Japanese Sawhorses 2

by Mathieu

In response to the questions of Roald, one of the readers of this blog, I decided to write a short post regarding the height of a sawhorse.

I am currently doing some work on job site workbenches in Norway and are soon going to make some trestles for a kind of planing beam. I am thinking of a working height of 73-75 cm (the top of the 4″ thick beam). Do you have any measures of your saw horses?

The height of a sawhorse or trestle depend on many factors. Ideally it is made proportionally to the length of it’s user or better said his or her physical constitution. That means that short or flexible people wil work comfortable on lower horses while tall or rather stiff individuals might prefer higher horses. A small simulation will help you determine what works best for you.
It is also a good idea to determine standard heights for all the sawhorses in your shop so they are interchangeable and don’t interfere with each other.

Being 1.74m I am relatively small but the sizes I will list here should work for most people.
The size and height greatly depends on what you intend to use the trestles for. If you are planning to do joinery for timberframe work you want to be able to sit atop of your beams and posts using your body to hold it in place. This type of ‘low’ horses I believe are the most useful and versatile. You need to be flexible enough and be able to squat while you are working or you will end up bending your back until it finally gives in. Measured from the floor to the top surface they are 1.5尺, this is approximately 455mm or about 18″.

The next size up is what I refer to as ‘high’ horses and I like them to be 2.5尺 high, that is approximately 760mm or about 29 3/4″, make it 30″ for the convenience of those who prefer to use imperial.

The tallest horses around my shop are the ones I prefer to use for layout and can be as high as 3尺, approximately 910mm or about 3′.

If you are planning to make sawhorses to support a planing beam it really depends on what your preferred planing height is. You might even want to consider to install a planing beam which is slightly angled allowing gravity to aid you in your planing motion.

I would consider 2.8尺, 850mm a comfortable planing height. By this I mean the top surface of the planing beam. It allows me to apply a good amount of downward pressure being well above the piece you are planing. If you need to plane pieces of large dimension you might want to lower the height a bit more. Don’t forget to take the thickness of your planing beam into account.

Sugar Pine I would consider an ideal species for a planing beam. It is soft and terribly stable. It is so soft that shavings and wood chips are more likely to mar your planing beam then the piece you are planing to a luster finish.

In the end it really is nothing more then personal preference I guess. It is one thing to figure out a height that works best for you. But what is most important is to teach your body to move around the wood. Gravity, bodyweight and postion how they relate and interact with each other combined with a good dose of swiftness is what really makes the difference. Unfortunately this is something I can not possibly explain with words.

Shaku Conversion:
1 inch = 11.930406 尺
1.005833 尺 = 1 inch
1 尺 = 303mm