With our heavy duty workbenches complete, I’ve moved on to building a pair of sawhorses for the shop. While our workbenches double quite well as supports for our mounted saws, sometimes I find it very convenient to just move a sawhorse or two in place to support infeed or outfeed, or to create a temporary work surface using plywood or dimensional lumber. (This is especially true when we’re working outside or around town, or other times when our workbenches aren’t available.)
After looking around online, I found exactly what I wanted for a design, albeit with build instructions that are a bit complicated.
I’m going to lay out the directions for you here, so you can build your own wooden sawhorses. While some of the cuts to make these are complex, I’ll make it as simple as possible to complete, with detailed settings for your mitre saw for each piece. If you’re looking for something easier to build than these models, Timothy from Charles and Hudson (C&H) provides a great alternative for simple (but still sturdy) sawhorses. C&H’s sawhorses stack, but do not fold, and the legs angle in only two dimensions rather than three.
If you follow these directions, you’ll end up with one very strong sawhorse measuring 36-1/4″ tall x 32″ long x 33-3/4″ wide. The reason this sawhorse is so strong is that all the downward force is evenly distributed through the legs to the floor. With the legs angling in, this sawhorse is extremely stable, and very difficult to tip over.
Tools & Materials List
Here are the tools and materials you’ll need to complete this project. Total cost is less than $20, and a little less than half of that is for the 6′ locking tie down. The harness could be substituted for a less expensive model. With some thrift, this sawhorse could be built for under $15.
The Shopping List
- (3) 8 foot 2×4’s
- (2) 3/8″ x 3-1/2″ carriage bolts
- (6) 3/8″ washers
- (2) 3/8″ nuts
- (10) 2-1/2″ wood screws
- (1) 6 foot locking tie down harness
- Compound miter saw (must be capable of bevel and miter cuts)
- Jigsaw (or similar alternative, but not a circular saw)
- Impact driver (optional)
Steps to Make Wooden Sawhorses
Step 1: Cut the Lumber for Individual Components
I’ve labeled each leg in the pictures below to help avoid confusion. Keep in mind that you’ll need to cut miter and bevel angles on the top and bottom of each piece while maintaining the appropriate length. All legs should measure 40″ long after these cuts, and each measurement listed assumes the work piece is on the right-hand side of the miter saw, same-side up. It makes sense that legs 1 & 3 and legs 2 & 4 are identical, because they are the same piece turned in the opposite direction.
- Leg 1 & 3 Top: 25° miter right, 10° bevel right
- Leg 1 & 3 Bottom: 25° miter right, 10° bevel left
- Leg 2 & 4 Top: 25° miter left, 10° bevel right
- Leg 2 & 4 Bottom: 25° miter left, 10° bevel left
- Lower Supports: 32″ & 29″ long with 10° miter cuts on both sides
- Upper Support: 24-1/2″ long with 10° miter cuts on both sides
- Cross Member: 36″ long, straight cut on both sides.
Once the legs are cut, you should end up with something like this.
Step 2: Cut the Notch
You want the cross member to be parallel to the ground, and that requires cutting notches on each leg. Again, these will be compound cuts, since the legs are angled inwards in two direction. You won’t be able to achieve both cuts with a miter saw. That’s where the jigsaw will come in handy.
First, mark your cut on both sides of the leg. These lines should be on the “inside” edge where the leg comes in contact with the cross member. The first line should be perpendicular to the topside of the leg. Set your square in place on the top of the leg and draw a line starting at the top corner. This downward line should measure 3-1/8″. Note that in the first picture below, the slide on the square is touching the top of the board (the angle in the picture doesn’t show this well).
Your next line will form a right angle and continue all the way to the edge of the 2×4. If you’ve done everything correctly, it’ll measure 1-1/2″ long.
The result will look like this. Note the right angle indicators.
Flip the 2×4 and repeat the process.
When you turn the 2×4 on end and draw a line between the two edges, it’ll have the same 10° angle as the top, because on each side of the 2×4 you measured from the top of that side of the board.
This pictures shows how the line continues around the side of the board.
You can make the first cut with your miter saw set to a 25° bevel and 10° miter. Be careful with the depth of this cut, as the depth varies across the cut because of the 10° bevel.
The second cut needs to be done with a jigsaw or handsaw. Be careful to keep the blade perfectly straight up and down, and use a piece of scrap wood to help level the jigsaw. Remember that the lines on the two sides (top and bottom) are offset (by 10°) so one side will be finished before the other side. We recommend placing the 2×4 with the shorter line on top. Towards the end of the cut, you will need to slightly angle the jigsaw backward, or you will cut too deeply at the top.
Notch all four legs on their inside edge using the same technique.
Step 3: Drill Bolt Holes
Next, you’ll drill a hole for the carriage bolt which will act as a hinge to collapse the sawhorse. Drill the hole 6″ down, centered on the 2×4. It’s best if you drill through both legs at the same time. Legs 2 & 3 are situated on the inside (1 & 4 on the outside), and you should drill the holes in the same orientation. In order to center the 2x4s at the right place, you’ll need to use a scrap 2×4 in the gap created by the notch. When the 2x4s are properly aligned, the notch should firmly hold the 2×4. Clamp the 2x4s in place before drilling.
Step 4: Insert the Carriage Bolts and Washers
Both carriage bolts will angle downward when the sawhorses are completely assembled, and this is OK. Put two washers on the bolt in between the legs to allow them swing. Put on a third washer next to the nut, and tighten it.
Step 5: Attach Cross Supports Using Wood Screws
Now it’s time to add the three supports that connect the two pairs of legs. Before you fasten them in place, drill pilot holes to avoid splitting the wood, because you’ll be working close to the end grain. Put two screws on each side, and make sure the edges are flush with the legs. I placed the lower supports 6″ up the leg and the upper support about the same distance down from the top.
Step 6: Install The Strap
Part of the beauty of these sawhorses is that the cross member is firmly sandwiched in place by the legs. To keep everything nice and tight, use a locking strap (or ratcheting strap) to pull the legs together as far as they will go. You can also use the strap to secure the cross member when the sawhorse is not setup.
Final Thoughts and Pictures
Even though these directions are a bit complicated, the end product is well worth it. This type of sawhorse is very strong and should last a long time. It is collapsible, and the cross member can be modified to better suit your needs. For instance, I’ve seen v-notches cut to prevent pipe and conduit from rolling away. You could also build various height cross members to support differing infeed / outfeed support heights.