A thing of beauty is a joy forever
I’ve learned over the years that beauty can be found in the most unexpected places. But most of my friends and acquaintances would probably agree that a sawhorse would not usually be held up as an object of adoration. Well, unless you’re already familiar with the work of Master Carpenter Louis Mazerolle and the French journeyman carpenters of the late 19th and early 20th century, get ready to change your view. Erase that image of the paint stained, cut up,” always needs to be tightened” thing you’ve been working with and feast your eyes. Try not to go all agog…
This is not simply a sawhorse. In French it is called a treteau. But a treteau is still a trestle. But this is much more. This is a laboratory in the practice of precision joinery and projected angle drawing that once understood, truly makes the journeyman a master.
The treteau above may well be the work of Mazerolle and Les Compagnons de Devoir. But the trestle below is clearly Mazerolle’s design as is comes from his book, Traite Theorique et Pratique de Charpente:
This treteau is incredibly complex with diagonal bracing turned in such a way as to make it extraordinarily difficult to project. I’m not sure if this version is joined or is fastened in some other manner, as I found this photo on Yahoo France. I apologize for not being able to credit the craftsmen who completed this work. It is amazing and I salute them.
Chris Hall of the Carpentry Way Blog, has completed a beautiful version of Mazerolle’s treteau. He’s documented the process beginning in his January 2009 post. Search for the posts marked Treteau. Mr. Hall’s persistence, commitment to craftsmanship and his generosity in sharing his efforts is sui generis. He also presents a Treteau dit Cadet, which is probably a better place to start for most mere mortals.
Another website which offers more discussion on the construction of a proper treteau is Association Bois de Brin. Simply look for the plan d’un treteau.
We all need several good stout sawhorses. And, building traditional treteaux is a way of perfecting joinery skills that are rarely used in the course of everyday furniture making or general woodworking.
BTW, when you visit The Carpentry Way, be sure to check out Chris’ gallery of work. The guy’s good…very good.