Tip 1: Build a five-minute workbench
Sawhorses are used for sawing wood, right? Well, yes… and no. The truth is that pros use sawhorses as a lot more than just unpaid cutting assistants. In fact, with a little creativity, sawhorses can be one of the most useful tools in your arsenal.
One of the best ways to get the most out of your “ponies” is to set up a semipermanent workstation when you're trimming or framing larger or longer-term projects. Screw 2x4s to the tops and a plywood platform to the 2x4s and you're ready to build. Let the 2x4s project a few inches beyond the plywood to make it easier for someone to help you pick up the whole works and move it around as needed. To keep the clutter out from underfoot, install a plywood shelf across the braces.
This workbench folds up in a single piece, except for the lower shelf that you lift out before folding the legs. It's easy to throw whole thing into the back of a pick-up when helping a friend or neighbor.
Tip 2: Make instant scaffolding
Don't totter on stepladders to do work less than 10 ft. above the ground. Make a crude, but safe, scaffolding plank with plywood and 2x4s up to 8 ft. long. Be sure to add end blocks to keep the long 2x4s from folding up while you're working. Build longer planks if you want, but use 2x6s for lengths between 8 and 12 ft.
Set the sawhorses so they sit level and so their legs won't rock or sink into the ground. Make sure the scaffolding board is stable before standing on it.
Tip 3: Wider caps are better
Don't cap metal sawhorses with 2x4s; 2x6s are a better choice. You'll get a larger working area and be able to clamp stuff to the overhanging sides (photo; Tip 4). Anchor the 2x6s from the undersides with No. 12-3/4-in.-long screws. Don't use longer screws or you'll be breaking saw blade teeth every once in a while. If you want to hang your sawhorses up and out of the way, let the ends run a few inches too long and drill holes in them (photo; Tip 4).
Tip 4: Wooden tops are made to wreck
Don't be afraid to cut into your tops! Set your blade to cut 1/4 in. deeper than the thickness of the wood and cut right through the tops. They'll still last for years.
Tip 5: You can quickly build strong sawhorses
Need extra horses right now? You can make a pair by cutting five 8-ft. 2x4s into six 32-in. lengths and eight 26-1/4-in. lengths.
Screw the 32-in. pieces into I-beam shapes and, after you've drilled pilot holes, attach the legs to the I-beams with 3-in. screws. These screws, along with the upper edge of the I-beam, stabilize the legs.
Or customize the lengths and heights to suit your purpose. But you're on your own with the numbers!
Simple Homemade Sawhorse Details
This 2x4 sawhorse design is strong and doesn't require angle cuts.
Tip 6: Get yourself two sets of sawhorses
Don't settle for one pair of horses! You'll always need another set or at least half of another set. If, for example, you need a quick platform for cutting plywood, assemble two horses end to end with a third one in the middle, perpendicular to the first two. Make sure the cutting line is supported by the middle horse. Two sets of horses both the same height will always be the most useful.
Tip 7: Give your portable table saw outfeed support
Convert a portable table saw into a stationary saw by resting the saw table edges on two overhanging 2x4s. Adjust the placement of the boards so the saw is well supported but as far apart as possible so they won't interfere with the fence, and then screw them to the horses. To hold the saw in place, screw through the holes in the saw table (drill 'em if you have to) into the 2x4s. You can use a piece of plywood for outfeed support, shimming it so it's even with the table top. But the best outfeed support is a hollow-core door (damaged ones are $20 or less at home centers!). A door is the perfect thickness for most saw tables (maybe a little shimming required), and it can do double duty as a lightweight portable workbench.
Outfeed Support Table
Make a pair of sawhorses plus an old door the same height as your saw table to make an outfeed table. In this case the long 2x4s that support the door also support the portable table saw.
Tip 8: Make handy painting and drying racks
Create a drying platform when you have to finish miles of siding or trim, cabinet doors or just about anything else. The platform is simple—just a couple of 2x4s spanning the sawhorses.
After each piece is finished, transfer it right to the platform. Start in the middle and work your way to each end. That'll keep the whole works from toppling over and causing a disaster.