Introduction: The Best Sawhorse - Strong, Cheap & Easy!

Picture of The Best Sawhorse - Strong, Cheap & Easy!

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!

. . . .

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

Picture of 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)
  • Hammer
  • 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

. . . .

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

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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

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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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of Fasten Support Pieces

The four support pieces are fastened to the sawhorse with glue and nails as shown.

Step 11: Fine Tuning

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!

Picture of Make a Whole Stack!

Repeat the process to build multiple sawhorses.

Comments

came6920 (author)2015-05-04

My dad made some like this 20 years back, their still around now. They are the best! Make them! Seriously.

bricobart (author)2015-03-01

Seems heavy duty enough for me! I feel I'm going to need a few dozens of these in my future dugout project, thanx!

Fission_Chips (author)2015-02-27

Whoa! These are awesome. I seriously need some of these (I absolutely obliterated my mom's wimpy plastic ones with a circular saw)! Awesome job on this.

tomatoskins (author)2015-02-27

These look amazing! I love the minimal tools approach you took to this. I'm a little curious to see how strong these actually are.

seamster (author)tomatoskins2015-02-27

They are very strong.

I believe the technical term is "super duper strong," although I could be mistaken! :)

rober! (author)2017-03-12

How about once you have the angle cut on the top of one leg, take a piece of thin plywood (or other thin material) and trace and cut the profile of the leg on the ply (duplicating the taper) and just use it to layout the cut lines on the other three legs for this sawhorse and to make more legs for more sawhorses.

seamster (author)rober!2017-03-12

That's a very good idea to speed up the process. Thanks!

Bernerboy73 (author)2016-08-25

Hi I'm curious what the angle is on step 6 I'm a newbie at this if anyone would help me out it would be great thanks

psanchez_29 (author)2016-06-10

I need sawhorses to make sawhorses.

ockamr (author)2015-08-06

Like making your own 4x4, think that it might lend itself to making one that would break down for storage. have yo made one with the tapered notches in the middle? allowing the legs to be inserted. my 2c, would tear itself apart the first few tries but maybe not if its used reasonably...

Colinforia (author)2015-06-26

any chance the top beam can be split 3 wide..
with the legs placed inserted middle of each 2x4
[] /[]\ []
//`'^'`\\

seamster (author)Colinforia2015-06-26

I can't see why not. If you make some with that layout, be sure to post a photo. I'd love to see how they turn out!

pwitty94 made it! (author)2015-05-06

Straight forward and sturdy. Love the design

seamster (author)pwitty942015-05-06

Awesome!

(But did you skip the support braces?)

pwitty94 (author)seamster2015-05-06

Yes, I was borrowing a circular saw and had to skip them to return it. But I got one cheap today and plan on going back and adding them. They are solid as they are though. Good design.

jmkgolfnut (author)2015-03-30

I'm completely missing where you have put "See dimensions as noted in photo 1". I can't download the PDF without paying for the pro subscription. On the photos on the page I'm seeing, all it shows are photos, no text or auxillary information that you indicate in your post. Could you update the text on the post itself with the measurement details?

seamster (author)jmkgolfnut2015-03-30

Ah! That looks like a bug, because I can't even see my own notes. I've forwarded that issue on to the right people to take a look and get that fixed.

jmkgolfnut (author)seamster2015-03-30

Thanks for the prompt reply... I'll keep checking back. I like the design...

seamster (author)jmkgolfnut2015-05-04

Hey, just in case you haven't seen and are still interested, the photo notes are all fixed!

jmkgolfnut (author)seamster2015-05-05

Thanks! I noticed that a while ago, I still haven't built them, some other shiny thing caught my eye in the meantime ; )

blissful2015 (author)2015-03-30

hi sam! i LOVE this!!! super cool to see how you cut the notches with a circular saw!!

we use a makita also, but never seen the red blade, is it a secret weapon?

seamster (author)blissful20152015-03-31

Thanks!

That blade is Freud brand blade. It's pretty nice and does the job, but most 10-dollar framing blades work about the same :)

blissful2015 (author)seamster2015-04-02

thank you sam!

just realized you are the one who made one of my all time fav ible - pooping raindeer!!! thank you for inspiring! =)

abboud.nac (author)2015-03-10

Nice work! kinda reminded me of a spanish donkey.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/71/Osiol_hiszpanski_wisnia6522.JPG/270px-Osiol_hiszpanski_wisnia6522.JPG

NathanSellers (author)2015-03-02

Well done. Someday, when my neighbors move, I'll have to make a pair of my own. Until then, I'll keep borrowing. Thanks for sharing the great idea. They look really solid.

pfred2 (author)2015-02-28

These look OK. I was on a sawhorse kick for a little while though and I ran across another design that I happen to like better. The one on the right in this picture

http://i.imgur.com/jO4JV.jpg

The top is nice and wide, so that allows work to be done up there. It makes the horse more than just a one trick pony. I was going to put more braces in the legs, but the horse is so sturdy as it is I never bothered. That is why those upright pieces extend down like they do on this particular horse.

So if I ever built another one I'd make those pieces shorter.

seamster (author)pfred22015-03-01

Thank you for your stamp of OK-ness. :)

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Bio: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is ... More »
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