You Can Build Sawhorses

Sawhorses are good for keeping lumber at the right height while you cut it, creating a portable workbench and creating a temporary table. You can buy a pair for about $50. Or you can make your own inexpensively.
By Steve Maxwell
August 25, 2008
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There are dozens of uses for sawhorses. Are you sure you only want to build one pair?
STEVE MAXWELL


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In the days when rafters, studs and joists were always cut with handsaws, a solid pair of sawhorses was essential for building. Even though power tools rule these days, sawhorses remain vital. Try trimming a sheet of plywood without them. Sawhorses also are indispensable for holding up planks while cutting them with a circular saw or for stacking materials up off the ground.

A wooden platform laid across a pair of sawhorses also makes a great raised work surface, portable workbench, log platform for use next to your firewood splitter, and even a table for cleaning fish and game. I use my sawhorses to support planks and make a temporary worktable while washing and trimming root crops for storage.

Quick Options

You’ll find dozens of models of sawhorses made of plastic, aluminum and steel, ranging in price from $20 to $80. Many are reasonably solid and fold conveniently for storage. The only common drawback is they’re not designed to be inadvertently cut with a saw as you slice plywood or other large pieces of materials that come in sheets.

Need a vise as well as a sawhorse? Look at the Superjaws, which have a vise built in. I have three of these and use them for everything from welding to holding pieces of wood for planing, carving or sawing.

Build Your Own

If you want to save money and enjoy more hands-on construction, consider sawhorse brackets. These are made of metal or plastic for use with standard lumber you cut to length for the legs and body. They take care of the most troublesome part of building your own sawhorses — creating the all-important angled legs. Brackets also offer the chance to replace the body easily after the top edge gets too ratty from multiple saw blade cuts.

Building your own sawhorses entirely from scratch is a project of medium difficulty, but there’s no shortage of help available online. Home-built sawhorses can also be the most stable. Google “sawhorse plans” and dozens of free designs come up. Many of these are good, though there’s a common drawback. Most have legs angled in only one direction. This offers reasonable stability, though not the best. For best stability, you need to have legs splayed out in two directions — both side-to-side and out towards both ends. One of the rare online designs that incorporates this feature is found here.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve built a dozen sawhorses following my own design (see photo above or in the image gallery). Each one uses a 5-foot long 2-by-6 cross-member, with 2-by-4 legs and diagonal braces, and 1-by-4 cross-braces.

The best material for sawhorses also happens to be the cheapest: general-purpose, construction-grade lumber. It’s strong and plentiful, though there’s a hitch. This wood often splits easily when screws are driven into it. That’s why it’s essential to pre-drill screw holes, especially into the angled top ends of the legs. This doesn’t guarantee freedom from splitting, but it does minimize it.

Use 2 1/2-inch- and 3 1/2-inch-long weatherproof galvanized screws for assembly. They hold better than anything else, are easy to drive and won’t rust. You can also take screws out to reposition parts as you’re putting your sawhorses together. Take the extra trouble to apply weatherproof wood glue to all joints and your sawhorse will be stronger and last longer.

For another option, read The World's Best $6 Sawhorse. Do you have your own technique for building sawhorses? Share your ideas in the comments section below.


Contributing Editor Steve Maxwell has been helping people renovate, build and maintain their homes for more than two decades. “Canada’s Handiest Man” is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. Contact him by visiting his website and the blog, Maxwell’s House. You also can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and find him on . 


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Post a comment below.

 

Bob Robblee
1/30/2009 9:07:43 AM
It is just about 30 years since the hole was excavated for my house, which I built. At the start, and during the construction of the concrete forms for the basement, I used sawhorses, which I cussed as I attempted to use them on the uneven ground of the site. In an inspired moment which I cannot recall, I built a miniture outdoor table. It resembles a single sawhorse with a top having 2 pieces of 2"x12" fir added. And, the problem of the uneven site disappeared. For 30 years I have used it and 3 others for carpentry and other construction, as well as a portable table in the garage alongside a vehicle on which I am working. And I believe that if anyone uses one, they will add tops to any sawhorses, commerical or homebuilt that they have. I have tried a commercial clamp type sawhorse and went back to using my own. With it, only one is really needed and it do all the tasks mentioned in the article with ease. Two would be better for lumber of longer than 12 foot lengths. Last summer, my son in law and I started on the planned expansion of their home. He built his own saw horse table with one minor modification and it is working as well as the ones in the past. If you build one of these to try, remember to leave a space of 3" or so between the top planks. That will allow easy sawing of full sheets of plywood. If any other details are neeed, contact me. Regards, Bob Robblee








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