Here is a simple set of instructions for building a set of sawhorses. It is a fairly simple design that most people who have some woodworking experience can build with a fairly basic tools. Its a low cost woodworking project, that will net you a useful tool, and make the projects that come after it just a little bit easier. I am going to try to show a few different ways of cutting the joints with different tools. This instructable is a bit long winded for the more advanced woodworkers out there. But I really wanted to break this down into as many simple steps as I could for the first timers, and show how simple some of basic ideas in woodworking really are. I wanted to show that if you can cut wood, you can build something useful.
But before we get into the actual construction, first we should try to tackle the why.
A good workspace, is an often overlooked issue. If you are starting out with very few resources (time, money, or experience) to build a workspace. The logical choice would be to make the biggest change with the smallest expenditure of resources. A good set of sawhorses is an example of such an expenditure. They are well designed companion for tradespeople around the world. If built correctly you should be able to set them down in a blank empty work area and have a workbench, table, chair, step stool, extra person, scaffold, desk, coat rack, or most importantly a place to set your coffee
There are old timer carpenters who will tell you the story of being asked to build a sawhorse as an interview for the first carpenter job that they got. Today in the days of large box home improvement stores, and injection molded plastic, a set of sawhorses are more likely to be purchased then built.
So why build your own? Many simple reasons.
1) You get a design the fits you when you are working with them. Are you very short or Very tall? What are you going to be putting on them? How tall is it? Are you working in a basement with limited height? Do you work more with dimensional lumber or sheet goods?
2) You get a design that fits you when you are not working with them. Can they be designed to store away in a unused corner? Next to the washing machine? Tuck under your workbench? Slide behind the couch?
3) Cost. A solid set of sawhorses that you build yourself can be made from scrap and cost far less then something you buy pre-built. And that savings translates into more freedom to finance the next project.
4) its a good first project. Practice makes perfect. If you have made it this far you are interested in woodworking. Why not crank out a simple project that is low cost, satisfying to build and will help you with every project down the road?
5) Because its your own. Anyone can go buy something, but if you have a quick look around this website you can tell that we all would rather create something.
6) Because you get to build something the way your grandfather(or mother) would have done it.
7) You just find the smell of sawdust appealing. Don't worry, I understand, relax you are among friends.
Step 1: The Design.
I have spent a while poking around the net, and poking around jobsites, for ideas. There are a few sets of plans out on the internet for sawhorses. And most fall into two distinct catagories. Too Heavy, or Too Complex. I-beams made out of 2x4s, router cut interlocking plywood gussets, expensive hardware, single use designs, ones that only stack one way, exotic materials, bizarre joinery methods, etc.
None of that here.
What I wanted was a simple design that can be adapted to whatever materials are available, built by anyone who can cut wood and drive screws. It should be strong, and hard to knock over. You should be able to clamp workpieces to it easily. It needs to stack. It needs to be low cost. It needs a wide enough top that you can just use one if you need to. It should be easy to replicate when you decide you need to build another set, or speaking from experience when it gets left in the driveway, and you back over it. It should be adaptable to different heights.
The pictures show what I came up with. I borrowed many ideas for this project from other peoples designs I have seen over the years. Its a simple 2x8" top roughly 2 feet long. with 2 foot legs. The low height is perfect for working on large box 'cabinet' type projects. It works well for ripping down plywood and working with a circular saw. It works in low ceilinged basements. The 15 degree spread of the legs gives a wide stable stance. (If you want to make a taller set I would decrease the angle a bit.) And the lack of bracing allows the legs to flex and sit on uneven concrete floors with out rocking. And allows them to stack even if they all do not get built exactly the same.
The tools needed are simple, you need some way to cut wood, some way to drive screws, and a carpenters square, that's it. The first set these that I built was just after we had moved into our house, where the only power tools I had access to were a jigsaw, and a cordless drill.
Use what you have, build what you can, and don't be afraid to ask for help from friends with more experience, or access to better tools. Don't be afraid to modify the design as you see fit. This is a choose your own adventure project, and the result should be what you want it to be.