Horse (Traditional)

Traditional Japanese sawhorses are similar to the Western trestle, but built very low so that you can use your foot as a clamp to hold the board down while sawing with a ryoba or dozuki.

In 2017 I made an investment in my first set of Japanese saws. It was a ryoba and a dozuki from Suizan. While I loved working with saws of this type, I quickly found that my straddle workbench was inadequate to facilitate their use.

Japanese hand saws, (which I to this day refuse to call razorsaws), tend to run around 24” in length, with an 8-10” blade. They have long handles that make them look almost like weird swords. Unlike European and American saws, they cut on the pull stroke. This allows for thinner blades and makes it easier to manage straight cuts, which is their main selling point.

Traditional European benches and horses have European saws in mind, which cut better when used from knee to hip high. Japanese saws work better when the board is much lower, especially to where you can hold it with your foot and handle the saw with both hands.

First project on the straddlebench wore me out. The board was high so I couldn’t step on it, but the bench was too light to keep the workpiece steady.

To facilitate further use of the saws, I built a pair of horses.

Plans

These plans were adapted from Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit and Use, by Toshio Odate. My changes were minor, based mostly on adapting it to build from storebought lumber.

If you’re at all interested in such tools, I highly recommend you buy the book, as he goes into much more detail about what tools are out there and how you should use them than I ever will.

The horse revolves around a 1x8 oak board with the grain oriented parallel to the ground. The body and the legs are set with an interlocking joint. That is a 1” wide slot cut into each, then they’re pressed into other.

Materials

My horses were made from a 1” x 8” oak board. The body is around 16” long. You’ll need another 6” or so for each leg. That’s 32” total for the body and 24” for the legs, totaling 56” or just under 5’ of board for both.

Hardware store in my area sells an 8’ oak 1x8 for $33.48, so you should probably plan on building from the waste off another project.