I ask you, is there a more utilitarian piece of construction equipment than the sawhorse? Of course there’s the obvious elevated board positioning rack or EBPR (yeah I came up with that all by myself). But, then you can also use sawhorses as a storage platform, a place to hang your tool belt, a make shift ladder, a seat, a desk (as any bachelor’s house will show), or to my kids; actual horses. Sawhorses are one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment that many of us have in our shops. In case you need a new set, here’s a simple, down and dirty way to make a heavy duty set of sawhorses that can take a beating. Plus if you want to take it an extra step, you can make these sawhorses into a heavy duty workstation as well.
Here’s What You Will Need (Per Sawhorse):
- 3 – 2 x 4s cut 40” long
- 4 – 2 x 4s cut 32” long
- 2 – Scraps of plywood roughly 8” x 14”
- 2 – 1 x 4s
- Handful of nail or screws (both 3” screw or 16 penny nail, and 1 ½” screw or 8 penny nail)
- Something to drive above fasteners
Step 1 – Make Your Own I-Beam
Since you have your 2 x 4’s already cut, perhaps through divine intervention, you can get started building the body of the sawhorse. Start with the top of the sawhorse. You’re going to create an I-beam with the three 2 x 4s. Start by creating a ‘T’ with two 2 x4s, fastening them together using either the 16 penny nails or 3” screws and complete the ‘I’ by inverting the ‘T’ and then fastening the other side. By building an I-beam you’ve created an incredibly strong shelf to support everything from a stack of lumber to fat Uncle Larry. Seriously, the I-beam itself could probably hold your car up as long as you build and strengthen the legs properly. To any shade tree mechanics, please note the HomeFixated legal team advises that using sawhorses of any kind to support your car can lead to your untimely death, or dismemberment. We’ll talk about strengthening the legs using gussets in step 3.
Step 2 – She’s Got Legs
Put on the legs. It’s an easy step for sure. Place one leg at the very end of the sawhorse I-beam. Be sure to push the end tight into the upper inside corner of the I-beam. Ultimately, you’ll want to have the upper edge of the leg nestled in the upper inside corner of the I-beam while also resting on the lower outside edge of the I-beam. I know right, it sounds a little like the Northeast corner of southwest North Dakota but it’ll create a nice angle for stable legs as well as two solid nailing or screwing surfaces for maximum fastening. Now fasten away. I will say it is much, much, much easier to fasten the legs on with a nail gun than anything else but beggars can’t be choosers here either. Attach each of the legs similarly.
Step 3 – Beef up That Sawhorse
From here on the steps are all optional. If you want, cut and add gussets to the end of the sawhorse. This will maximize its strength. Take the scrap piece of plywood and lay it across the outside edge of the legs just below I-beam. Use a pencil to mark the trapezoidal shape you’ll need to lock the legs in place. It should be noted that as long as you have fastened the legs tightly onto the beam the legs should all be at the same angle creating an equal sided trapezoid. However, you may have to do a little tweaking of the legs first to get the angles right. Cut all four gussets alike, this going with the principle that all the legs should be the same angle. Fasten the gussets to the legs using the shorter nails or screws. NOTE: Here is an important part of this step!!!! Nail one pair of gussets to the outside of the legs of one sawhorse and nail the other pair to the inside of the legs on the other sawhorse. This will help you stack them properly. Otherwise you’ll get a floppy wet noodle stack that will fall over and bust you in the shin when you walk by it. . . not that it’s ever happened to me.
Step 4 – Bring on the Reinforcements
Attach the 1x4s across the legs. This prevents the legs from flaring out under weight. Just like the previous step, location here is critical. It’s easiest to stack the sawhorses up and attach the 1x4s so that they won’t interfere with stacking and voila you have a super strong set of sawhorses that will take absolute punishment while holding up a crane. Note: Steps 3 and 4, just like paying your taxes, are optional, right?
These sawhorses are super strong, stack well, and best of all if you end up cutting through the top of them, which you will, simply remove the top I-beam and replace it with a new one. Oh, what’s that? You also came here to learn about the workstation too? Well, in another four steps you can have a great cutting station made from mostly scrap lumber.
- 3 – 2×4″ x 8’
- 1 – Full length piece of plywood (it only has to be a few inches wider than the saw that you’re going to use to support it)
- 6ish – 2 x 4 Scraps for saw guides
- More screws or nails
- 4 – Fender Washers
- Something to drive the fasteners with
Step 1 – Create the Structure
Spread your sawhorses about 6 feet apart and fasten the full length 2 x 4s to the sawhorse using screws. The front two 2 x 4s should be separated by the distance of the holes on the saw that attaches the base to an object. The back 2 x 4 should be attached closer to where the back of plywood will fall, it’s somewhat trivial as long as it helps support the weight of the saw and various lumber.
Step 2 – Add the Base
Lay the plywood on the 2 x 4s. Make sure that it is the leading edge of the plywood doesn’t prevent you from pivoting the saw back and forth. Attach the plywood using screws.
Step 3 – Make a Home For Your Saw
Drill a hole large enough for the saw cord to go through, this will keep it out of the way. Sure it’s not necessary but it looks pretty and which would you rather be? Now attach the saw in the center of the workstation using the fender washers and screws. You don’t have to dog these down, just snug them up. Some models may have small enough holes that the fender washers are obsolete, perhaps you’re so lucky.
Step 4 – Getting Things Level for your Stock
Attach the scraps of 2 x 4s to the plywood at upright, to create a platform to hold your cutting stock. The spacing doesn’t need to be exact just divide the scrap evenly from the saw to the end of the plywood on each side. The best way to attach them is by fastening them from underneath up through the plywood and I would definitely recommend screws for this one. For the best results really pull this tight. Again hopefully your saw’s table height, from the bottom of the saw to cutting edge, is the exact height of an upright 2 x 4(about 3 ½”). However, if yours is like mine that is not the case and you’ll have to rip the 2 x 4 scrap down first. Sigh.
This is a great, super strong, super simple and super stable sawhorse/workstation set up that will save you time and energy in the long run. Did I mention super? Check out the video below from the Craftsman Experience, with none other than home improvement superstar/dynamic duo Mark & Theresa Clement to see a great demonstration on how to build the same project (sans the gussets). It’s a little long winded but of course, so are we. Enjoy!
3 thoughts on “How To Build A Dead Simple Bulletproof Sawhorse And Workstation”
Thanks so much for the thorough and detailed saw horse explanation! Those would be very sturdy indeed. I love the make my own I-Beam part! Not sure I fully understood the placement of the plywood to prevent the wobbly stacking, guess i will have to have them fall and hit my shins ONCE!
I like the design of the I-beam but one detail is missing. The About.com photos shows the legs canted to the side while one of your pics shows an angle cut so the top sits flat on the legs. My friend Pythagoras suggests the angle is 16 degrees, assuming nominal 2×4 stock, and for extra credit the top should be 4 5/8 wide to cover the ends of the legs. I will try it this weekend….
Nothing beats a sturdy pair of horses!