A V-block for Shaving Spindles

Shaving a chair spindle against a V-block.

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.

My V-block, which projects about 3/8″ from my leg vise.

Honestly, you don’t need the V-groove to make this work, but it is nice.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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14 Responses to A V-block for Shaving Spindles

  1. wfariss says:

    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.

      • Rob Young says:

        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.

  2. ikustwood says:

    Cheers! Thanks Chris; will use for my stake stool…

  3. David Lyell says:

    Can we get a SketchUp file and a cut list?

  4. Rachael Boyd says:

    That’s how I did it long before I built my shave horse.

  5. craig regan says:

    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.

  6. JRobertson says:

    Do you just saw out the spindle and shave the whole thing into round with just the block plane? Does it go pretty quick?

  7. Ricky says:

    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.

  8. Bob Glenn says:

    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

  9. Klaus N. Skrudland says:

    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.

  10. Dan says:

    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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