I’m a designer. So when i see something i’m automatically assessing it. “Why is it made that way?” “Is there another way?” “Could it be easier, lighter, different or specifically suited to some conditions?” So as i’m embarking on making myself a small bench which will hold wood in place while i work it, i’m obviously giving the shaving horse (and bodgers’ horse) the same mental analysis. And i think i’ve found another way.
.....Now this is where i need your help. Telling me whether the concept is a stallion or a stallion’s manure. Cause i’m a designer who’s never sat at a shaving bench.
Specific elements could also be commented on. For instance, are wheels good or bad? etc..
And if the concept is strong, let’s develop the product together here as a community. So it can serve us all.
Re-inventing the … horse?
Okay, not re-inventing. But finding another type.
Like finding out how great a motorcycle is for getting through traffic faster when everyone else is at a standstill in their cars. Or if we all still rode horses, wouldn’t it be awesome riding a giraffe instead? Bigger strides, seeing above the traffic. More horse-power.
Basically, the traditional shaving horse employs cantilever action to apply a strong force and clamp the work piece in place. Your feet work the clamping mechanism, which is great because then you have your hands free. You’re sitting, so you’re more rested and those legs are free to use for the clamping. It’s an ingenious, simple principle. But what if we could achieve the same thing without any awkward leg levering at all? And get a better clamping action while we’re at it?
.....What’s the worse way a real horse could pin you down? – Standing on you? Or sitting on you? They’ll both work, but i think i’d rather not be clamped down by being sat on. So why not apply our own weight to clamp the work piece down, instead of our leg action?
.....And that’s really all the difference there is between the shaving Horse and the shaving Giraffe that is the design concept i present here. I’ve lost the legs, and used the cantilever arm as legs instead. The weight of the unit and the amount of the user’s weight they choose to put on it force that cantilever arm to rotate on the pivot point and the other (business) end to clamp down against the body. Just like it does in the shaving Horse. But you’re sitting on a clamp, instead of sitting on a bench which has additions and changes that make it also be able to clamp something in place.
I made this model quickly to show you generally how the mechanism would work.
There’s a clamping head that comes down upon the work piece. There’s a wedge shaped piece that is the other clamping surface (if you want to include it in the design). There’s a seat on the body of the shaving Giraffe. All just like the shaving Horse.
The design with and without a wedge that changes the ‘angle of attack’.
I have lost the rear legs too, in my version. And this end of the vice bench gets propped up on something suitably high. Like a tree stump, box, bench, vehicle wheel, etc.. Though there’s nothing to say that your version couldn’t have rear legs to your liking.
Two legs good, four legs bad.
Having no rear legs, the design can be more compact (see below). But the thing is, you’re going to need something to support or prop-up that end of the Giraffe. Granted, the broad spacing of the front legs will give the bench sideways stability, so that almost anything can be used at the rear. But it’s still a requirement to have a something else. Don’t know if that’s a crippling flaw. Maybe it would be better with permanent rear legs?
.....Unlike the shaving Horse with its foot operated swing arm though, the height of the rear support isn’t really prescribed at all in the Giraffe design. That means you could use whatever’s available. But it also means that the seat height is ‘adjustable’. Want to sit higher? – Find a longer log. Want to adjust it to use by different persons? – possible. Junk like shavings piling up under the bench? – no problem for this design. Uneven floor? – no jamming of foot levers cause there aren’t any.
.....Well, i say above that you “need” a rear support to prop up the back end of the bench part. But you’ll see in the picture below that the whole thing could actually work without it. Albeit perhaps less comfortable to sit / work at. Because there’s no foot operated lever system below the bench, anything goes.
Yoga pose – Legless Giraffe.
And this leads me to maybe the biggest reason that i like the Giraffe concept more than shaving horses. It’s that i think the whole foot operated lever system that we use to date is awkward. I’m sure the bodgers who first used shaving horses as they set up shop in a forest; who had to make everything from scratch; and who had no design software or time saving tools to allow them time to contemplate their design, were very proud of employing the cantilever principle. And they should be. But we’re not in their position, and i think we can do even better.
.....Pushing with your legs (on a shaving Horse) is surely bound to unsettle your seated position. And this while you’re trying to work the wood. If it doesn’t literally shift you, you’re using lots of (back) muscles to achieve both of the actions simultaneously without shifting. Right? Well the Giraffe doesn’t have this issue. You just sit.
.....You can still vary the force of the clamping, if this is even necessary, by the force you exert sitting on it. And though this also uses muscles, they’re your legs. Which are used to the necessary action, and stronger than your back.
.....I’m sure the clamping force can be altered in other ways too. The relative lengths of the cantilever sides. Or how far forward (how much directly under you) the rear support is placed. Or just how far forward / back you sit.
The rear support in three different positions – to differently support the user’s mass.
Using the front legs as the levers also means that the clamping force is being applied more directly down upon the work piece. This may be an academic advantage of the Giraffe design. I don’t know if work pieces slip in shaving Horses because of this. But it’s one thing that led me to think of a better way, so i want to mention it.
With the lever’s pivot below the clamping point in a shaving Horse, the forces are actually more easily transferred in a direction that would push the work piece toward the person. And the swing arm is always trying to reach around, over the top, and in that way be able to apply the force downward. But in the Giraffe design the pivot is way back behind the clamping head, and with straight (=simpler) swing arms the force applied is very close to straight down upon the work piece. And this translates to better clamping. Not just because of the greater pressure that the Giraffe has the potential to apply, but also because of how it is applied.
Simpler IS better
I say above that we can do better. But better isn’t more complicated. The Giraffe has many similarities to the horse, only it’s even simpler. But with (what i think is) a stronger basic principle.
I made the model you see in the pictures from ‘lumber’ of one size. Which let’s say, were it made at full scale, could be something as easily accessible as 2 b’ 8 inch stock. So the Giraffe retains all of the ease of production that i think has made the shaving horse a foundational tool.
There’s no getting around it, the giraffe is longer than the horse. You’re gonna need more working room for it to stretch its legs.
But there’s an up side. More specifically a straight up, vertical side. In that it’s easy to make the design of the Giraffe incorporate the ability to fold on itself, and become easy to stow away vertically and flat. Against a wall say. There are take-down shave horses. But here it’s already a function of the fundamental design.
Collapsed and dismantled versions of the shaving Giraffe.
Awkwardly stretched out to drink
Ever seen a giraffe drinking? With its legs splayed apart so it can reach down to the water? I think that’s what the splayed apart shaving Giraffe looks like.
.....And in the same way as the giraffe’s feet need to get further apart for it to be able to lower itself to drink, the distance between the front and rear ‘resting points’ of the shaving Giraffe (front legs and back of body) needs to increase in order for the clamping action to happen. Slightly. The legs need to move slightly. To facilitate this action, would the front legs be better with wheels on them? I’m almost sure they’ll slide on the ground enough to accomplish clamping. But what do you think? Or maybe the rear contact point should move?
Reaching the tips of the longest branches
Even in my first mockup model (pictured), a long, straight, work piece can fit in the Giraffe since it clears the pivot bar, and runs un-interrupted till it would meet the ground (see pic). So even long stock can be positioned to comfortably work on the tips.
A long (black) work piece can be accommodated.
But in revisions of the design there needn’t BE a continuous bar accross the width of the Giraffe the way i have in the model. Some arangement such as individual bolts at each leg would free up the centre space, and allow tweaks to the design. Such as a steeper angle of the wedge and therefore work piece.
Knowing the Arse End of a horse
I’ve made my little model in the English style (as opposed to the Bodgers style). But there’s no reason that the Giraffe couldn’t also be made both ways. In my mind, by basically just swapping the orientation of the body of the horse around, you could use a single leg that clamps down in the middle of the work area.
So that’s my revision of the shaving horse. If you have the inclination to horse around with the concept, and maybe make a version yourself, please tell me how it goes. And if an idea reared while you were reading this, please let me know. Even if it isn’t something that ends up working with the design, it might spawn an idea we can run with.
-- Never is longer than forever.