Shave Horse for Green Woodworking with the Ellis Bros.

//Shave Horse for Green Woodworking with the Ellis Bros.

Recently my friends Ervin & Willie Ellis came to visit my school, to plan out an upcoming class called “Make a German Shave Horse with Ervin & Willie Ellis”.

Traditional German shaving horse inside woodworking school

In the above video they demonstrate how to use a shaving horse for making timber frame pegs, a tomahawk handle, and traditional roof shingles. You can learn more about their two day shaving horse class here. There are no openings for the July class, but the October class still has openings. And at the  bottom of this article, you’ll find a collection of shaving horse photos that I’ve taken over the years. Now a little bit about the Ellis Bros:

Ervin and Willie Ellis sitting on a woodworking shaving horse at Wood And Shop woodworking school

I was fortunate to get to know the Ellis brothers a number of years ago at the Maple Sugar Festival in Highland County, Virginia. They were demonstrating their green woodworking on a traditional shaving horse. I ran into them a couple more times in North Carolina, and when I heard their life story, and the odds they overcame, I knew I wanted to become friends with these guys.

Carpentry has been passed down in our family starting with our great, great grandfather“, said Willie. “So at a young age we were always around it and started out as ‘gophers’ (go for this go for that). We both attended New Life Bible college and worked our way through college doing carpentry work. Through the years I continued both in carpentry and ministry. Ervin also continued working in carpentry, but also worked for the Railroad a couple of times.”

Then in 2005, tragedy struck. Their mother passed away, and they found themselves stepping up to raise their 10 year old sister. Willie was only 26 years old and Ervin was 31 at the time. They worked hard to support their little family, as carpenters in the home building industry in Southwest Virginia.

And when things finally started looking up, another difficult setback hit them: the 2008 real estate crash. “When the housing market crashed within the last decade, we started building furniture on the side to supplement income“, said Willie. “We quickly discovered that we found our niche and it grew into a full time business. Now we build furniture, timber frame, and blacksmith. In addition to all this, I continue to serve in the ministry and Ervin is also a welding instructor at a local college.

Ellis Brothers Timber Frame Building

And now they are experiencing good karma. In addition to their thriving business, they were also recently hired on as advisers and set builders for the hit television show Mountain Men on the History Channel. Don’t be surprised if you see these guys on TV sometime in the future!

Mountain men Eustace Conway with Ervin Ellis & Willie Ellis

Oh, and for any good ladies out there, both of the Ellis brothers are eligible bachelors…I know I’m going to hear it for this plug. You can see some of their work on their Facebook page (here) and Instagram (here). And here’s a news article about them.

For those of you who can’t make it to their class, and you want some design inspiration, here are some of the many photos of shaving horses that I’ve captured out in the wild over the past several years:

Shaving horse in Elia Bizzarri's chair making workshop

This is Elia Bizzari’s shaving horse that sees a lot of mileage in his chair making workshop (see his shop tour here).

Elia Bizzarri sitting on his Shaving horse in his chair making workshop

You’ve heard of “Chest on Chest”, but have you  heard of “Horse on Bench”? I found this shaving horse in the antique workbench archives at the “Old Salem” Moravian village in North Carolina.

An antique shaving horse sitting on top of an antique moravian workbench at old salem

The following shaving horses reside in Palmyra, New York at the Smith Family Farm, the boyhood home of Joseph Smith, Jr, the founder of the Mormon religion.

Shaving horse at Joseph Smith's Palmyra home barn

Shaving horse at Joseph Smith's Palmyra home barn

The following shaving horses were photographed in the “Carpenter & Cooper Shop” at Middleton Plantation, just outside historical Charleston, South Carolina (see my workshop tour here).

A Shaving horse inside a historic workshop at Middleton Plantation

A Shaving horse inside a historic workshop at Middleton Plantation

And here’s a different style of shave horse from Middleton Plantation.

A Shaving horse at Middleton Plantation

A Shaving horse at Middleton Plantation

A Shaving horse at Middleton Plantation

Here are some shaving horses around the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts (see my workshop tours here):

a shaving horse at the hancock shaker village chair making workshop

The photo above is in the Hancock chair making workshop, and the photos below are in the basket making shop:

a shaving horse at the hancock shaker village basket making workshop

a shaving horse at the hancock shaker village basket making workshop

This is a rustic shaving horse (under construction) at the 1740’s settlement at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia (see my tours of the museum here).

colonial man sitting on a woodworking shaving horse at the Frontier Culture Museum

woodworking shaving horse at the Frontier Culture Museum

And finally, here are several other shaving horses found on different farms at the Frontier Culture Museum. I believe the first three photos are at the 1820’s American farm.

Little boy sitting on a woodworking shaving horse at the Frontier Culture Museum

Little boy sitting on a woodworking shaving horse at the Frontier Culture Museum

My boys loved that these shaving horses had a “dumb head”.

Little boy sitting on a woodworking shaving horse at the Frontier Culture Museum

And this shaving horse is at the museum’s German farm:

Little boy sitting on a woodworking shaving horse at the Frontier Culture Museum

I hope you can join us for one of the shaving horse building classes here at the Wood And Shop Traditional Woodworking School!

Traditional German shave shaving horse at Wood And Shop woodworking school

But if you can’t make it to our shaving horse making class, here’s a good detailed DVD on the process of building a traditional shaving horse:

Also, Lee Valley has some free plans for a Shaving Horse here. Here is the school’s class schedule for the rest of 2018:

2018 CLASS SCHEDULE:

May 4-5: “Make a Custom Dovetail Saw with Tom Calisto” (SOLD OUT!)

May 10-12: “Building the Hancock Shaker Candle Stand with Will Myers”

May 25-26: “Restoring Wooden Handplanes with Bill Anderson” (SOLD OUT!)

May 31-Jun 2: “Introduction to Hand Tool Woodworking with Joshua Farnsworth”  (SOLD OUT!)

Jun 16: “Make a Moravian Dovetailed Footstool with David Ray Pine”

Jun 23: “Build a Pair of Heavy-Duty Sliding Dovetail Saw Benches with Joshua Farnsworth” 

Jun 28-30:  “Introduction to Hand Tool Woodworking with Joshua Farnsworth” 

Jul 7: “Wood Joinery by Hand with Joshua Farnsworth”

Jul 13-14: “Make an 18th Century Panel Saw with Tom Calisto”

Jul 20-21: “Make a German Shave Horse with Ervin & Willie Ellis” (SOLD OUT)

Jul 27-28: “Make a Moravian Dovetailed Candlebox with David Ray Pine”

Jul 30-31: “Make Try Squares, Bench Hook, Winding Sticks, Donkey’s Ear & More with Bill Anderson”  (SOLD OUT)

Aug 15-18: “Building a Dropleaf Pembroke Occasional Table with Bill Anderson”  (SOLD OUT!)

Aug 21-25:  “Building a Classic Walnut Wall Cupboard with David Ray Pine” 

Sep 7-8: “Make a Custom Dovetail Saw with Tom Calisto”

Sep 19-22: “Make the Canterbury Shaker Side Table with Will Myers”

Oct 1-3:  “Introduction to Hand Tool Woodworking with Joshua Farnsworth” 

Oct 12-13: “Make a German Shave Horse with Ervin & Willie Ellis”

Oct 17-20: “Make a Sailor’s Tool Chest with Tom Calisto” 

Nov 2-3: “Restoring Wooden Handplanes with Bill Anderson” 

Nov 13-17: “Make a Cherry Shaker Wall Cabinet with Joshua Farnsworth

2018-07-09T20:20:18+00:00

About the Author:

Joshua loves mixing his passion for traditional hand tool woodworking with his ability to teach in a simple manner. He lives on a small farm in Earlysville, Virginia with his wife and four children, and builds furniture in his workshop / woodworking school.

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Don Williams
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I concur about the Ellis brothers as thoughtful, skilled, and affable folks whose companionship is a treasure. I have always enjoyed fellowship with them at The Maple Festival and welcomed them at The Barn on White Run for a visit after those festivities.

jlubeckdmd
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jlubeckdmd

Just took the class with these guys and it was a blast. I hope to make shavings with them in the future. They are the perfect teachers. Anxious and willing to share but just as anxious to sit back and let you learn by doing. Thanks Ellis brothers and Joshua!

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