Build Sawhorses: Even Better Than In 1985

http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/hands-on-how-to-build-better-sawhorses.aspx

sawhorse complete
   PHOTO BY TROY GRIEPENTROG

I decided to build some cheap shelves for the basement and was cutting some 2-by-4s on the floor when the saw kicked back. I wasn’t injured, but it was a stupid thing to do. Using sawhorses to keep the wood in position is much safer, so I decided to build a pair.

I used the $6 sawhorses (Build the World's Best $6 Sawhorse?) as a model, but changed a few things to fit my needs. (The sawhorse plans are in the Image Gallery for that article.) You can build these with hand or power tools. I used a combination. Here’s how I built the sawhorses step by step:

Make the Top

Cut the following pieces of 2-by-4 to length.
4 pieces, 10 3/8 inches long (this is slightly more than the original plan)
2 pieces, 14 inches long
2 pieces, 19 inches long
2 pieces, 36 1/5 inches long (this is slightly more than the original plan)

Lay out the longest pieces with a 10 3/8-inch piece on top of the ends to make a rectangle. Square up the corners and attach with four 2 1/2-inch screws at each joint. I had to pre-drill the holes to avoid splitting the pine, even though I was using self-tapping deck screws.

Put the other two 10 3/8-inch pieces in the middle of the rectangle. You’ll know where these fit if you put the 14- and 19-inch pieces on top of them for reference. The 14- and 19-inch pieces should reach the ends, leaving a 3 1/2-inch gap in the middle. This gap is wide enough to fit a 2-by-4, but should be narrow enough that the foot of your circular saw will bridge the gap. (In the original plans, this gap was only 3 inches, but I thought I might want to put a 2-by-4 between the two sawhorses sometime, so I made it a little wider.) Attach the middle 10 3/8-inch pieces with four 2 1/2-inch screws at each joint.

Now attach the 14- and 19-inch pieces. Make sure the space between these is 3 1/2 inches; put a 2-by-4 between them to make sure it fits snuggly without binding. Secure each joint with three 2 1/2-inch screws, but keep them 1 1/2 inches from the outside edges. In the next step, you’re going to cut the bevel for the legs, and the screws would get in the way if they’re too close to the edge.

sawhorse top
   PHOTO BY TROY GRIEPENTROG

Cut the Bevel for the Legs

Mark the edges of the top with a bevel gauge. I was trying for a 7-degree angle. If you don’t have a bevel gauge, cut a template from a piece of plywood or 1-by-2. Measure 12 inches along a factory edge of the board or plywood. Using a square, make a mark 1 1/2 inches from the edge. Draw a line from the mark to the starting corner to make a triangle; cut along this line. The narrow angle of this piece is about 7 degrees.

end angle
   PHOTO BY TROY GRIEPENTROG

Mark the top of the sawhorses as in the photo. Mark the angles on the ends; then, straight lines on the top. I wanted the legs to splay out 7 degrees for more stability, so I marked the sides for this, too.

You could cut out these pieces with a saw, but you’d be cross-cutting one 2-by-4 (against the grain) and ripping two 2-by-4s (with the grain). Cutting this by hand is hard work (I tried it). A circular saw will leave a rounded cut where you stop, so that’s not the best solution. You also could make all the cuts before assembling the pieces, but you have to keep the angles consistent and measurements precise.

The quickest and easiest method is to make the bevel cut nearest the center of the sawhorse with a handsaw and chisel out the waste of the pieces you’d be ripping if you used a saw. After you’ve chiseled those two boards, use a handsaw to cut the middle board. (Most handsaws are designed for crosscutting, not ripping.)

cutting angle
   PHOTO BY TROY GRIEPENTROG
  Cut only to the mark you made on the top. This photo shows the top of the
  sawhorse facing the person making the cut. The saw angles down so that it
  barely cuts the wood at the back of this cut. Cutting it from the other side would
  be a more natural sawing position.

chisel the ends
   PHOTO BY TROY GRIEPENTROG
  Don’t be afraid to use a chisel! Take off little bits at a time — an eighth of an inch
  or less. If you’ve never used a chisel before, this is a great project to try it out.

angle cut complete
   PHOTO BY TROY GRIEPENTROG
  After you've removed waste from the outside 2-by-4s with a chisel, cut the middle
  2-by-4 with a crosscut saw.

Cutting the Legs

Use the bevel gauge or template to mark the ends of four 2-by-4s. This will have two bevels (if you look down on the finished sawhorse from the top, the legs will jut off from the corners at an angle, not just to the side or front and back of the sawhorse). Before you make the cut, check that your lines match the notches in the top of the sawhorse.

Measure 32 inches from your first cut and mark matching bevels. Check against the notch in the top of the sawhorse again. Depending on your height, you may want to make the legs shorter or longer. Remember it’s easier to cut more off later than to add wood back.

Attach each leg with six 2 1/2-inch screws.

The cross braces add strength to the sawhorse. You can use 1-by-4s, 1-by-6s or 2-by-4s. Attach these to the legs with two 2 1/2-inch screws at each joint.

I leveled the sawhorses using a method for leveling table legs described in Build Your Own Tables. (Read Make Your Table Stable at the end of that article.)

Read Circular Saw Safety Tips to learn more about using the sawhorses safely.