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”.
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:
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.”
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!
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:
This is Elia Bizzari’s shaving horse that sees a lot of mileage in his chair making workshop (see his shop tour here).
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.
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.
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).
And here’s a different style of shave horse from Middleton Plantation.
Here are some shaving horses around the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts (see my workshop tours here):
The photo above is in the Hancock chair making workshop, and the photos below are in the basket making shop:
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).
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.
My boys loved that these shaving horses had a “dumb head”.
And this shaving horse is at the museum’s German farm:
I hope you can join us for one of the shaving horse building classes here at the Wood And Shop Traditional 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: