The Slowest Farm Shop #4: The slowest summer ever? But there are projects...

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Blog entry by Will Mego posted 07-06-2009 08:28 PM 1488 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Mildly Frighteningly Sharp? Part 4 of The Slowest Farm Shop series Part 5: Progress on Shaving horse, spring pole lathe, and a mystery tool... »

So like many here, this summer has been one of hardship, and little work, and lots of stress. But as outlined earlier, that’s why this blog is titled the way it is.

This spring didn’t see as many trees fall as I figured would, so not as much work there. One old box elder did take a plunge…right into the fork of a large mulberry tree, splitting it about 10 ft….but still 10ft off the ground….and over a fence right into the neighbor’s garden…so that was some work, but I did get a ton of nice green wood out of it. Much of it twisted and destined for the BBQ smokers of a few people around here, such as myself (best..bbq…wood…ever…ok, maybe lilac is, but it’s close!).

I’ve refinished some tools, rived a lot of wood, some destined for projects such as a chair I need to build. But the two big projects for this summer/early fall are:

Shaving Horse -Made from some scrap and salvaged lumber, I’m making a “traditional” shaving horse. The quotes are because I’m not sure any shaving horse could be considered either traditional or non-traditional.

Spring Pole Lathe -That’s right, a human power lathe, made in the traditional way (for the most part). I’m really excited about this one.

I’ve done months of research (what else is winter in IL for) on both, and have already done a fair amount of work on both, almost to the point on starting blogs for them, but I hate those blogs/projects which are “something or other #1” and never…actually..get there. So I’ve been working on these and taking pics as I go. The lathe starts with a big ol’ log, covered in bark, which gets split using hand tools and wooden wedges. Another step or two and I’ll have enough for somebody to waste time looking at, pics and all. I’ll include links to research materials so that other people interested can find ‘em. I’ll post other tools I make or refinish whenever I add onto this blog as well, I only posted the handaxe as a separate project because of the symbols on the head, really.

Anybody as poor as I am right now, think you can’t do anything, go grab what you can, get some fallen logs, anything…remember there was a time when people did all kinds of stuff, usually nicer than people often do it today, which lasts longer, and they did it without the kinds of tools so many “experts” say you can’t live without. Given the choice of “I can’t do woodworking because I don’t have the tools/space/money/materials/etc” and “Hell, I’ll do it anyway with this old rusty thing I’ll fix up, and with this log from over here that I’ll turn into what I need even though I’ll need to learn 6 million traditional techniques to do so”...which sounds like you? Which do you want to sound like you?

-- "That which has in itself the greatest use, possesses the greatest beauty." -

4 comments so far

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3440 days

#1 posted 07-07-2009 12:31 AM

You need to get out of bed pretty early to get free wood here in the Philippines, the junk men are mighty quick, and they are skinnier and hungrier than me so I think they deserve it more. But if you have the basic tools the skys the limit and belly aching about not haveing the latest gadjet is just an excuse for being lazy. Looking forward to the pics of the lathes etc.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View mmh's profile


3676 posts in 3721 days

#2 posted 07-07-2009 05:31 AM

Enjoy using your shaving horse/mule. We have one that my husband made that I use to shape my cane shafts on. It’s quite relaxing to work with a silent tool instead of a noisy power tool. The rythm of shaving the wood and the physical work is quite rewarding, especially when working with a nice straight grained wood. The figured woods are a bit tricky, sometimes impossible to shave, but I’ve enjoyed creating my cane shafts with the spoke shaves as I don’t want a symmetrical shape like that from a lathe so that the owner knows my canes are handmade. The organic lines also give them a more elegant look.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4126 days

#3 posted 07-07-2009 12:36 PM

I love spending time in the saddle of my Kentucky Thoroughbred shaving horse. She’s a faithful old mare and a gentle ride. Together, we gallop in to the past and relive the glory days of woodworking where skilled hands revealed the inner beauty of wood. Go with the grain and you can’t go wrong. Let the wood show you the way.

Recently I acquired a drawknife that was made from a file more than 75 years ago by a local Amish blacksmith. You can still see some of the file grooves in the blade. However, the skill by which it was wrought is evident. It’s a perfect tool for its intended purpose. While ugly to some, it has become my personal Excalibur.

There are worse things then being a shaving horse jockey.

-- 温故知新

View Will Mego's profile

Will Mego

307 posts in 3711 days

#4 posted 07-07-2009 11:21 PM

I know what you mean, I was lucky to pick up an old drawknife on ebay for $9 or so, it’s lovely to ME, I’m sure it just looks like an old tool to people who don’t get it. It’s got a love and mojo from some craftsman before me, who’s name I’m not likely to ever know, but somehow we’re shaking hands on the same handle.

-- "That which has in itself the greatest use, possesses the greatest beauty." -

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