Intro: The Ultimate, Heavy Duty, Stackable, Bullet Proof, Extreme Saw Horses!
OK maybe not quite bullet proof, but everything else is accurate. I came up with this design about 16 or 18 years ago. I'm sure I'm not the first one to build them like this but here is my version, and you're all welcome to it!
The second picture (holding up the hover board) is the oldest set (roughtly 17 years ).
The third picture shows a 5 or 6 year old set holding up some I-beams.
I have to paint both sides of 25 sheets of plywood so I needed 6 sets (12 horses) to make the job flow more easily.
Step 1: Thoughts to Ponder Before You Begin
Sizes - The older sets pictured in the intro are 24" tall. The sets I just made are 30" tall. The height is dependent on your purposes. For simply holding stuff off of the ground, the lower set is better (and more economical). If you will be actually working with them, taller is better.
Stack-ability - Each saw horse is 1/2" longer than the one beneath it. Hence the numbers! If the braces were about 2” wider, the horses would stack against the braces rather than the legs. The first set I built was like that and it was pretty cool. Make adjustments as you see fit.
Materials - The best lumber to use would be KD (kiln dried). Generally your other choice is GDF (Green Doug Fir) or equivalent. KD lumber will not warp (very much) while GDF will, as it dries, turn into interesting potato chip (or pretzel or your other favorite curvy snack food) shapes. Unfortunately the longest KD 2x6 I could find was 8’ which would not have been efficient for this job.
Fasteners - I used drywall screws. If you will be using these saw horses for their name sake's purpose (holding up lumber while you saw it) please be advised that drywall screws are hardened steel and carbide tipped blades do not like drywall screws. If you think there is a possibility of hitting a screw with a blade, using general purpose wood screws is a better choice.
Step 2: Bill of Materials
I built 6 sets (12 horses). Most people will only need two or four horses. The length is nominally 3' (36"). Please note that I am giving the minimum lengths needed. I realize that you probably cannot buy a 6' long 2x6. The only length I could find in KD was 8'
Lumber 2x6's (Preferably KD)
For 24" tall:
One set (2 horses) - two 8' and one 6'
Two sets (4 horses) - four 8' and one 12'
For 30" tall:
One set - two 10' and one 6'
Two sets - four 10' and two 12'
You can of course use any multiples of the above you need.
Braces (horizontal strip across the bottom of the legs) - scrap plywood 3/4 inch thick, 5 inches wide by approximately 20 inches long. Yup! you get to finally use those long narrow strips you've been saving for so long!
3 inch drywall screws - 12 per horse
1-5/8 inch (or anything close) drywall screws - 12 per horse
Titebond II or Gorilla glue (polyurethane glue) or any weather resistance adhesive.
Step 3: Tools
I assume that if you are building these horses and using the tools listed that you will follow the appropriate safety procedures.
Yes I am a shop teacher. Why do you ask?
Fully functional brain.
Table saw with miter gauge.
- a circular saw with a shoe that angles would work but it will make it a tad tougher to do.
Radial arm saw or Compound miter saw
Phillips screw driver tip(s) #2
Wood clamps (I prefer hand screw clamps)
Step 4: Cutting the Legs
Sizes given are nominal and for a 30" high x 36" long horse. I purchased twelve 10' 2x6's for the legs. This gives me four 30" legs from each board for a total of 48 legs.
Set up a stop on your radial arm saw fence at 29-3/4" by clamping on a hand screw clamp (or c-clamping a piece of scrap wood) Set it so it is up off the table to provide for chip clearance. This way saw dust dosen't collect in the corner and make your boards shorter and shorter as you go.
Trim the end off of each board before cutting it to length. This insures you have square ends. Never rely on the lumber yard to give you a precice length or a square end.
Step 5: Cutting the Tops
In order to make the horses stackable, each top is 1/2 inch longer than the preceding one. This is actually much easier than it sounds.
In theory, the tops could all be the same length and the horses should still stack. In practice they will vary a bit and you will still need to number the horses to stack them. Plus they will be very snug and difficult to get apart. Yes, the first set I made were all the same length.
Another option was to splay the legs out 5 degrees or so, but that would have added another degree of complexity so I chose the K.I.S.S. option in this case.
You will need three small pieces of half inch shim stock for spacers. they should be around 1-1/2 inches x 2-1/2 inches (or anything close.) I didn't have half inch plywood, so I used six pieces of quater inch ply. The quarter inch plywood also came in handy later.
You are going to set your fence stop at 36-1/2 inches and make the first cut. Then add one half inch of shim against the stop and make your second cut. Add another one half inch of shim for the third, and the last half inch of shim for the fourth top cut. Be sure no saw dust collects between the shims for the most accurate cuts.
Step 6: Ripping the Angle Into the Bottom Face of the Top.
Ripping is the term used when cutting parallel to the grain.
I considered not making the angle cut the full length of the top, but again K.I.S.S..
The advantages to not making the angle cut the full length are: a marginal addition to strength and it would aid in clamping work to the horse when in service.
The advantages to doing it this way are: it is much faster and does not involve pulling work off of the saw mid-cut or plunging down onto the blade and running it to a stop.
Tip your saw blade 15 degrees.
Set the height so the length of blade exposed is 1-1/2" (the thickness of the legs.)
Set the fence so the left edge of the blade is 1-1/2" from the fence. It should just barely cut through the left side of the 2x6 when it is stood on edge and ripped. If it does not completely sever the piece off, that is OK, it is easy to snap off when the cut is complete.
Step 7: Cutting the Bottom of the Leg (while You're at It)
As long as you have the table saw set at 15 degrees, cut the angle onto the bottom of the legs! The top will be left square.
Secret anti-kickback trick. A clearance block is a piece of scrap wood used, when using the miter gauge with the fence as a stop. This insures that you do not have a part trapped between the blade and the fence (kick-back time!) when you are pulling the part back toward you or if the part tips side-ways while being cut. (This usually happens just after the part is severed while it is still between the blade and the fence.)
You will set up the length of the leg, with the clearance block between the fence and the leg.. The leg is held in place and the clearance block is removed prior to making the cut.
Attach a nice long fence to your miter gauge and square it up to 90 degrees (perpendicular to the blade).
Set the height of the blade to around 1-3/4". It should just be above the top of the leg when the leg is laid flat.
Turn the saw on and cut through the fence on the miter gauge so you can use the slot to set up the length for the leg.
Using a clearance block set the fence so you will trim a small bit off the end.
Place the clearance block against the fence and a leg against the miter gauge.
Slide the leg against the miter gauge and up against the clearance block, trapping the block between the leg and the fence.
Without moving the leg, remove the clearance block and set it away from the path of the board.
Slowly, keeping your hands away from the path of the cut, pass the leg over the blade.
After the blade has passed through the wood, carefully slide the leg away from the blade and pull it and the miter gauge back toward you.
Step 8: Roughing Out the Braces
Cut the braces from 3/4" plywood. I made them 5" wide by 20" long.
The width can be wider. If so, the horses when stacked will rest on the braces rather than on the legs. No problem either way.
The length will be trimed to fit later.
Cut two braces for each horse.
Step 9: Assembling Leg #1 to the Top
There are definitely bunches of ways to do this. As I was the Lone Ranger for most of this project, I had to figure out a way to do it alone. Here ya go!
BIG NOMENCLATURE NOTE!
Left and right are always as seen from standing by the workbench and looking straight at the top of the saw horse.
The long point refers to the longest dimension of the angled bottom of the leg.
Install a screw pilot for a 3" drywall screw in one hand held electric drill, and a #2 Phillips bit in the other. The screw pilot need only extend about 2 inches or so, not the full length of the screw.
Plug both drills in and set them to the side.
Cut four pieces of 1/4" plywood about 2" x 6" to be used for shims.
Set a large hand screw clamp to one side.
Set one of the Free Bonus #2 wedges to one side (This will support the top while it is screwed to the first and third legs.)
Set the leg on two of the 1/4" plywood shims with the long point down! Position it so the top of the leg is accessible to the electric drill. Clamp it to the table across one corner.
Apply glue to the top (square end) of the leg.
Place the top on edge, with the left end about half way up the wedge.
Place the other end of the top on the leg so the lip is resting on the top face of the leg, and both the end of the top and the side of the leg, are aligned.
Holding the top against the leg so the angle is square and flush, drill a pilot hole about 3-1/4 inch from the end and about one half inch up from the work table.
While still holding the top against the leg, insert a screw into the pilot hole, and using the other drill, sink the screw. The top of the screw should be below flush. You can now let go of the top.
Drill two more pilot holes at approximately the top two corners of the leg and put them in at an angle! The screws will hold better if they are slightly cross grain rather than parallel to the grain like the first one. Please see the pictures for a better idea.
Be sure the top is pulled flush against the top of the leg.
Step 10: Assembling Leg #2 to the Top
The second leg will be assembled to the same edge, on the opposite end of the top.
Remove the wedge from the left end of the top.
Angle the assembly so the left edge of the top will be accessible to the drill. See the picture for clarity.
Set the other two shims where you will be placing leg #2.
Apply glue to the top of leg #2.
Position leg #2 so it is flush against the top with the long point down.
Follow the same procedure for piloting and installing the three screws. Drill and install the middle screw before the two outer screws. Be sure they are at an angle.
Step 11: Assembling Leg #3 to the Top
This was the tricky one!
Flip the assembly over and replace the wedge under the left edge of the top.
Using a brace (one from step 8), support the leg on the left side of the top. Once again, please see the picture for clarity.
Using the provious procedures, install leg #3. Don't forget to use the quarter inch shims under the leg.
Step 12: Assembling Leg #4 to the Top
Ahhh, the final leg.
Remove the wedge from under the left side of the top.
Place Leg #4 in position on the shims, clamp, glue, pilot and screw it in!
Step 13: Trimming the Braces
I'm sorry I cannot give you a hard number to which to trim the braces. As I mentioned earlier, the GDF warps all over the place, and I am only a mere human and have not assembled all of the legs perfectly. Hence the need for custom fitting of the braces.
My original idea was to install the braces and then use a router with a flush trim bit to cut them off. Unfortunately I did not have a sharp enough bit and had to modify my plans.
Here's the real deal...
Set a saw horse up on its legs on the work bench. Gently lift it straight up and tap the legs to insure it is sitting flat and level.
Take a scrap piece of 2x6 and lean it against the legs on the end of the horse. Draw a line on the legs at the top of the scrap 2x6. This will indicate the bottom of the brace.
Set the brace on the 2x6 and mark the legs at the top of the brace.
On the side of the brace touching the legs, mark the angle of the legs.
Square up your table saw blade to 90 degrees.
Pivot your miter gauge to 15 degrees. Make sure you have a long enough fence to support the length of the brace to the left side of your blade.
Depending on the direction you turn your miter gauge; you will have to transfer one of the lines from the front to the back of the brace. See pictures for clarity.
Using the miter gauge and table saw, trim both of the ends of the brace to 15 degrees.
Step 14: Attaching the Braces
Yer almost done!
Install a shorter screw pilot in the hand held electric drill. Set it for the shorter screw. For this application, a 1-5/8 inch screw only needs to be piloted to about 1-1/4 inch deep.
Apply glue to the legs between the lines you marked in the last step. (You knew they were there for a reason!)
Using the scrap 2x6, position the brace against the legs and clamp in place. I only used one clamp.
Using the drill with the screw pilot, drill one hole in each side of the brace.
Using the drill with the Phillips bit, install the two screws.
Remove the clamp and pilot drill the remaining four holes.
Install the remaining four screws.
Repeat the process for the other side.
Step 15: Numbering the Horses
As they will only stack one way, I find it usefull to number them for easy stackability.
I guess I got a bit carried away but I stenciled numbers on them.
A magic marker has worked fine for them in the past.