West Coast Steiner School: Woodwork – The Shaving Horse

West Coast Steiner School: Woodwork – The Shaving Horse

The shaving horse (or shaving bench) has been used for hundreds of years as a traditional woodworking tool and was a common woodwork tool by the 17th century. It is a preindustrial tool. A shaving horse is a combination of a vice and workbench. It is essentially a giant vice that works seamlessly. The wood is gripped between the shaving horse’s body and head. You use the treadle, while sitting down, to shave off wood with a drawknife or spokeshave. The shaving horse engages your whole body and allows you to work meditatively. The harder you pull on the drawknife or spokeshave, the harder you push on the treadle with your foot. This tightens the hold on your wood and prevents it from slipping out of the jaws.

The shaving horse is typically used to create a round profile along a square piece of wood. Students in Class 6 at West Coast Steiner School are introduced to the shaving horse when they are making their bush stool legs. As the students start working with harder materials, the stronger the force of their will is required. The students’ limbs and the whole body are engaged in working with the wood using the shaving horse. It is a different experience for the student to work with wood when compared to working with other softer materials. Only when the formative forces are developed within the student, are they truly ready to undertake this task. It is when the student is fully grounded from within that they can work outwardly to create beautiful concave and convex forms.

We are truly fortunate at the West Coast Steiner School, to have had a shaving horse built for us by Stefan, who is the high school Woodwork Teacher at Perth Waldorf School. This is a work of art which will proudly sit in the woodwork room and be used by students for years to come.

Yolanda Millar, Woodwork Teacher