Picture of The simple Saw Horse (Sawhorse?)
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.

pj633 years ago
After looking at several different designs for 'Saw Horses' I have found yours to be the simplest and best by a long way...... Well done for a Great and Informative 'Instructable'.. I now know one of the (many) projects I have to build in the near future.... Once more Well Done and Thank You.... pj
lasersage5 years ago
The angles all look pretty neat cut, it looks like a good job.
I worked in a cabinet makers for a few summers and experienced SawHorse Snobbery!
Basically the guys in the next unit, veneer people, made saw horses like this. The old boys in our joinery laughed at them as they were made like yours with screws essentially taking all the weight. Our ones were all mortised and tennoned in such a way that the main strut across the top rested directly on the legs rather than having them screwed in the side.
There's no denying, that would be a stronger design and if I were making some I'd make some effort to rebate a cut in the legs so the top strut rested on something solid, but truth is, our one's were thoroughly over engineered and probably took a day to build whereas the screw together design was probably knocked up in an hour or two.
I guess its horses for courses, do you need them to last for ever or just until they've gotten a bit knicked and chopped and had a reasonable life anyway.
The guys in my joinery probably had a pride issue too. If someone came round looking at fine cabinets and saw falling apart equipment it wouldn't look so good (not that I ever saw the screw together type break in anyway).

Very functional, I'm sure they'll last all you need. No snobbery from me  :)
Just thought I'd put all this in for anyone else considering sawhorses and their longevity.

toymotorhead (author)  lasersage5 years ago
Thanks. I have seen some really beautifully built sawhorses and workbenches over the years. But as far as I am concerned, tools should be designed to be used (and or abused if necessary). I had some real debates about the strength of a design like this, and it seems solid enough. And the other part of the argument is that it only needs to be strong enough to hold something you can lift onto it, which should max out at a few hundred pounds for even the really big burly people out there. I want to bring one of these to work one of these days and see about some static load testing. If I get around to it I will be sure to post the pictures.
Static load testing hey? Sounds good, getting all scientific about it  :)

I agree, tools for uses and abuses. You definitely would be frustrated if you spent a day or two on the most beautifully joined saw horse just for some new kid in the shop to lay a plank on it and drill a few holes into it  :)

That is why you make a horse with holes in it.

 In my opinion, tools can be as nice looking as you want them to be, as long as it doesn't harm their ability to be used.

I'm interested in that "Static load testing" you mentioned. 
Yeah I've seen snobbery and I've seen strong but simplistic sawhorses, for example: http://www.instructables.com/id/The-ultimate-heavy-duty-stackable-bullet-proof/
But yours toymotorhead, look both strong and multipurposed,I like yours more than most.
paganwonder5 years ago
Back in the days when I built houses full time we carpenters built all variety of horses for different purposes- the trim carpenters usually had the lightest and most portable horses (they were also the oldest guys on-site so we young framers held opinions about that)  and the framers were determined to build horses that could not be broken (not possible BTW- there's always something of sufficient mass to crush anything!).  The point is- horses are built to meet the need- any design is valid if it does the job. 

Nice job on these horses and good 'ible!
recycleking5 years ago
 I'm not old enough to have had to build a sawhorse for my first job interview, but my shop teacher had each student build a sawhorse for the schools' industrial arts wing using only hand tools. A completed sawhorse graduated a person to using power tools. Nice instructable, excellent detail pictures, thanks for returning fond memories.
lasersage5 years ago
this step illustrates your countersink beautifully. Thanks for bothering to chop it up to show us.
Somehow, I've always found sawhorses to be the most useful tool I own.  We finally had to replace an old pair (roughly 20 years of hard use) after a slip with a saw blade.  The new, light plastic replacements are fairly good (we needed hinged horses), but we keep a few old wooden ones as temporary shelves and such (home-built too).
It doesn't really matter what project I'm working on - I grab the horses out of the shed first.  Not old fashioned by any means.
theRIAA5 years ago
nice and hefty, good job!