Building Sawhorses, Part 1 - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Building Sawhorses, Part 1

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

Building Sawhorses


If you’re considering making a sawhorse, sawing stool, saw bench or however you like to describe it, this pattern is worthy of consideration. Thanks to its very stable platform, economical use of timber, easy stacking and the chance to get your head around compound joinery, these appliances will be an asset in the shop. Last time I showed an option that would involve reshaping the legs or making housings with sloping shoulders, all solved with some geometry. However, there is a third way that suits the more practically minded like me and negates reshaping the legs or making tapered shouldered housings.

Sawhorse Angles

Making a pair of leg templates will help you to create the joinery required and visualize the project before any timber is wasted. I start by setting two sliding bevels to 20 degrees and cutting a left and right “mini leg” about 6″-8″ long, using the the bevel shown in the top of the picture above, to develop the lines around.

Sawhorse Angles (2)

Then place these mini legs onto the board used to make the braces, hold the legs flush with the front of the board and draw around them. This will immediately show the issue you encounter with compound cut. The templates shown bottom right hopefully show this (bottom right perfect, bottom center no good). I know it might seem basic showing this, but unless you grasp this point before making these sawhorses, the braces just won’t register nicely when fitted, losing out on valuable glue and fixing area.

I then apply a square line across the templates making a 1/4″ inset at the narrowest point. I shade the area to be kept in and end grain hatching — small touches like that help keep you on track.

Sawhorse legs

I apply all lines with pencil only and cut to the pencil lines on the entirety of this project. Although knife lines are useful on cuts of risk or show areas on more prestigious projects, pencil lines are easy to apply and fast to work with.

To obtain the depth of shoulder, sit the template next to the top and run the pencil along the top to strike a line. Because the pencil point is above the top, it will allow the cut to be slightly above for trimming down after glue up. Use the second bevel to mark the cheek.

Making Notches

I then use these templates to mark out the top. The final length of the top will be 30″ long, I allow extra to this for trimming to length later — often a prudent step on any project. I measure in 6″ in from the finished length on the top edge and line up the templates then draw around them. I set a marking gauge just a touch over 1/4″ and gauge the depth of the housing. Again sawing to the pencil lines and adding a few relief cuts, I then remove the waste with a chisel and level off with some paring cuts. As with any chisel work think of it as a loaded gun or the like, always keeping hands and body behind the line of fire!

— Graham Haydon


Recommended Posts
Showing 2 comments
  • Barquester

    The reason again, please, for the splayed legs? I just don’t get why they aren’t just cut square.

    • Graham Haydon
      Graham Haydon

      Hi Barquester

      It makes for a more planted and stronger sawhorse. I’ve rarely seen ones splayed in only the width.

      Or if you mean the cheeks at the top of the legs it’s so the brace/gusset fits properly against the leg.



Start typing and press Enter to search