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What Is a Die Horse? Customizations, Pricing, and Best Applications

Die horses are a great material handling device that keeps your workers safe and efficient. But what affects their pricing, and how customizable are they?

Sam Myers

Whether it’s your kitchen appliances, washing machine, furnace, workout equipment, car doors, or the tumbler sitting at your desk, heavy die stamping operations play a crucial role in people’s lives.

Because of increased manufacturing activity, the global die casting business has a market size of $82.86 billion in 2024 and is expected to grow to $112.14 billion by 2029.

From major car manufacturers, consumer goods plants, to smaller home improvement facilities, industries are looking to improve their die-stamping operations and keep pace with a rapidly growing industry. But what solutions are out there?

One of the more common tools is a die horse, also called industrial steel sawhorses, engineered saw horses, and heavy-duty steel sawhorses. Even though they’re a popular device, there are still misconceptions about their functions and manufacturing requirements.

While they seem like simple tools, investing in a die horse is no small task. To help you during your research process, our article will go over key questions, such as:

What are Die Horses?

Custom-engineered die horse designs offered by Mazzella

It’s safe to label die horses as heavy-duty sawhorses. Both tools have similar shapes and serve the same purpose: to give workers an elevated surface to work on.

If you’re fabricating a larger piece of metal, and it’s too large for a worktable, you will want to use a die horse. The general rule is that any piece of metal weighing over 100 lbs. will need an engineered die horse.

With loading capacity, there’s really no limit to how high die horses can reach. We have engineered die horses ranging from 500 pounds all the way to 100-tons.

How are Die Horses Used?

Thanks to its unique shape, industrial steel sawhorses allow maintenance workers to work on loads on an elevated surface. Having the die off the floor also allows for a more secure work area and increases maneuverability and access.

It creates safer and more secure work areas and removes the need to suspend loads with a crane or forklift.

And while they’re commonplace in the stamping process, die horses can be used in any fabrication or maintenance area where an item needs to be worked on, including:

  • Painting
  • Stamping
  • Plastic injection mold maintenance
  • Casting operations
  • Fabricating large and long structures
  • Equipment maintenance

While engineered saw horses are designed to be worked under, our specialists say that extra caution should be taken.

Can You Customize a Die Horse?

Selection of die horse customization options

Die horses offer buyers plenty of customization offerings, including:

Plastic or Wood Tops

To prevent damage caused by steel-to-steel contact, many users will add plastic or wooden tops on their die horse.

At Mazzella, our plastic tops are made from UHMW plastic, while our wood top is made from strong, resistant oak. Both options are similar in price and durability, which means your decision will boil down to personal preference.

Caster Wheels

One of the more popular customization offerings are spring loaded caster wheels. These wheels are attached to the die horses’ base, allowing them to be mobile.

Adjustable Height

Adjustable height die horses allow for different sized people to work safely and ergonomically under the die horses..

Lifting Rings

Lifting rings allow die horses to be lifted and transported using lifting slings, making transportation easier in your facility.

Forklift Pockets

Forklift pockets are an opening on the die horse where the prongs of a forklift can safely lift and transport the die horse.

What Affects the Pricing of a Die Horse?

The height, loading capacity, and the amount of customization add-ons, like caster wheels, lifting rings, top material, and adjustable height, are the biggest factors affecting the price of die horses.

For example, a die horse that’s 10 feet long, has a 10-ton capacity, and paired with UHMW plastic top and caster wheels could cost as much as $7,400.

While some may be surprised at the high price, making die horses is a labor-intensive and time-consuming task.

Engineered saw horses with a larger loading capacity will require more material and manual labor, increasing the final price.

What Industry Standards Impact Die Horses?

Die horses fall under ASME applicable standards and are designed, manufactured, modified, or repaired in accordance with industry standards, including:

  • Design principles established by the Design of Welded Structures
  • The American Institute of Steel Construction reference manuals. 

And while there are no set inspection criteria for die horses, our safety experts recommend at least an annual inspection.

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What are the Dangers of Using Homemade Die Horses?

One of the most common issues we see at facilities is using homemade die horses. In some cases, our specialists have seen 50 to 60 homemade die horses in a single facility.

Many organizations view material handling devices as something you can easily make in your shop. They’ll often say:

“We already have an in-house engineering department. Why would we spend thousands of dollars on a die horse when we can create them in our facility?”

While it’s an understandable opinion—and your team of in-house engineers is likely talented and in tune with your practices and applications—these homemade devices are almost always not up to industry standards.

With homemade below-the-hook devices, organizations run the risk of putting equipment in the hands of their workers that don’t have proper:

  • Tagging requirements  
  • Load testing 
  • Inspection criteria 
  • Safety factors 
  • Design categories 
  • Service classes 

Plus, manufacturing material handlings devices that do not meet the appropriate ASME standards is against OSHA and ASME regulations.

Organizations caught using homemade die horses can be held liable in court if an employee gets hurt using one, resulting in serious penalties and fines.

Thankfully, our team has noticed a shift. Larger organizations are now seeing the value in investing in professionally engineered, assembled, and customized die horses.

Are Die Horses a Good Fit at Your Facility?

Die horses being utilized in a steel fabrication shop

Whether it’s their wide range of customization offerings, durability, or exceptional working load limit, die horses are a perfect fit for anyone in the die molding and handling industry.

While die handling is inherently dangerous, having the right material handling devices at your facility can deter various dangers for your workers and increase their productivity levels. 

And even though die horses are expensive, the added safety and increased productivity they offer are worth the investment.

At Mazzella, we have decades of experience in designing and developing die horses for various industries. Along with design and fabrication, we also provide repairs and inspection services.

Want to learn more? Read our article covering lifting and rigging solutions for die handling and automative stamping.

Contact a Mazzella specialist today to learn more, order products, or schedule services.

Copyright 2024. Mazzella Companies.

Disclaimer: Any advice, graphics, images, and/or information contained herein are presented for general educational and information purposes and to increase overall safety awareness. It is not intended to be legal, medical, or other expert advice or services, and should not be used in place of consultation with appropriate industry professionals. The information herein should not be considered exhaustive and the user should seek the advice of appropriate professionals.