The Magic of Green Woodworking….Tools, Products And Skills

Untitled design 10

Shave Horse Ben Orford

Green Woodworking…… Yesterday and Today

Green Woodworking is enjoying a revival now that the planting of trees is  recognised as an important way of reducing global warming.

Indeed wood loving craftsmen of the past are now regarded as the first conservationists, as they harnessed the attributes of wood in a sustainable and renewable way.

The common thread in green woodworking is the use of freshly cut, moist wood that has not been dried or seasoned. This allows for easier manipulation of the wood and the development of unique, organic shapes as the wood dries and settles over time.

The craftsmen working with green wood not only enhanced the woodland where they lived and worked, but also created a habitat for a wealth of wildlife from birds to insects and fungi to fauna.

The Equipment of a Woodsman

A Shave Horse

Shave Horse 2

Shave horses are used to hold rough pieces of wood, whilst they are being shaped with a two handed spoke shave or draw knife.

The craftsman (or woman) sits at one end of the ‘horse‘ and uses a foot lever to hold their work in place. 


Shave horses are mainly used to make spoons, small bowls and chair legs.

Many courses are run in the UK where you can learn how to make shave horses and other green wood products. Here is the link to Directory of Courses which lists courses run in the UK during 2024.

A Pole Lathe

Old lathe

Pole Lathe from the 1300s


A pole lathe, also called a spring pole lathe, is used for wood turning.

A cord is wrapped round the raw billet of wood. The woodsman presses the treadle which unwinds the cord, thus turning the wood.

The elasticity within the long pole acts as a return spring to reset the treadle. 

The men, who used pole lathes, were called bodgers.  Years ago they lived an itinerant life, setting up their lathes close to fallen trees.

The craft was particularly popular in the woodland around High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, where Windsor chairs were made.

Peter Wood, one of the UK’s leading craftsmen working with green wood, has recorded an excellent series of five videos called A Beginners Guide To The Pole Lathe‘ 

The first video is divided into three parts…..

From 8.00 minutes to 17.30…….. Overview of the pole lathe

17 30 to 22 50…….. Hand tools

22 50 to the end……. Choosing the best wood

There is another series of videos made by Ben Orford. The first video of the series is An Introduction to Green Woodworking Part 1 Splitting a Log


The Basic Tools of a Woodsman

The basic tools you will need to take up green woodworking as a hobby are…..


    • Gouge for roughening up (removing excess timber from the billet)

    • Spindle gouge

    • Wide flat chisel (for smoothing cuts)

    • Skew chisel and other chisels as required by the work in hand

    • Splitting axe

    • Side axe (for taking corners off billet)

    • Draw knife


A selection of green woodworking tools……

Wood Plans Woodworking Carpentry Download

Woodland Products 

Windsor Chairs

Windsor chair

Windsor Chair

The first Windsor chairs were probably made in the early 1700s and soon became popular for several reasons……

They were light in weight, very strong, relatively cheap and the design could easily be adapted to create more sophisticated versions. 

The chairs also had the royal stamp of approval as they were ordered by the King for his residence at Windsor Castle.

The seats were usually made of elm, whereas the spindles legs and arms were ash, beech or a fruitwood especially cherry.


Other products made by the bodgers were bowls, stools, spoons and walking sticks.

Books on Green Woodworking

Here are some books you may be interested in, which are all available from Amazon…….just click on the title for more information.

Traditional Woodland Crafts 1Green Woodworking 1 1Shaving Horses 1

Enjoy your Green Woodworking


What’s your Reaction?


I have always loved wood crafts. In my teens it was model gliders, ships in bottles, puppets, wooden toys.... Then I had to earn a crust and became a civil engineer designing and building bridges, motorways, schools...until I became a video producer. On retiring I started making dolls houses but now I am a blogger concentrating on my love of wood.
0 0 votes
Article Rating

Do share your thoughts on this post

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments