Folding Plywood Sawhorses




Introduction: Folding Plywood Sawhorses

About: Analog maker dabbling in digital manufacture

There seem to be thousands of different plans for sawhorses out there, and it seems that people especially love making ones that are ludicrously sturdy. That's cool and all, but the last thing I need in my less-than-half-a-garage workshop is some beefy sawhorses using up precious floor space. These ones are light, easy to make, can be hung on the wall, and one of them can support ~500 lbs (3 people) and still feel rock solid. The chances of me lifting something heavier than 1000 lb on to my pair of sawhorses are frankly pretty low...

Step 1: Design and Materials

Sawhorses meant for a building site are overengineered and impractical for a workshop where space is at a premium. My design was strongly influenced by the fact I had a 3' × 4' sheet of plywood left over from a deck build that used 5' × 4' sheets, and 3' is roughly how high and how long I wanted the sawhorses to be. They needed to be light and strong and be able to fold flat.

No one ever builds a single sawhorse, and I'm no exception. I built two, but after finishing them, I redesigned them to be slightly smaller so that four could be cut out of a single sheet of plywood, with enough plywood left over to build two sets of hangers. However, the exact size is far from critical, and if you want a different size, you know what to do (if you don't know what to do, I suggest you simply buy some - there are lots of nice light inexpensive folding sawhorses out there).

In addition to the 3/4" construction plywood, I also used 4 recycled 3 1/2" door hinges, wood glue, 1 1/4" drywall screws, 2" deck screws and some 1/4" (6 mm) polypropylene rope. These sawhorses would still be strong enough for most purposes if built with 5/8" or even 1/2" plywood.

I'm fortunate enough to have a table saw and a miter saw, and made all the cuts with these. However, none of the cuts are complicated and you can easily angle the blade on a circular saw (like the one I have) to make the necessary cuts. I don't recommend making this design if you only have a handsaw or jigsaw, make one out of lumber instead.

A SketchUp file for the sawhorse is attached to this step, so you can easily tweak the design to suit your own needs.

Step 2: Cut

My hinges were 89 mm (3 1/2") wide so I used that as a guide to the width of each piece. Note that the dimensions that I list here are for sawhorses whose size has been tweaked so that four can be cut from a single sheet of plywood; they're not quite the same as the ones I built. But that's OK - mine are (like me) unusually tall and most people would prefer slightly shorter ones anyway.

8 pieces of 844 × 90 mm (33 1/4" × 3 1/2") crosscut at 20 degrees on each end (parallel). These are the legs.

2 pieces of 844 × 90 mm (33 1/4" × 3 1/2") cut square. These are the tops of the sawhorses.

2 pieces of 844 × 180 mm (33 1/4" × 7"), which you need to rip down the middle at 20 degrees, to make four pieces with one angled edge. These are the upper crosspieces.

4 pieces of 711 × 180 mm (28" × 7"). which you need to rip down the middle at 20 degrees, to make four pieces with one angled edge. These are the lower crosspieces.

The second picture is the cutting diagram for getting four sawhorses and two sets of hangers from a single sheet of plywood. The wide pieces need to be ripped down the middle at 20 degrees to make the crosspieces. Green: tops. Yellow: lower crosspieces. Tan: upper crosspieces. Blue: legs. Pink: parts for making hangers. White: waste. I suggest starting with the longitudinal cut that runs between the yellow and tan parts. A 4 mm kerf has been allowed for.

Step 3: Assemble

I cut a piece of plywood 80 × 200 mm* to act as a story stick - it gave me the two critical dimensions for assembly, the distance the top crosspiece protruded past the legs and the distance from the bottom of the leg to the bottom of the crosspiece. I worked out where I needed to drill the holes in the legs (making sure they weren't going to clash with the hinge screws) and made five in a cross shape for each joint. I used that piece as a template for the other 7 legs, and then countersunk all the holes. I drilled through the legs into the cross pieces so that the fasteners were less obvious. I then glued and screwed all four pieces together (ensuring squareness at each step) and repeated 3 more times to make the four halves. I used plenty of wood glue and 1 1/4" drywall screws. 1 1/4" drywall screws are not especially strong but with a gluing area for each joint of >12 square inches, I wasn't concerned - the glue does all the work. I could probably have done it with my nailgun but the nails I had were too short.

* if you make this according to the SketchUp plan, the story stick should be 67 × 190 mm (2 5/8" × 7 1/2").

Step 4: Hinges, Top, Rope

I added the hinges to each leg, making sure they didn't protrude above the top of the sawhorse. I then set the sawhorse in open form and screwed the top piece to one side of the frame. I didn't glue this, because I figured it might be good to be able to replace this bit in future when it gets banged up. I then went over the whole thing with an orbital sander and removed all the sharp edges.

I wanted more support to stop the sawhorse opening any wider than 20 degrees, so drilled holes through each leg at the joint and threaded a piece of polypropylene rope through the holes, and knotted the ends at a point where the legs were fully open. I then melted the knots with a lighter to ensure they weren't going to come untied. Polypropylene is not stretchy, is inexpensive and is exceedingly strong.

Step 5: Hangers

Now that you have made your sawhorses, you will want to hang them up out of the way when you're not using them. Here is a simple plan to make hangers out of a few plywood offcuts. Cut two rectangles of dimensions 188 × 50 mm (7 3/8" × 2"), and two of dimensions 206 × 50 mm (8 1/8" × 2"), and two right-angled triangles 188 × 188 mm (7 3/8 × 7 3/8"). Glue and screw (I used 2" drywall screws) these together as shown, then screw the hangers to the wall into a pair of adjacent studs (I used 3" deck screws). If you made four sawhorses out of a single sheet of plywood, your offcuts will be big enough to make the hangers as well (see cutting diagram in Step 2).

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    14 Discussions

    makendo, great job on the sawhorses and hangers. Your photos and instructions are easy to follow. I agree on your reason to have light weight and folding saw horses as they do take up space if they don't fold up. I have two sets, one out of 2x4 and the other out of plastic and they both fold and store easily but I can use the 2x4 as a table or scaffold if I need too and the other just to cut lumber. Do you have any issues on the plywood bending or warping? Good luck in the contest.

    2 replies

    Many thanks. I suspect that if you left the horses under load for an extended period you may well see some deformation, but I haven't left mine out for any length of time and they're both still straight.

    Thanks for the reply and good luck in the contest.

    Do you find that they are liable to collapse if you are sawing fairly parallel to the ground?

    4 replies

    No. The stance of the horses is quite wide (20 deg c.f. somewhat more acute angles for most other horses, generating a footprint almost as wide as it is tall). If you were unable to apply enough downward pressure to stop the horse trying to close, you can put your foot on the lower crosspiece (that's why they're cut parallel to the ground).

    Just having a little fun here, don't you mean more obtuse of an angle?? ;)

    Love these, I might just have to try them. I have made a few different kinds over the years and these look so simple and effective. I might look into a latching mechanism to help keep them from closing such as a small board instead of the rope.

    Saw Horse.jpg

    Thanks. And no, I did mean more acute. Check out Matthias Wandel's (18 degrees) for example.

    I did toy with the idea of using a latch, but I would have had to buy some hardware and make the sawhorse heavier. I like your suggestion - I was going to go with two pieces of wood and three hinges.


    2 years ago

    Nice sawhorse. I especially like the stop-motion animated gif. Very nice!

    1 reply

    Thnaks. You can blame the brilliant Frank Howarth for that - his stop-motion woodworking videos are amazing & inspiring

    awesome dude, really appreciate it, have been thinking about how to do it. Many thanks

    1 reply

    you're welcome. post a picture if you decide to build one like it!

    Great design!

    I have a pair of 2x4 saw horses that are 25 yrs old & have been trying to convince myself to throw away for years because they take up too much floor space. I finally cut one up for a project a couple months ago.

    I've been looking at other designs and liked parts of many but none were what I wanted.

    My plan was to design my own and yesterday I decided to make some out of plywood and enter into this contest, but I found yours today and it's very similar to my thoughts, so I'll build some with your design. If I entered my design, it would have been a near identical design to yours.

    I especially love the way the tops nestle together for storage. Great attention to detail and simplicity.

    1 reply

    Many thanks, Ron. We have a very similar story, it seems, though my old sawhorses were made of an old particle board shelf and while they folded, they were really wobbly (see picture).

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