I have been hand-carving hunting bows (ie: simple selfbows, straight backed bows, steamed static recurve tips, etc) for a couple years. I used to do all of my carving with a set of nice drawknives and push knives. I've moved into a new place where I no longer have a set of vises to hold my timber so that I can rapidly do a rough carving with the draw knives. I am sadly reduced to whittling on my tiny sundeck, and there are no coop/public shops where I can get bench space in this neighborhood.

What tools would be recommended for the following:

  1. Rapidly shaving down a wooden stave to a bow shape
  2. Fine removal of tiny amounts of wood during the tillering process

The only knife that holds up against these oak, osage, and especially hickory boards, is my USMC utility/combat knife. I've bought a few nice whittling knives from Lee Valley Tools, and while they work nice, they don't seem strong enough to shave off large chunks without risking damage to the knife, especially the hickory, which seems to hold a blood grudge against keen edges. I'd like something more efficient than this big knife though.

Another important factor is the ability to create a flat, consistent cut/scrape. This was very easy using the draw blades or a jack plane, but much harder with just a big knife. This is even harder now that I have to hold onto the wood rather than clamp it down in a vise or with some C-clamps.

Also, for the fine removal parts, I'd need something with a very hard blade, especially when trimming around knots. I'm considering a cabinet scraper, but they seem to remove too little.

2 Answers 2


Have you considered one of the portable workbenches such as the Workmate?


workmate 2

They fold to a pretty small package and come in a variety of sizes and prices.

Black and Decker used to make several Workmate vises in a benchtop and toolbox version such as these

workmate bench

workmate toolbox

They appear to be discontinued. I found mine at yard sales, but they show up online occasionally.

If one of these suits, you may be able to continue to use your preferred tools.

  • Beautiful. It looks like they are not discontinued, and are still in active production. Home Depot has them (the model 425) for about $130, and I found one on Amazon for about half that. It's about 35lbs, so it doesn't move around much. It folds up nicely, and the top portion can rotate 90 degrees away from the ground so that it can act as a vertical or horizontal clamp. Thanks for the find!
    – Cloud
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 17:58
  • 1
    @Dogbert Glad you found this helpful. I think the small tabletop versions may be discontinued. The stand alone versions, like 425, are going strong.
    – bib
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 20:43
  • I bought one of these, but then promptly returned it. A co-worker has an older version of this that appears to be very solid and made from heavy cast iron, and seems to weigh at least 60 lbs. The version I bought at home depot doesn't even weigh 30 lbs, is made of flat, 1mm thick aluminium panels, and flies off the ground when I apply enough force. Thank you anyway.
    – Cloud
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 23:23

If you want to use the drawknives again but don't have room for a shave horse, I've seen some smaller alternatives that look interesting. You might be able to clamp them onto a railing or something for stability while using them.

One is a shave pony. It looks easy to build but you do still need a little space for it.

The other I cannot seem to find again on the web but it was essentially a small version of a riving brake: riving brake It was made out of a couple dowels and clamped to a workbench (or railing in your case). You don't need the big A-frame shape, just the two horizontal pieces to jam the wood between and lever against. I think this concept is the winner for utter simplicity.

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