One of the things I love about how chairmaker Chris Williams works is that he tries – at every turn – to reduce the tools and contrivances needed to build a chair. One of the big things he offers is that you don’t need a shavehorse to make sticks, stretchers or legs.
Instead, you use a small block of wood in your vise and a block plane to do all the shaving.
I have 100 percent embraced this method from Chris (and John Brown), and I encourage you to give it a try.
Of course, I had to tweak the process a bit for my own liking. Instead of a flat block of wood, I plowed a V-groove in mine, which helps prevent the stick from wandering as you rotate it.
Honestly, you don’t need the V-groove to make this work, but it is nice.
— Christopher Schwarz
14 thoughts on “A V-block for Shaving Spindles”
I have seen variations of this technique. How do you hold it with out using your other hand or bracing it against your body?
Your off-hand holds the spindle against your chest or belt and rotates it.
Chest, belt or “slack muscle”. While I’m not making chairs, I often pop up a dog or clamp a block in the vice to brace the other end of a piece while I run a marking gauge line in a similar fashion. The slack muscle is second only to the booty clamp in general usefulness around the shop.
Cheers! Thanks Chris; will use for my stake stool…
Can we get a SketchUp file and a cut list?
That’s how I did it long before I built my shave horse.
All you have on cyber Monday is a block of wood? Where’s the secret discount code for 50% off all LAP merchandise?
Seriously though.. holding small spindles is tricky business; this is a good tip.
Do you just saw out the spindle and shave the whole thing into round with just the block plane? Does it go pretty quick?
Yup. You get darn quick.
How does one plow a v-groove? The best I can come up with is to make a stair-stepped cross section with multiple plow passes and then level them out with a rabbet plane. That would still leave a flat in the bottom though, so I think I’m missing something obvious.
Last time I made a v-shaped jig for holding stock, I just made big chamfers on two boards and attached those to a backing board.
Use a handsaw. Clean it up with a shoulder plane (if you like but is not necessary). Or use a table saw.
I have made a jig/fixture? to help shaving down 3/8 spindles for chairs. I took a three foot long board about four inches wide and glued two wooden strips that are 3/8 thick, about an inch apart. I glued a stop at the end. I simply clamp it to my bench lay the spindle stock in the space between the strips and plane away, rotating the spindle as I go. It works well especially if you don’t have nice green wood to work with. Try it! Bob Glenn
Great trick, thanks. I’ll try it out! One of the things I’m starting to really love about chairmaking, is that it can be done in a small shop without a lot of machinery and complicated jigs, even with just a handful of tools. Apart from the chairs themselves, this is really where a lot of the beauty lies for me.
I built a Nicholson bench a la “the Naked Woodworker” last summer. I can’t believe how often you post something like this and my first thought is “damn, I really should have spent the money on a vise” and then I think about it for a second and realize “wait a minute, that would be easy on my bench!” I may or may not cut a small notch into the side of my planing stop, but either way, I think I can add this to my bag of tricks. Thanks!
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