Build a Sawbench From a Beam and Dowels





Introduction: Build a Sawbench From a Beam and Dowels

Although it looks like a saw horse it is actually a short low bench used to saw. The design is such that you can hold down your work with the knee of one leg and use the other leg to hold the board from moving back as you saw. It is lightweight and easy to move from site to site. It even works as a workbench for a younger woodworker.

It is made from a 32" piece of 2x8 beam. You can usually find a piece this short that is being tossed out at a construction site. I used 2" dowels because I wanted it stout however closet dowels would also work.

Step 1: Size Bench Top and Measure for Holes

Plane and cut the beam so that it is 3" thick, 7" wide, and 32" wide. If you do not have a planer then leave the beam at its 7-1/4" by 3-1/2" dimensions. Now that the beam is dimensioned it is a good time to determine the height of you bench. A rule of thumb is that is should be as high as the point where you knee starts. I prefer to just take the top and stack it on boxes or wood or whatever to get it to a height that feels right when holding a piece of wood down with a knee. (For reference, I an 6' 4" tall and I am making this bench 20" tall). Don't compromise the height so others can use it. A sawbench a is very personnel thing. (You won't buy underwear the wrong size so other could share it, would you?)

On the bottom (less pretty) side of the bench mark the locations for the four holes. They are 5" from the ends and 1-3/4" from the sides. Also draw a 45 degree line at the hole location

Step 2: Center Drill Guide

You are going to drill four hole, each at 15 degrees. It is easier it you have a drill guide. I recommend this one from Lee Valley.

Grill Guide

It is very reasonably priced and when you see how easy it is to make dowel legs you will be making all sorts and tables, benches, and stools. Lee Valley is an excellent company with service second to none. (My only relation with Lee Valley is that I buy a lot of wood working stuff from them.)

Set then drill guide for 15 degree (the gauge says 75 degrees ). Place a long drill bit in the guide and align it so the drill bit is at the marked point and the notches in the front and back of the guide are aligned with the 45 degree line. Hold in place with a couple of screws.

Step 3: Drill Holes

Remove the long bit and replace it with a Forstner bit the same diameter as you dowels. Once installed drill the hole as deep as you are comfortable without drilling through the top. Set the depth guide so the other three holes will be the same depth. Repeat this and the previous step to drill all four holes.

Step 4: Cut Rip Notch

The three reasons to put a rip notch on this English style sawbench; it is traditional, it is useful for ripping narrow boards, and it keeps a particular family member from grabbing it and using it as a bench in the mud room. Mark a triangle that is 5" deep and 1-3/4" away from the sides. Cut with a bandsaw.

Step 5: Notch Dowels

The dowels are cut a few inches longer than required and notch one side of each of them them the width of a saw blade, 2-1/4" deep.

Step 6: Wedge Dowels and Install

Each dowel will need a wedge. They are 2" long, a little less wide than the dowel diameter and, at top, are about 1/16" thicker than the kerf cut with a 2 or 3 degree taper. The idea is than when the dowel is pounded into the hole, the wedge hits the bottom, it is driven in the notch and causes the dowel to spread apart and clamp itself in place. It will never come out. Apply glue to leg, hole and wedge and install. Note that I am using a really large hammer to install the dowel and place the wedge. Install the dowel so the wedge runs perpendicular to the grain of the bench top. This will keep the bench top from splitting.

Step 7: Level Sawbench

Install a screw into the bottom of each leg. Turn the bench over and adjust the screw so the bench at all corners is the same height from the ground and sits flat. The legs are ready to be measured al cut to length.

Step 8: Measure and Cut Legs

Measure the height of the bench while on the screws. (In my case 22-1/4" .) Subtract the desired height (20") and cut a block that keeps the pencil at this value (2-1/4"). Take the pencil a scribe a line all around each leg. Remove the screws and cut each leg at these marks.

Step 9: Bevel the Bottom of the Legs

The leg bottom will get beat up so it is best to bevel the edges. Mark lines about 1/8" from the edges and bevel the corners. Use a rasp or 60 grit saw paper. Now turn the bench over and fine tune the leg lengths. One leg will have to be slightly sanded on its bottom to make the bench sit perfectly flat and not wobble.

Step 10: Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor

The nice thing about customizing the bench for your particular height is that is makes a nice place to sit and rest. With a wide base it was the traditional place for craftsman to set their lunch and eat it.



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    9 Discussions

    I cut the wedges at a couple of degree angle, with the grain, I make them long and a bit extra thick and the cut the wedge at the correct thickness. Bandsaw works but a hand say can be used. No one will see it.

    Hey thanks again for the tutorial. Can I ask how you made the wedges for the dowels?

    Great guide.. Can you explain why you need to put screws in the legs a bit more? Im a bit confused about that step..

    4 replies

    I use the screw to get the bench to sit level on a flat surface. Just adjust the screws so the bench is level in both directions. Then I take a pencil on a block of wood and mark a line on each leg. Cut of the legs at these lines and you bench now will sit level. Clear?

    You wouldn't know how to make the bottoms of the dowels really rounded like this would you? Any help much appreciated :)


    I would just take rasp and start removing wood. Start be rasping off 45 degrees from the hard corner the soften the corner until it is round . You might make a pattern out of cardboard do you can measure your progress.


    2 years ago

    Very nice! I've been meaning to make one of these for a long time.

    great work! This is a project I need to build for my shop as well. I really liked your approach with the closet dowels. Just curious though, where is a good place to find a 3 x 8?