There are some woodworkers who say that shavehorses weren’t used in chairmaking – according to the historical record. But shavehorses were definitely used in the mining industry.
Check out this 1556 illustration of a guy working at a shavehorse from the Latin text “Georgius Agricola: De Re Metallica.” The gentleman looks like he is not-so-merrily shaving away at a chair spindle. Not so.
The guy is making “bertte” – translated as “beards.” These are sticks of wood that are shaved so that all the shavings are still attached. They literally look like beards or a Christmas tree perhaps (after too much egg nog).
These bertte were important to the mining industry because they were used to light fires in the mines that would help make the rock crumble.
Thanks to Gerd Schlottig for the image and the text. He was in my workbench class at Dictum in Bavaria this summer. He holds the distinction of being able to eat an entire piece of bread slathered with a thick skin of marmite. If you have ever tasted a molecule of marmite, then you know that you should be showing respect.
— Christopher Schwarz