Sawhorses are an essential construction tool, and this article highlights 5 of the best—3 DIY designs, with complete plans, and two off-the-shelf favorites.
“I've probably built 50 of these. It's a simple design, strong and super easy to build.”
Framing carpenters usually build these horses when they show up at a job site. They leave them behind for the other subcontractors to use, then build new ones at their next job. It's not unusual for the new homeowner to inherit a pair and hold on to them for years.
easy to build, super
Cost: $12 each
Time: 10 to 15 minutes each (using a pneumatic nail gun)
Skill level: Beginner
Go get two 12-ft. 2x4s and one 10-ft. 2x4. Using 16d nails or 3-in. screws, assemble the three boards that make up the I-beam. Attach the legs, using a framing square to square the legs to the beam. Attach the rails last. You're done, so get to work.
Mark Petersen is a Contributing Editor at The Family Handyman.
“I still have the first pair of these horses that I built 30 years ago. I copied the design from the ones my grandfather built 30 years before that.”
Set your circular saw to cut at a 13-degree bevel, and cut the legs to length at a 13-degree angle. Mark each piece as you cut it.
Set each sawhorse upright and set something heavy on it so all the legs are sitting nice and flat. Attach the gussets with four 1-5/8-in. screws.
Here's a design that's been around for a hundred years—maybe longer. It's low, so you can use your knee to hold down your work. The compound miters make this one a little trickier to build than the others, but if you take one component at a time and label them as you go, in a couple of hours you'll have a pair of sawhorses that your own grandkids will be proud to replicate someday.
We simplified this one a little bit. On the version Ken made, the legs are mortised into the edge of a non-tapered top board. To make this horse, you need one 8-ft. 2x6 and two 8-ft. 1x6s.
elegant, light, stackable,
Cost: $12 each
Time: one hour each
Skill level: Intermediate
Top: Cut the top to length first, then taper the edges on a
table or circular saw. All the angles on this horse are 13
degrees. (If you're the superstitious sort, cut your angles at
Legs: It helps to cut the legs close to their actual size beforehand so you can hold them up and visualize the direction of the cut and the orientation of the bevel. After cutting the legs to size, reset your circular saw to 90 degrees and taper the legs. Mark the taper line 3-1/2 in. over on the bottom of the leg up to the bottom of the gusset. Lay the top board upside down on a flat surface and attach each leg with three 2-in. screws.
Gussets: Trim the top and bottom edges of the gusset boards with parallel 13-degree angles. Mark one gusset using the sawhorse and copy the other three from that template.
Ken Collier is Editor in Chief at The Family Handyman.
“The foldable shelf adds stability, and it's a great place to store tools and fasteners up off the ground while doing a project. I had a blast building these!”
Cut two blocks of wood to temporarily hold the shelf in place while you fasten the hinged side of the shelf to the legs.
The lip on the shelf holds the sawhorse rigid. To break down the sawhorse, simply lift the shelf.
Some sawhorses have a shelf and some fold up, but Jeb's design combines both features. And he's right—these horses are fun to build. To make a pair, you'll need a 4 x 4-ft. sheet of 3/4-in. plywood, one 8-ft. 2x6, one 8-ft. 2x4, two 12-ft. 2x4s and eight hinges.
Features: Foldable, includes
a shelf, fun to build
Cost: $40 each
Time: One hour each
Skill level: Beginner to intermediate
Legs: After cutting the top 2x6 to length, cut both sides of
each leg at a 15-degree angle. Make sure the angles are parallel.
Fasten hinges to the ends of two of the legs, then
attach those legs by fastening the hinges to the top piece.
Attach the other two legs with 3-in. screws.
Shelf: Cut the 2x4 that supports one side of the shelf. Mark a line 8 in. up from the bottom of the leg, line up the bottom of the 2x4 with that line, and attach it with two 3-in. screws on each side. Cut the shelf to size and notch the two corners using a jigsaw. Fasten the hinges to the shelf, then use two 11-1/8-in. blocks of wood to temporarily hold the shelf in place while you fasten the hinged side of the shelf to the legs. Cut a 23-3/4-in. x 1-1/2-in. strip of plywood to overlap the 2x4 shelf brace. Attach it with wood glue and 1-1/4- in. screws. You may have to trim it a bit before fastening.
Jeb, a Field Editor from Fairport, NY, is a chiropractor by trade. When he's not busy adjusting spines, you can find him assembling wine racks for his friends and family (probably using his favorite sawhorses).
“I don't know why anyone would buy or build another kind of sawhorse. These are strong and cheap, and they hardly take up any room when they're folded up. Screw a 2x6 on the top and you’re good to go.”
If you want to avoid scratching the floors, get the protective feet EBCO makes for its horses. A set of four costs about $7 at ebcoproducts.com.
Travis Larson is a Senior Editor at The Family Handyman.
These metal foldable horses can be hung on a wall or stacked in a corner. And if you have to drag horses from one job to another, these are the ones for you. But be careful not to pinch a finger folding them up.
Travis is particularly fond of the EBCO brand—he claims to own a dozen of them.
Cost: $18 each, plus the cost of the top board
“Hard to believe any homemade horse could compete with the FatMax. They're light, foldable, height-adjustable and have notches for holding two-by cross braces. I can't imagine not having them.”
Steve Yaeger is a Field Editor who hails from Eagan, MN.
We asked our Field Editors to pick their favorite sawhorse, and the most popular by far was the FatMax. The top has notches, making it a great place to hold sacrificial 2x4s when you're cutting up plywood and other sheet goods. Each leg is adjustable, which is pretty handy when you're working on uneven ground. They have a built-in shelf and fold up relatively flat, making them perfect for storing on the wall.
includes a shelf,
Cost: $37 each
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.