Here is a simple woodworking project that only requires a few simple tools, and some basic skills.
These folding sawhorses are easy to build, lightweight, sturdy, and very portable! They use common hardware, straight cuts, and standard lumber. They also fold flat for storage and are tougher then they look! .Even with “one-by” dimensional lumber (1x4” or 1x6”), they are plenty strong for most jobs.
When not in-use, you can hang them on hooks, lean them against the wall, or lay them flat and slide them under something.
It seemed like a good starter project.
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Step 1: Why You Would Want Some of These!
Most people underestimate how useful a sawhorse is. But actually, having one or two on-hand can make a big difference! The original plans for a "carpenter’s sawhorse" called for it to be at about 24” tall. This would put it just about “knee-high” and basically made it easier for a carpenter cuting downwards with a Handsaw. It was also common to brace boards with a knee while cutting, so that was a good height back then.
Modern sawhorses are usually a bit taller, mostly to accommodate taller people, (who have access to power tools).
A really handy size for these is about 3’ tall and 2’ wide. in this size, they can fold up and fit into a normal closet. You may notice that the build pictures show me assembling a pair that are actually 48’ wide. I made these for a particular project involving plywood sheets, but other then that, the process is the same.
Step 2: Stuff You Will Want/need to Actually Make These!
Now theoretically, a person COULD just build these using only a hand-saw and a screwdriver for tools.
But I’m basically lazy, (and I DO have all these power tools laying around).
-- Hand Saw, Circular Saw, or Power Miter-Saw (my favorite)
-- Framing square, or Speed-Square (for right-angles)
--Tape measure, yardstick, ruler, (whatever you have)
-- Screw driver, or power Drill/Driver (a #2-Phillips tip is standard).
-- About 18” of cord or light chain, for the legs.
-- A sharp Pencil, with an eraser, (always a nice option).
-- Basic protective gear, (Glasses, gloves, ear-plugs, Band-Aids).
Step 3: MAterials! Wood Mostly.
First, a quick comment about dimensional lumber (and you may already be aware of this);
Lumber measurements are “Nominal” which basically means “NOT specifically accurate”. For example: a “1x4” board is actually ¾-inch thick and 3 ½-inches wide. The actual length of a board is also usually slightly longer. This allows you to “True up” the end of the board, (correcting any crooked end-cuts). Don’t let this worry you though, remember that part about “no critical measurements”?
For EACH 3’ high/2’ wide sawhorse, (double the recipe for pairs) you will need:
--Two 6ft. 1x4” boards, (cut in half for 4-ea. 36” legs).
--One 8ft. 1x4” board, (cut into 24” sections for crossbeams)
--Two heavy-duty door hinges, (they usually come with screws and you can buy them in pairs).
-- A box of Screws, 1¼” wood-screws will do nicely. You need about 16 for each sawhorse.
-- Wood-glue, I usually recommend using wood glue on the joints, (I like the foaming “Gorilla glue” type).
You can use standard "fluted Drywall” screws, they work well for most projects, (except treated lumber, the chemicals corrode them). Coated “Deck screws” work great, but they are slightly more expensive.
Step 4: Cutting and Basic Pre-assembly
As I mentioned, I usually like to build these two at a time. It really doesn’t take much more effort, (the tools are already out), and these are really very handy in pairs.
-For each sawhorse;
--Cut the 2ea. 6’ boards at half-length, (or 36”), so you have 4ea. “legs” -Cut the 8’ board down to 2’ lengths, so you have 4ea. Beams.
-Set the top beams on the legs at right angles to the legs, (a speed square is great for this). I like to do this on the garage floor, but any suitable flat surface will do
-Apply a little glue to the joint and secure with 1-screw at each corner joint, (so it can move a bit). it is a good idea to stay near the lower edge of the top-beam, we will be putting hinge screws up there later.
-measure halfway down the “leg” (about 18”), glue that joint too, then install 1-screw.
-Check for square, (use the framing square for this), only then should you install a SECOND screw in each joint.
Repeat the process for the other side, (or sides if you are making multiple units).
Step 5: Put Them Together.
-Place two completer sides on the floor with the top beams on the bottom, and butted-up and against each other. I like to use a clamp at this point, but you could just brace them against a nearby wall.
-screw the hinges onto the corners, flat-side down, (yes hinges have a flat-side), and straddling the seam between the sides. You could use the hardware that came with the hinge, but I just used the same screws as in the joints, (longer and sturdier).
- Fold the two sides over onto each other. Drill a hole in the lower beams for a cord to go through.
-Stand them up, and set them for about the height that you want them to be.
Insert a cord through the holes and adjust the length until the sawhorse sits about as high as you want it, then just tie-off the cord. Remember, if you are making a pair, you are going to want cords about the same length, (making them about the same height).
Don't forget to check for square. If they are just a little off, don't worry, they will settle. if they seem WAY off, back out your corner-joint screws a little, and put some weight on them. Then re tighten the screws under some (light) pressure. They should be fine, once you have satisfied yourself that they are MOSTLY straight and square.
Step 6: Conclusion and Notes
Now, You COULD make these heavier if you felt that you needed too. Building them with “Two-By” lumber, (2x4” or 2x6”) makes them crazy-sturdy! They would still be portable, but a bit bulky to move around easily. You would need correspondingly longer screws, ( 2 ¼” - 2 ½”), but the build process would basically remain the same.
I actually have an old pair made with leftover decking boards and galvanized hardware. They’ve been sitting outside for a few years now, without any issues. They are currently holding up a big pile of “fence and barn” wood, (weathering for future projects).
I have been using this basic design for years. My father used them in his side-business as a Trim-Carpenter and general handyman. He got really good at being mobile, because he usually worked out of an old jeep. These folding sawhorses were a mainstay of his operation, and he usually had at least one with him on every job.
I hope this helps someone out there, Enjoy and good luck!