Sunday, August 4, 2013

DIY Sawhorses

I am very excited to start wood working!  This will be my official first wood project.  Stuff that I may have done in junior high school won't count.  Neither will projects which involved balsa wood.  

I've decided as an introduction to wood working that my first project will be to make a pair of saw horses.  I will eventually need these in my future wood working projects.  The sawhorse that I plan to make is based off the sawhorse in the image above - which I got from The Art of Manliness' website (click here for the tutorial on making their sawhorse).  Mine will be slightly different from theirs - mainly the legs on my sawhorses will not flare outwards like theirs do.  Mine will be straight.

The great thing about this first project is that it should be relatively easy to make.  The saw horses will also be able to fold up - which is great because I have very limited space in my apartment.  This project is also good because it should only cost about $20 in materials per sawhorse.

To start, I drew up a 3D model of the sawhorse using their specs.  I created these using Sketchup.

These sawhorses will consist of 4 - Eight foot long 2"x4" per sawhorse.  After I ruled out the measurements for each piece, I color coded it for simplicity.  The legs are yellow, the upper and lower supports are blue and red, and the cross member is green.

Cutting the legs will be the most difficult part of this project because they will have to stand at an angle.  First I angled the edges 25 degrees.

Then I made the cuts at the top of each leg which will hold the cross member in place.

Now that I have the measurements for the cuts I drew up templates in Adobe Illustrator.  Below on the left is the template for the 25 degree cut on the bottom of each leg.  To the right is the template for the tops of each leg, and where the bolt will go - which holds each set of legs together.

The bottom leg template above and the top leg template below were made to be folded around the width of the wood - in this case 2 inches.

I printed out these templates onto card stock.

Then I cut each out and folded them.

And I cut out the hole for the exact placement of the bolt.

Next I need to get the materials, but before I do I will need some tools.  Mainly a saw.  I have a cheap cordless reciprocating saw at home - which I used when making my Vacuum Former.  (ok, maybe this isn't quite my first wood working project).

I actually had a lot of trouble working with that saw since it was cordless and not very powerful.  So I went out and purchased a corded Jigsaw.  

A circular saw would be better at cutting the 2x4's but the jigsaw can better cut the angles on the top of each leg - so for now I'll just get the jigsaw.  I would also need to get a new drill/driver as the cordless one I have runs out of power quickly - but for now it should last long enough to drill the holes I need to drill.  But I did buy a set of Bar Clamps to help hold the wood in place while I'm cutting.

I also bought the carriage bolts, washers, nuts and screws I needed.

I have a number of 2x4's in my attic - so I will use what I have first and buy more if I need it.  Then it's time for measuring.  I used a ruler to measure all the pieces I needed, and marked what each piece will be.

Next I took out my T-square and measured the length for the legs.

For each 2x4 I will cut, I made sure to have other 2x4's underneath - and a piece of board on the floor to protect my apartment's carpeting.

Next I christened my new saw and cut a 2x4.  After cutting the leg I labeled the part name and length with pencil.

Then I used my bottom template and traced the angle onto the wood.  I should point out that my template is made for a 2x4, and these pieces were actually a little smaller.  I went with it anyway since the wood was only smaller by about 1/4".

I clamped a scrap piece of wood parallel to what will be cut so that the foot of my jigsaw will have a wall to keep the cut straight.


Next, I repeated the process, this time with the top of the leg.

Now that one leg is done, I'll have to do the other 3.

After the cuts were made, I drilled in the hole for the carriage screws.

 I started my adding the carriage screws and washers to the 2 sets of legs.

Next I measured out and cut the remaining pieces of wood for the supports and the cross member.

Then I began drilling in the holes for the supports.

Now it's time to assemble everything! 

At this point my power driver died....I had charged it overnight and it gave out within a half hour.  I really need a new driver. But I was able to screw in one of the outer supports.  When the drill was charged again I proceeded to drill in the other supports.

After charging for a few hours my drill only was able to screw in another support before dying.  But the next day I completed the first sawhorse.

The cross member doesn't get screwed or bolted into place.  It simply fits in the space that has been made for it.

Before I call this done I need to give it a quick sanding to get rid of a few rough spots.  I used my mouse sander to do this.

And one of my saw horses is done!

  I then proceeded to make the second sawhorse following the same steps above.

And I'm done!

With a fully charged drill, the second sawhorse only took about an hour to cut and assemble.  I predrilled all the holes for the screws which helped improve the battery life of my pathetic old drill.

This has been very fun for me!  For a very long time I have wanted to make furniture and things out of wood.  I know this is a novice project, but it excites me for bigger and better things - plus now I'll have some saw horses to work off of for my next woodworking project!

I have indeed used these saw horses many times since I made them.  But I did add one improvement to them.  I bought a pair of tension cords and attached them to the 2 bottom supports.

This addition made the hold on the cross member a lot stronger.

This slight addition actually helped out a lot.  When sanding furniture the cross members wiggled a little.  Now they don't budge.

Thank you for reading!!


  1. Timbo, a great read as always! However, there's just one small point that may assist, depending on how well I'm reading the photos.

    It looks like you have a washer under the head of the carriage bolts? By these I mean the round headed bolts with a small square shaft immediately under the head before it becomes a rounded shaft. The job of the square part under the head is to allow the shaft to 'crunch' its way into the board and prevent the bolt head from turning. Because there is only a rounded head exposed, which is always near the surface of the wood, it is able to present a low-friction surface less likely to bruise or injure, hence (I believe) the term carriage bolts, as being suitable for a vehicle where animals might rub against the bolt head.

    Just a FWIW comment, Tim, and not in any way a criticism of your prodigious output and skills!

    All the best, Phil

  2. Hey Phil,
    As always I am appreciative of your comments. I am a total newbie when it comes to working with wood, and carriage bolts, so I do welcome all kinds of impute. Your description of the carriage bolts is accurate...I left the square part of the board exposed, as I didn't know it was supposed to 'crunch' it's way through. I will have to redo those parts. But I am still proud of these sawhorses. They are very strong and I was able to lift myself off the ground using them (and I'm no small guy!). Please continue giving me your constructive criticism, as I plan on making more stuff out of wood soon!

  3. Well, it looks as if you are to an excellent start, Timbo. Those sawhorses are certainly something to be proud of, and they'd look fine in any workshop. You're definitely not a wood noob!

  4. Thank you Phil! I hope to learn as much as I can!