Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Weekend project: sturdy sawhorses

Before starting to build the workbench of my dream I need to build some really sturdy sawhorses to have a stable base for planing, sawing and assemble the big white pine slab. For a while now I am thinking to build a pair or two of sawhorse so this is now the right timing. So after few days of vacation and some headache to solve with my boat (my boatyard kindly damaged my boat hull by wrongly, badly block it in storage!) it is time to get back to some woodworking.

Each sawhorse is a simple assembly of 4 legs, assembled two by two in triangle jointed by an reversed U top rail.

Schematic view of the legs assembly.

To build these sawhorses, I am using some reclaimed wood from a deck construction that we recently demolished. This wood pile is a bunch of 2"x6" SPF boards of different lengths and is perfect enough for that project.

Being used outside for some years now, the boards are a bit cupped so I am starting by planning them flat enough to be used for building these sawhorses.

Planning the boards flat with a Stanley #5

The stretchers between each legs are set in a notch made in the leg at a 70 degrees angle.

The stretchers will make a 70 degrees angle with the legs.

I am marking each notch to be cut, two notches per leg for the two stretchers.

Marking the waste.

Comes the time to use the saw to cut each end of the notch as well as some cut in the waste to ease removal with a chisel.

The waste cut and ready for removal with a chisel.

After chopping the waste with a sharp chisel and using my Record 73 shoulder plane to plan the notch bottom and adjust its angle I got one leg done...

One notch done in the first leg.
To cut the stretcher I used my usual method of marking and making a kerf along the line to guide the saw blade.

Stretcher marked...
... and kerf made along the line.

I used my D8 to make the cut.

Cutting right to the line.
Sometimes I deviate a bit from the line and need to cleanup the cut with a chisel and/or plane, but that time I was dead on.

Cut right on the marked line.
The stretchers are set in place by screws so I drilled them and countersink the hole for the screw head. I was pleased to finally try my antique bit.

My antique bit...
... put back to use.

...and soon I ended with a pair of legs and made two more.

A raw pair of legs.
These legs will be cut to correct height a bit later, but first I need to tackle the horizontal cap rail.
To make it I used a 2"x6", 3 feet in length. Each side is planed to the leg angle and will receive a 2"x3" board to form the cap.

The horizontal cap board marked and ready to be planed.
After marking the limit of the waste to be removed I used my Stanley #5 jack plane to get down to it.

One side done.
Two sides done.

Using my protractor, I checked that the angle was correct.

Checking angle.
Next step is to glue and screw the two lateral parts of the cap.

First side glued.
Both side glued.

The top of these lateral boards will be planed flush when the glue will have dried.
I ended with two cap rails like the one below:

The top rail.

After some sweating planing each side I ended up with this:

The top rail planed and ready to be fixed.
Last two steps are first to make two stretchers to go between left and right pair of legs for more rigidity and to bolt the cap rail in place.
For the stretchers I used a 2x6 board that I simply notched at each extremity so it can slot in between the legs.

Kerf done on the marked notch for sawing.

Without going into much detail about this insignificant portion, the final result are two quite strong saw horses that I will use to build my workbench later on.

The final result...

... two strong saw horses.

All this gave me some bags of shavings that I will use to light on my fire pit but it looks like I produce more than I can use and start to have quite some stock.
So one question comes to my mind for you readers... what are you doing with your wood shavings?


  1. Hi.
    Assuming that your deck was preservative treated, one should not burn shavings and or off-cuts. Instead, use the shavings as a mulch in the pathways of your garden. The chemicals should not leach from shavings. Wood chips from sawing should be disposed of in accordance with local laws for waste.

    1. Steve you are totally right pressure treated lumber should never be burned and should be disposed properly according to local regulations. However in my case it was straight SPF, I never use pressure treated lumber even outside as I don’t like to think that I am laying on a sponge filled with chemicals.

  2. I've been giving away my shavings to people who use them to line the bottom of bird cages, animal bedding, composting or garden mulching. One person also used them for sopping up a wet spot in the yard. I give them away through a website called freecycle.org, which operates in many cities around the U.S. I don't know if you have something similar in Canada.

    1. At this point I am using the big ones to light my fire pit and wood oven and compost the smallest. I did not think about animal bedding that is a good idea. Thank you Matt!

  3. Yes Matt, we gave Freecycle in Canada. I used it to dispose of stuff at time.
    Pretty HD saw horse you got there.

    Bob, currently without adult supervision

    1. I think I may have been a bit too far on the heavy duty aspect but these two will be used outside so they will act as saw horses and workbench base. I plan to build two lighter ones for inside the shop.
      Enjoy your time free of supervision but don’t go to wild!