Sawhorse Roundup

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This article is from Issue 37 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Corral one or more of these sturdy work supports for your shop.

Overall dimensions:
35"w × 151⁄2"d × 24"h
32"w × 21"d × 31"h
28"w × 18"d × 32"h

Regardless of your shop’s size, you can hardly call it complete without a few trusty steeds. A pair of horses can help support work for hand-sawing and machining, supply legs for an assembly table, or create an instant workstation. We designed three variations, each with special benefits so you can choose the one that best serves your needs.

We begin with a simple folding sawhorse having two frames that hinge together at the top and at the bottom via a pair of hinged braces. Lightweight, this style collapses flat for easy transporting or storing and sets up in a jiffy, making it ideal for jobsite work.

The carpenter’s sawhorse, our stoutest, features a low profile (at 24" high) that helps you perform a multitude of tasks, from hand-sawing to supporting heavy loads. A built-in shelf offers a place to store items you want close at hand. And while it has a wide permanent footprint, you can stack one atop the other to conserve valuable floor space. The beam can also serve as a clamping surface or as an ever-ready seat.

The last horse is sleek and simple. This knockdown sawhorse is light, easy to move, and has a modest footprint. The upright design lets you position a pair close together for small jobs or nestle them together when you stow them away. Add spacers to the top rail for use as a portable infeed/outfeed stand for stationary machines. If space is tight, the knockdown hardware makes them easy to disassemble.

Folding sawhorse

1 Rip enough 21⁄2"-wide material for top rails (A), bottom rails (B), legs (C), and braces (D) from 3⁄4" stock. Referring to the Cut List, crosscut each piece to the final length.

2 Mark the dadoes and rabbets on the faces and edges of top rails (A), bottom rails (B), and legs (C) (Figure 1). Install a dado set in your tablesaw and raise it to 1⁄4". Using your miter gauge with an extension fence and tablesaw fence with a stopblock, cut all of the dadoes and rabbets on these parts, adjusting the fence and stopblock as needed. Dry-fit the parts.

3 Align and adhere the top rails (A) together with double-faced tape. Now mark the handhold notch along the bottom edge of upper top rail. Jigsaw or bandsaw the notches out, cutting just outside the line. Use a spindle sander or drill-press drum sander to sand the 3⁄8"-radius corners to the line. Separate the parts.

Take the folding sawhorses anywhere you need work supports that set up fast.
Notches in the top rails provide a handhold for easy toting.

4 Glue and clamp the mating dadoes and rabbets making up the lap joints of the rail and leg frame assemblies (A/B/C). Check for square. Then sand smooth, easing the edges.

5 Note the locations for the butt hinges on legs (C) where shown in Figure 1 and install them. For the best results, use a self-centering bit to drill pilot holes, ensuring that the leaves are square to the legs. Now install the three lower hinges to braces (D) and attach them to bottom rails (B).

The low profile of this sawhorse lets you pin workpieces with your knee. The lower tray serves as temporary tool storage.

Carpenter’s workhorse

1 Laminate two 3⁄4 × 4 × 36" pieces to create the 11⁄2"-thick workpiece. Now machine the piece to the sizes of the Cut List for beam (A). (A 2×4 also works.)

2 Lay out the angled dado cut lines on the beam (A) for each leg (B), as shown in the Angled Dado Detail in Figure 2.

3 To cut the angled dado on a tablesaw, you first need to make a wedge-like extension fence. Begin with a 15"-long piece of 2×4 and rip or joint off the rounded edges, making it 11⁄2 × 3". Next, make a simple h-saddle for your saw fence from three pieces of MDF. Apply double-faced tape along the bottom edge of the saddle’s face and adhere the 15"-long piece to it. Angle the blade at 14° and bevel-rip the piece as shown in Photo A, creating a wedge.

4 Install a dado set and raise it 3⁄4". Screw the wedge extension fence to your miter gauge, and angle the gauge at 10°. Place the top face of beam (A) against the fence, align the dado set with the cutlines, and cut the angled dado as shown in Photo B. Note that two of the angled dadoes for the legs will be cut from the left side of the dado set, and two from the right. Relocate and reposition the miter gauge to agree with the cutlines.

Use an h-saddle and double-faced tape to keep fingers out of harm’s way when cutting the 14° wedge.
Clamp the beam to the wedge and cut at the angled dado cutlines. Now saw out the waste in between.

With a leg slipped into an angled dado proud of the part’s top face, pencil a cutline.

5 Cut four legs to width and 2" longer than the dimensions in the Cut List. To avoid confusion, label the mating dadoes and legs 1-4. Fit one end of a leg (B) into one of the angled dadoes, and mark it along the inside face as shown in Photo C. Check the angle along the face; it should measure 10°. Now angle the blade at 14° and compound-cut the leg at one end. Mark parallel cutlines 25" from the cut ends of the legs and make the remaining compound cuts. (As an alternative, you can screw the legs in place proud, ensuring the horse stands level on the floor, and hand-cut the top ends flush with the beam.)

6 Predrill and countersink holes through legs (B) and into the angled dadoes in beam (A). Next, apply glue and fasten each of the legs in place with three #8 × 11⁄2" wood screws.

7 Cut two pieces of 3⁄8" plywood to the Cut List length for the trapezoidal gussets (C). For a precision fit, place the plywood at each end of the beam/legs assembly (A/B), and scribe along the outside edges of the legs onto the plywood. Use these lines to cut the tapering edges of the gussets on a bandsaw. Screw the gussets in place.

8 Cut the stretchers (D) 2" longer than the Cut List dimension. Holding the pieces 103⁄4" up from the bottom ends of the legs (B), mark along the outside faces of the gussets (C) onto the inside faces of each stretcher for an exact fit. Angle-cut these pieces to final length and attach them with wood screws.

9 Measure between gussets (C) and between stretchers (D) to see if the dimensions for the tool tray (E) check out. Adjust, if needed, and cut the part to size, bevel-cutting the edges at 14°. Mark and bevel-cut the corner notches with a bandsaw or jigsaw. Test-fit and screw it in place.

Note: Though the angle adjustments on the miter gauge and tablesaw blade for the compound cuts are for 10° and 14°, respectively, they correspond with the actual resulting angles on the parts shown in Figure 2.

These stands rely on knockdown hardware for assembly. Make a pair for a work table; add a spacer to use one for an outfeed work support.

Knockdown trestle horse

1 Cut the legs (A) and feet (B) to the overall dimensions in the Cut List.

2 Whether building one stand or a pair, align and adhere the legs (A) and feet (B) together in two stacks with double-faced tape. Referring to Figure 3, mark the tapers and notch on the leg stack. Set up the fence and a stopblock on the bandsaw, and gang-cut the notches on the top ends of the legs as shown in Photo D. Remove the fence and stopblock to bandsaw the tapered ends, cutting outside the lines. Sand to the lines using a stationary belt/disc sander. Similarly, mark, gang-cut, and sand the stack for feet (B), including the notch along the bottom edge. Use a spindle sander to sand the radii.

3 Lay out the 1⁄4" holes on the top face of the stack for legs (A). Then lay out the centers and 3⁄8" dowel holes on the bottom end of the stack for legs (A) and on the top edges of the stack for feet (B). Chuck a 1⁄4" brad-point bit in your drill press, adjust the fence, and drill the holes through the leg stack. Separate the legs and feet in each stack.

4 Using a self-centering doweling jig and stop on a 3⁄8" brad-point bit, drill the dowel holes in the ends of the legs (A) and feet (B) as shown in Photo E.

Online Extra

For an exploded view drawing of this wall rack, go to

Bandsaw cuts along the notch cutlines, adjusting the fence as needed. Then make multiple cuts to remove the waste; clean up the notch with a chisel.
Clamp the workpiece in a bench vise, align the doweling jig with the centerline, and bore the holes to depth plus 1⁄16" to make room for glue.
Nest the stands to save space or store the parts on the rack at left.
Spread glue in the holes, insert the dowels, and press the parts together with clamps.

Use an Allen wrench to firmly tighten the leg/feet assemblies against the lower rail.

5 Apply glue in the mating dowel holes for the legs (A) and feet (B), insert the dowels as shown in Photo F, and squeeze the parts together using bar clamps.

6 Cut the top rail (C), lower rail (D), and spacers (E) to the sizes in the Cut List. Cut the notches in the top rails where shown. Now, mark and drill the holes in the ends of the lower rails using a doweling jig and guiding off the holes drilled in legs (A). Drill the cross dowel holes. Insert the connector bolts and cross dowels (Photo G), drop in the upper rails, and put your horses to work.


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