lot of fun. Traditionally these are made with drawknife & spokeshave, in combination with a shave horse.

Shave horses are among the most intriguing devices of ancient woodworkers. They exist since Roman times, apparently, and their design hasn't changed much since then. Not at all, in fact. The shaver sits on a kinda wooden bank and uses his leggs & feet to push a pivotable device aka the 'bulkhead' to clamp the workpiece. Those feet are key in the design, no matter what type of shave horse you'll find.

I've always wanted to make such a thing. And the fact that I could use it to make canoe paddles the old fashion way seemed like the right excuse to finally get me one. So I travelled on the net and looked at every video out there. But, since my last activity on the site I didn't change a lot myself, neither. I've always tried to be honest to myself, which means for example that I just can't copy an existing design without at least a dozen of modifications. In particular a 2000 year old design.

So I took a few beers - I. Never. Change. - wondering if it could be possible to use my proper weight to get the workpiece clamped, instead of my leggs & feet. Gravity is free, yet.

A few days later I came up with this new design. The Shave Mouse.

Step 1: Gettin' Started

When I looked at the design I made in my sketchbook I realised that it had much more of a mouse trap than a horse-ish kind of thing. Every baby needs a name, so I decided to call this one my 'shaving mouse'.

For what it's worth: sketching has always been a very important step in the whole process to me. It's kinda old school, but when you're a child of the seventies there's nothing wrong with, no?

This is the kind of project that literally costs you nothing. If you have the chance, like me, to have access to some good lumber and you have the equipment to get it to your workshop, you're the luckiest guy alive.

A few years ago I cut some oak logs in a small thinning project nearby - cutting trees to make space for the ones that'll get you the good lumber in a generation or two. Those oaks were just too beautiful to split for firewood, and so I kept some nice sections of about 5 or 6 feet to get me some nice wood later. I split them in half in my shop & let them dry for a year or two. When time & 'goesting' came - pronounce 'goose-thing - there's no correct word in english to translate this unique flemish word, but it means something like 'the burning flame you feel inside when you really want to do something' - I modified them to planks & beams. And just at that moment the mouse project came in.

Step 2: Overview

This mouse is a prototype. It's a very first build and so it comes with its pros and its contras - 'in his own juice' like they say in France. I didn't take pics of the overall build, but I'll show you with some overview pictures what it's all about.

For what it's worth: I'll not give you any measures since you just don't need them. If you want build one, make it with the wood you have left. No rules, the concept is simple & reproducable as sliced bread. No. Measures.

FIRST there is 'the bank'. I made it from a 'bad' piece - knots, you know - from which I couldn't make nice planks anyway. There's an active side and one that's not. The active side is the zone where the 'cheeseplate', the second piece, is attached. It's like a 'male-female-junction'. It's a zone of about two beers long and a half beer wide where I removed some wood from the sides. The actif zone is supported by one pole.

SECOND there is the 'cheeseplate' - a large plank with a large canyon at one side. It looks like a big boot remover, you know. This 'female' side fits into the 'male' side of the bank. A large peg goes all the way through both to get a pivot point.

THIRD there is the 'ramp', another plank attached to the bank which serves as a table to which the workpiece will be clamped. Note the same shape at the active side as the bank. Wooden pegs & some glue hold the ramp & the bank nicely together.

AT LAST there's a string, cord or belt attached to pegs in the baithplate. This - adjustable - string goes behind the big pegs in the ramp & around the workpiece. Get seated and the workpiece gets clamped. Simple as what.

Step 3: Gettin' Used to It

The first tries were chaotic, seriously. The hemp string I used snapped without even put my full weight on the seat - also because I attached it too close to the pivot point, which triggered a tremendous amount of pressure.

Mouse 1 - Bart 0

So I added new pegs, further away from the pivot point . And the second string snapped also.

Mouse 2 - Bart 0

Then I used a cordura belt. Which snapped.

Mouse 3 - Bart 0

Finally I started using a double nylon strap which worked just fine.

Mouse 3 - Bart 1

Then I added the big peg in the ramp. Note the importance of this one. Without it the string is just too close to your body, limiting the shaving distance.

Mouse 3 - Bart 2

After a while one of the pegs on the cheeseplate snapped again and the wooden pivot point became weak.

Mouse 5 - Bart 3

So I replaced the peg and replaced the wooden pivot by a 16mm steel rod.

Mouse 5 - Bart 4

Overall, I discovered that the best way to use this tool is 'half seated'. No need to put all your weight on the seat, it's just fine to support a part of your weight by your legs. This allows you to move freely for- and backwards while still putting pressure on the cheeseplate. It allowes you also to enlarge the shaving distance to more than 2 feet.

Step 4: Gettin' to 2.0

Honestly, this shaving mouse behaves wonderful. I didn't expect the easyness of the whole concept, in fact. The mouse gets the workpiece clamped as a rock and makes the carving & shaving a real pleasure.

I regret not having made the cheeseplate thicker or heavier on the side of the pivot point. The torsion on this side is so tremendous that it could have supported some more 'meat'. Also, the way I'm attaching the string could be better. I think the niciest way to attach it would be by drilling a vertical hole at each side all the way through. Instead of tearing on side of the the 'arms' of the cheesplate, it would tear in line of the exercised force.

It would also have been better to put the pivot point about a feet or so more backwards, and to have made the 'arms' of the cheeseplate longer. In that way, the big peg could have been skipped and the distribution of forces would have been more equal.

Another issue is stability. I should have put the two legs on the backside wider to make the whole more stable. No big deal, just a point of attention.

But, again. There's always a first one in every new design. I wanted to make paddles the old fashion way, I've got a device to get the job done. A good looking device, btw. I'm happy with it, and I hope it may inspire one of you to make it better.

Version 2.0 's gonna be awesome. Cheers.

Modification on 5 november 2017:

- moving pivot point backwards: done!

Step 5: And Then There's 3.0

- adjustable belt for more grip

- extented legs for more stability

- and one peg under the seat since you really don't need all that power to secure your workpiece

It's just a great tool. Can 't repeat it enough.

Step 6: 4.0 Is Real

No more belts but a nice wooden bridge in combination with a wedge. We're coming home, finally.

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