Catching up with the Bowl Horse


There are many ways to get to a bowl horse.  If you’re still thinking about adding one to your shop, I’ll recap some of the options, including some new possibilities.

My first bowl horse concept, seen in the photo above, was a simple adaptation of my Jennie Alexander English style shaving horse.  It achieved the key principal I had in mind — holding end to end.  I detailed that story in a post a few years ago.  With a little ingenuity, many standard shaving horses can be adapted to function as bowl horses.  Here’s another example:

Horse Adaptation_NEW

For Plymouth CRAFT classes we adapted Pret Woodburn’s shave horses by adding a sled of sorts (blue) above the folded flat work surface.  Only requires one screw to attach that also achieves the length adjustment.  In the end we constructed the body of the sled a bit differently due to the materials on hand, but it doesn’t really matter.  The only other thing required was to screw a board between the two swing arms.


But let’s back up a bit before the Plymouth adaptations.  In 2004 I designed and made the log-on-legs bowl horse that still serves in my workshop today.  Last year, I wrote a post about how I made it.

Shortly after making the log horse, I designed this more portable bowl horse and made it from dimensional lumber.  I wrote an article about it that was published in 2008.  The article and plans are still available on my website here.

What has been so wonderful since then is to see how other carvers have adapted the concept to the materials they have on hand and/or to their unique situations.  Many of these creative solutions can be seen at the “Other’s Horses” page of my website.  A recent example is a horse made by Dwight Beebe, who was in my bowl class in Plymouth last June.

Dwight Beebe Bowl Horse

Dwight Beebe’s bowl horse, adapted to a Tim Manney style base.

Dwight’s base is inspired by Tim Manney‘s design and can host a regular shave horse, or Dwight can pop that off and put on the bowl horse attachment as in the photo above.

Dwight Beebe Bowl Horse with Spoon Mule

Dwight can also attach a spoon mule based on plans by Dawson Moore.

Of course, a lot of folks are short on space and Mike Loeffler has been keeping me posted on a handy folding bowl horse design he’s been developing.  The whole thing hangs on the wall until you need it:

Mike L horse on wall

Mike L horse

Then it comes off the wall and you’ve got a bowl horse.  Mike said it will hold up to a 18″ long bowl, but the plans can easily be modified to stretch the horse if you want more range.

Mike L horse plans

Mike has worked hard to make high quality clear plans for his horse and has them available now on his website.

And if you’d rather have a bowl horse built for you, Mark Hicks of Plate 11 Bench Co.  has added that to his services offered.

Just to be clear, I have no deals or partnerships at all with either Mike or Mark, and I have not used their plans or horses.  I’m just trying to inform folks of some possibilities.  So if you have any questions about their services or products, contact them.  I’m sure they’ll be happy to talk with you, they’re really nice guys.

You can carve bowls without a bowl horse, but if you want one, there are plenty of options.

This entry was posted in carving, holding, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Catching up with the Bowl Horse

  1. Dave Fisher says:

    Just to clarify, I use the bowl horse pretty much only for drawknife and spokeshave work, and nothing else in my experience works as well for working on a bowl with those tools. So, while only a small portion of my time working on a bowl is spent at the bowl horse, it is wonderful time. All other work holding is done at a bench in one way or another, and there are ways to get the job done without a bowl horse, just as there are are many ways to drive a nail without a hammer — including using a screw instead. I have lots of posts covering various work holding methods. Look under the “holding” category on the drop down list to the right.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That course at Plymouth Craft last year was a game changer for me and the way i work bowls. I went right home and built the Pret Woodburn extension for my bodgers style shavehorse. Kudos to you, and Pret, and the good folks at Plymouth Craft. Hope we can do it again real soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kate says:

    Hi Dave,
    Here is my funny bowl horse.
    A horse with two back ends?
    The goal was to make it easily of materials I already had.
    Chairs came with a thrift store dining room table.
    I used your dimensional lumber horse drawing – Thank you!
    The body slits on chair seats and there are cleats screwed
    in to the floor behind each chair stopping the whole thing from coming apart.
    It works and can be taken apart and moved if needed.
    New box elder bowl.


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Ingenious Kate!! I love it! Perfect example of adapting to the materials and situation at hand. Wouldn’t it be great to have a friend sit on the opposite chair and do some spoon carving or something too. Added stability! And a really nice, very challenging, bowl I see in there too. What is the purpose of the long bracket by the bottom edge?

      Thanks very much for sharing that. The photo serves as a link to more photos. I assume you were aware of that, but let me know if you’d like to adjust it.


  4. Kate says:

    Thank you, Dave.
    That’s a fun idea – two people horse.
    I was thinking of using that bracket to hold my tools, but that’s a bad idea.
    Bracket is metal and a chisel can be chipped… I am thinking a plank with holes for chisels, but it might stick out too far and get in the way of my leg on the pedal. I also use my horse for chisel work. Need to work on my workbench set up.
    Thank you on complimenting on my bowl. It’s my latest and I am very proud of it.
    It really means a lot coming from you. I’ve been admiring your work for a while.
    I hope you can tell you are the inspiration.
    The photo is on my Flickr page. I don’t mind if they are looked at. Thanks for your integrity.



  5. wrcedar says:

    Steve Moore



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s