How to build a sawhorse

How to Build a Sturdy Sawhorse for Your Workshop

I have seen some fancy sawhorses on the net. Anytime I Google up "how to build a sawhorse", I see different folds and hangs on the wall (looks attractive). Some packs together like the jigsaw puzzle. Others are big and quite bulky. But is that really what's important? Truth is, you really just need a sawhorse that's sturdy yet not that heavy. A great sawhorse should be portable in size and wouldn’t take up much space in your shop/garage.

Why buy a sawhorse when it's so easy to build your own? 

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What you’ll need

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    A circular saw
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    A tape measure
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    A hammer
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    Angle square/speed square
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    A lumber- I’ll be using 2- 10 foot 2X6 boards, which I ripped to 2 2 3/4 inches wide. And that’s about 40 ft, around 12.2 of lumber.
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    About 5- 8 foot 2x4 boards is okay (or 10- 42 to 48 inch boards will be fine).

Sit back and relax as I walk you through this step-by-step guide, or you can follow each step as I perform them (if you have your equipment ready).

how to build a sawhorse-how to build a sawhorse-Bench-woodwork

1. Get a nice couple of boards for your project

I used the 2X6 nominal southern yellow pine for the horses. I had to rip it down or split it to make our finished product a lighter one. You can use the 2x4 sawhorse brackets with white pine or lodgepole or spruce (without ripping). It works too. If you plan to keep your horse outdoor in the weather, I’d advise you to buy a lumber that can resist rots and insects.

2. Set up your work table.

Set up your work table on a nice surface where you can measure and cut your lumber.  You’re building the saw horses from scratch. I’d assume that you don’t have an already set up table. If you do, it’s time to use it.

3. Get the lumber ripped off in half if you’re using 2X6 boards.

They don’t have to have too much of weight. This will decrease the weight and the amount of lumber needed to half. Skip this step if you’re using the 2X4 size.

4. Measure

how to build a sawhorse-pencil-and ruler

Measure the length to a height that is comfortable for working. If you’re around 6 foot (1.8m) tall, I’d recommend 34-36 inches (.86-.91m). For shorter individuals, kindly adjust the height. I’d advise you to build a sawhorse that’s a bit tall. At least you can trim the leg later when they are complete to fit your height.

5. Cut a bevel 

Cut a bevel on the first leg while cutting it to the right length. To make it spread well on the horse leg, I’d tell you to go for an angle of about 65 degrees from the lines of the square. Alternatively, you can make your sawhorse leg angle 25 degrees from the edge of the board. Remember that you’ll be cutting this bevel square to your board’s narrow edge. So you’d need to mark both the bottom and top. Then, cut again through the bottom so you’d get all the way through the board. Make sure you cut flat and straight. This will make them fit well against the top board.

6. Cut the top board 

Cut the top board or the back of your horse which will be sawed square on the two ends.  Make it about 42 to 48 inches (107-122cm) long. Mark a point on each end, then draw a square line. You’ll need this to determine where you’ll attach the legs on the sides.

7. Lay the backboard on a smooth surface.

It could be a worktable or even a smooth floor. Whatever rocks your boat, just make sure it’s a cool, stackable sawhorse plan. Now place your first leg on the square mark I made in the previous step. Nail it and make sure the bevel level is set tight against the top board’s edge. I’d advise you to blunt the points of your nails. This will help reduce the chances of wood splitting when nailing. Also, use an 8d(8 penny) nail, it will give the necessary holding power and won’t pass through both pieces.

8. Nail the first two legs on a side of the top board.

how to build a sawhorse-screw

After, flip over the assembly. Also, nail the second two legs in an opposite direction to the first pair. Here, you’re free to use larger nails. Even if the points projects further, they’ll get back into the first two legs and strengthens the joints.

9. Make your partly-assembled sawhorse stand upright. 

Take an 8-inch (about 20cm) measurement down from the base of your top board. Now, use a shortboard to scribe it a horizontal spreader brace that fits well in-between the legs. Make these brace angles around 115 degrees and the base angle around 65 degrees to make a total of 180 degrees.
I’ll advise you to scribe all the brace for position. Doing this will give you an exact fit. Make your scribed brace a pattern to mark 3 extra pieces so you’d have 2 for each horse.

Top Tip

The 65-degree angle is referred to as the “25 from square”. Why? Because you can find 65 angles when you mark off “25 from 90”. You’ll need a tool known as a 90-degree “speed square”, or related instrument.

10. Time to nail the braces. 

how to build a sawhorse-construction-tools

Here we’ll be using two 12d nails for each end. The nails go first through the leg to the brace’s end-grain.

With extra care, nail the brace on each of the two legs. Make sure the legs are well positioned so the sawhorse can stand straight and flat on level ground. If you nail the braces out of position, you may be getting a horse that’s unsteady and wobbles. Ensure to hold the horse straight and uprightly is worth it.

11. Turn over the horse back on its top board.

Turn over the horse back on its top board, and position it rightly (You can have a partner hold it). Cut another board of about 46cm long with a diagonal brace of an angle of 45 degrees on one end.
Hold the end of the angle against the spreader brace. Now, scribe the other end where the angled end intersects the top board and cut this mark.

12. We’re getting there. 

Now, nail all these braces to their right places with the end cut on an angle of 45 degrees. Then, butt them into the spreader brace and nail all through the brace into the end grain. And also nail from the scribed end into the underside of the top board. You’ll then nail it from across the grain into the bottom of the board. Make sure you use large nails, at least 12d. Don’t forget to blunt the end to avoid wood splitting.

13. Verify 

Verify that the length of the sawhorse’s legs are equal and if they fit into the ground uniformly. If not, trim the legs that are long.

14. And that’s all!

I won’t leave without some tips for the pro.

Top Tip

When you’re sawing on your horse, make sure you set your set your saw to the right depth to make them put an extra 2x4 flat at the top of your horse. This will be your “sacrificial lamb”. You can always get back to it when your saw chews up your wood.
When you rip (in half) 2x6, you’ll get an adequate strength for most of your jobs unlike the nominal weight of 2x4. Want a more durable horse? Why not use the wider board at the top?

Top Tip

The straight "A"-shaped sawbucks are, most of the time, 20-24”. This will allow you to kneel down while doing your cutting. You can adjust the height to whatever feels right to you. Don’t ignore the length though!
Instead of lumber, you can use plywood. Cut them into a triangular shape, screw them at the ends of the legs. 


Hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Are you now confident that you can build a sawhorse on your own? Read the steps over and over again. You’ll learn more. We’d be more than happy to hear from you.

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