One of the most useful tools any maker-person can have is a decent stack of sawhorses. They're incredibly useful in the workshop for any number of uses.
The best sawhorse is one that is strong, cheap, easy to make, and ideally, stackable.
This incredibly simple sawhorse plan is a modified version of one created by Matthias Wandel, whose original plan is available here.
I built two sawhorses inspired by his plan several years ago, but recently was working on a larger project where I needed a couple more.
I liked the first pair I built so much that I decided it would be beneficial to document and share the process as I built another one.
Follow along, and build a stack of sawhorses for yourself!
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As a side note, if you've never stumbled across Matthias's youtube channel or website, you're in for a treat. He does brilliant and inspiring work, all from an engineer's perspective. He's one of my favorite makers of things online!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
This sawhorse can be built with just a few basic tools. At minimum you will need:
- Circular saw (or even just a hand saw)
- Tape measure and pencil or pen
- Framing square
- Safety glasses
For one sawhorse you will need the following materials:
- Two 8-foot 2x4 studs
- Some 1/2" or 3/4" scrap (I used plywood)
- About fifty 2" or 2 1/2" nails
- Wood glue
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This guide was created with the complete newby in mind, and intentionally done with only basic tools. You most certainly should adapt to whatever tools and experience you may have.
For example, if you have access to a band saw or wanted to put this together with screws, that would make this sawhorse even easier and quicker to throw together.
Step 2: Basic Plan
The basic plan is to cut the two 2x4s into six approximately 32" pieces. Four of them will become the legs, and two of them will be fastened together to make the top beam.
Step 3: Cut the Pieces
If you don't have a work table, milk crate, pair of buckets, old stump, or any other suitable table-like surface, simply place one of the 2x4s on the ground and lay the other one across it in a perpendicular fashion.
We are going to cut two boards from each 2x4 which will become legs, and the remaining pieces will be used for the top beam.
From the right end of the first 2x4, measure and place a mark at 32 inches. Use a framing square to extend the mark across the face of the board.
See photo three. We are going to make this cut on the right side of the line, so the actual length of the cut board will be 32" minus the thickness of your blade. Make the cut carefully and as precisely as possible, just barely leaving the line as shown in photo 4.
After the first board is cut, measure from the freshly cut right end of the board 32 inches again, and repeat process.
The remaining piece will be just a hair longer than the first two pieces you cut, and can be left as is.
Now repeat this process for the other 2x4.
Step 4: Cut Notches in Top Beam
The two slightly longer boards will become the top beam, and need notches cut in them where the legs will be attached.
Attaching the legs into notches like this provides lateral stability to the sawhorse, and it would not be nearly as strong if the legs were just nailed in place to the faces of the top beam.
First, mark a line 2 inches in from the ends of the boards, and then another 5 1/2 inches in.
Set the blade on your saw to a depth of 3/4 inch.
Make several cuts within the area between the two marks, making sure to leave the marks. You can always remove more material later on if needed to ensure a good fit.
Use the claw side of the hammer to gently tap and break free the tabs of wood, and scrape all the remaining bits out of the notched area. If you have a chisel, you can clean up this notched area even further, but it's not necessary. Test the fit of a 2x4 into the notched area, and adjust if needed. The board should fit into the notch snugly, but be able to be put in place and removed easily by hand.
Repeat this process for the remaining three notches. (I cheated and used my band saw for the other three. Don't tell anyone!)
Step 5: Fasten Top Beam Pieces Together
Spread a layer of wood glue onto both of the beam pieces, and place them together with the notches facing out.
Make sure the two pieces are lined up precisely, and nail them together with several nails through each side.
Step 6: Cut Leg Tops
The tops of the legs need to be beveled. This can be done with a circular saw, and although it may be a little tricky for a complete beginner, a sawhorse is an excellent place to be practicing stuff like this!
See dimensions as noted in photo 1, and mark tops of legs as indicated.
Set your blade to a depth of about 2 inches. You will need to make two cuts to remove this section with a circular saw.
See notes in photo 3 for basic tips on positioning and how to safely make these cuts.
Step 7: Cut Leg Bottoms
The leg bottoms get a slight taper so they will sit flush on the ground.
This taper is not cut all the way through however, so the outside faces of the legs stand off of the ground just a little. This is a brilliant feature from Matthias's design that prevents the legs chipping and splintering as you drag the sawhorse around your garage or shop.
See notes in photo 1 for where to mark for the area to be removed.
Set your saw blade to 20 degrees. It helps to line up the cut before hand and mark a guideline on the board to indicate where the side of the saw's bottom plate should be for an accurate cut. See photos 2 and 3 for details on this.
Step 8: Fasten Legs to Beam
The legs can be fastened with either nails or screws, and I recommend using glue as well.
If you're using screws, be sure to predrill holes that are just a bit smaller than the thread diameter of the screws you're using.
Spread a thin layer of glue to all mating surfaces of a leg and the corresponding notch area in the beam. Place the leg into the notch, so the tops are flush, and pound four nails into place. See photo notes for details on this.
Fasten two legs to the same side, flip the sawhorse over and repeat for other side.
Step 9: Cut Support Pieces
Cut some scrap plywood or other thin material into five inch strips. I used a straight edge to mark a line and cut these out with my circular saw.
Hold a strip against the legs, butted up against the underside of the top beam, and trace the outside edge of the legs.
Cut one of these out, and use it as a template to trace three more. Then cut out the remaining three pieces.
Step 10: Fasten Support Pieces
The four support pieces are fastened to the sawhorse with glue and nails as shown.
Step 11: Fine Tuning
Put your almost-completed sawhorse onto a surface you know to be flat. If you see any gaps under the legs, this is easy to fix.
Press down on one end of the sawhorse so three legs are touching the flat surface. The fourth leg may have a small gap under it. In my case, I had about an 1/8" gap under a leg.
To fix this, an equal amount needs to be trimmed from either of the two legs directly corresponding to the leg with the gap (not the kitty-corner leg).
Deciding on which leg to trim depends on what will make the sawhorse more level. But to be honest, for a sawhorse it doesn't really matter!
I just set my circular saw blade back to 20 degrees trimmed a bit off of one of the legs, and it was done.
Step 12: Finishing Touches
The angle on the bottom of the legs will help prevent chipping and splintering. To offer even more protection, you can sand the bottom edges of the legs round. I did this with 60 grit sandpaper on an orbital sander.
Step 13: Make a Whole Stack!
Repeat the process to build multiple sawhorses.