Sawhorses: Project Info

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This is the introduction for a free series. Want to watch the whole thing? It is free to do so, you just need to log into the site and you can enjoy this series and many other videos we think you will love.


Paul shows how to make a pair of sawhorses using the method he first learnt when he was 16. They are very useful around the shop for resawing stock and a many others uses. The sawhorses makes use of a compound housing joint that ensure a solid construction.

The tools you will need are:

  • Knife
  • Square
  • Combination gauge (or marking gauge)
  • Tape/Ruler (or both)
  • Sliding bevel
  • Chisel hammer
  • Chisels (at least 1″)
  • Smoothing plane (No 4)
  • Tenon saw
  • *Handsaw
  • Hand drill and screwdriver or drill driver

* = optional

Joints List:

  • Compound housing joint
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  1. willyd57 on 15 September 2016 at 3:28 pm

    I need a set of sawhorses for my shop! I was just starting to come up with a design, but now I’ll wait for Paul’s version. Can’t wait to get started!!

  2. bcullen on 15 September 2016 at 4:06 pm

    My grand father and father used to have to make their own saw horses when reporting to a new job site as apprentice framers. It was a gauge of their craftsmanship. I have cousins that report that it still is today at their company. Everything I hear it no matter who I still hear in the back of my mind my grand father and father, it’s not what you do, but how you do it, them I smile. Thank you Paul Sellers.

  3. MartyBacke on 15 September 2016 at 4:31 pm

    Not what I was hoping after that last very basic project. Just my opinion.

    • ehisey on 15 September 2016 at 9:49 pm

      If you have not tried the Joint he uses on the saw horse, you may be in for a shock. It is decidedly not simple. I tried it following the blog and it was much trickier than I expected.

    • stevewales on 15 September 2016 at 10:25 pm

      You’re missing the point that Paul keeps iterating Marty — “It’s not what you make, It’s how you make it”
      This is a demonstration of Compound Angle Joinery and making a set of useful shop aids.
      You must be quite an advanced craftsman to have found the ‘Make any table you desire’ project so basic – I envy you, I’m still struggling to saw to a line.

      PS. I clicked ‘like’ on the video you produced about glueing a piece of moulded stock onto your tool tote to make a place to hold your square.

      • stevewales on 15 September 2016 at 10:28 pm

        “And posted in our forum here” — I meant to say

      • MartyBacke on 16 September 2016 at 12:55 am

        No, I get it Steve. And thanks for the comment.

        But I still prefer to learn the various joinery techiques on more refined projects. This one just doesn’t inspire me at all.

        It pains me to leave negative feedback, but I assume Paul & Co would prefer to know what everyone really thinks instead of only hearing positive words.

        • Farred on 16 September 2016 at 5:09 am

          I have no room for saw horses in my small shop (8×16), but just when I think a project has nothing to teach me, I’m proved wrong. I do like the idea of such a utilitarian piece using refined techniques.

        • Alan on 14 October 2017 at 2:32 am

          I think it’s aimed towards potential subscribers – a freebie enticement.
          I heard the Bedside Cabinets are the next big project.

    • remlok on 16 September 2016 at 11:04 am

      You’re joking mate. These aren’t basic. If you cut these joints first time, you’ll be able to cut anything!

    • TimB on 16 May 2019 at 6:29 am

      How inconsiderate of Paul not to design this to meet your personal expectations.

  4. poolshark86 on 15 September 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Wow we finally got to see paul work at his normal pace at the end of this video lol! Can’t wait to build a pair of these.

  5. mcneile3 on 15 September 2016 at 6:02 pm

    I love different saw horses. This will be fun and useful. Thanks PAul.

    • beach512 on 20 September 2016 at 5:11 pm

      I agree and these sawhorses look great compared to others I have made. It is also learning a new kind of angled housing joint and the challenge of getting it perfect without gaps. I am definitely looking forward to this project and building along.

  6. NikonD80 on 15 September 2016 at 6:08 pm

    Ive been hording some suitable timber for this project for ages. My patience finally pays off. Can’t wait to start this.

  7. Joseph Palas on 15 September 2016 at 7:09 pm

    I tore apart my old workbench to finally build a real workbench in your style. But I need some sawhorses and VIOLA! Today this appears!? Get out of town! I may not even be able to wait for the actual series, and just try to work from the high speed demonstration. I love that you included that, Mr. Sellers.

  8. silenthill on 15 September 2016 at 8:08 pm

    This came along at a good time. I’m in need of a pair, and Home Depot wants 18.00 each. I’m also stoked because Paul alluded on Facebook that this series precedes the Rocking Chair, so I’m happy again.

  9. pnj2411 on 15 September 2016 at 8:11 pm

    Looking forward to this very much – I’ve been struggling with bought trestles: nasty lightweight things with folding metal gussets. A pair of sawhorses as traditional as this is just what I need. My long dead grandfather had them in his workshop. He taught me to saw with them. Long gone, they and him, along with the saws and everything else, unfortunately. Nice also to be producing something so traditional and useful, that you say would be tricky to do with machines.

  10. tonyw on 15 September 2016 at 11:01 pm

    Actually, I couldn’t wait so I built a pair last March from left over construction timber from our extension using Paul’s blog descriptions. The only difficulty I had was that in his blog of 27 September 2013 Paul omitted to mention the depth of the recess in the crossbeam. However, in response to a question by Jamie in the 1 October 2013 blog, Paul added that the depth was half an inch.

  11. townsend on 16 September 2016 at 1:01 am

    I have been looking forward to these since you first spoke of them. Thank you!

  12. António on 16 September 2016 at 9:58 am

    Thank You WWMC Team!

  13. Kirk Zabolio on 16 September 2016 at 6:43 pm

    Sawhorses, simple useful things and can be made in so many ways. I just made a pair but can always use another. I’m looking forward to following Paul to make a second set. I’m sure the joints will be much better than mine but that’s the object, to learn new things on a simple build, its the way you make them.


  14. jeffdustin on 17 September 2016 at 12:53 am

    I want to make them.

  15. Reno on 17 September 2016 at 6:56 pm

    If you want to kneel on the sawhorse in the same way one would kneel on a saw bench, measure the height of your bent knee and subtract an inch for the workpiece thickness. Usually this is 20-22 inches.

    A good splay angle for the legs is 15-18°. The cosine of 18° is 0.951, and the inverse of that is 1.051.

    So to find the leg length that will result in a 20 inch height, multiply by 1.051, which gives 21 inches.

    In practice, the leg will probably be cut long and then be trimmed, but it is useful to know the underlying math.

    • rustifer on 19 September 2016 at 12:24 am

      is this correct as the legs are inclined to both the vertical and horizontal planes.
      from a theoretical point it would be better to elucidate the situation as a half or full scale drawing which would give exact lengths and angles for all cuts.
      practice and theory don’t always live on the same street.

  16. Mooncabbage on 18 September 2016 at 6:31 am

    I love the time lapse at the end. It functions brilliantly both as a preview of the entire project, and an overview for after the series is finished. That way once you’ve watched the whole thing, if you need a refresher on the order of operations or what you need to do next, you watch 30 seconds of video instead of having to go over hours of footage. I hope to see these on all projects going forward, insofar as it’s practical, because they really are awesome.

  17. jenewman2 on 18 September 2016 at 9:49 pm

    Best combination teaser/spoiler I’ve seen.

  18. James Savage on 19 September 2016 at 8:45 am

    Looking forward to this one, I get into trouble for using the top of our chest freezer.
    As luck would have it I’ve been given some nice 3 x 3 pine that was going to be thrown, I only have to find timber for the cross rails now.

  19. Glenn on 21 September 2016 at 12:54 pm

    Hi Paul and Crew
    Just a short question.
    Would there be a downside of using 4×2 100mmx50mm throughout giving a larger more robust Horse with a wider beam which I was thinking might be adaptable to
    This :-
    this would then give me the ability of a portable workbench until I build my Big Workbench
    I intend to use a system of holdowns and wedge clamps for the Vice or maybe adapt a small vice to it I intend to still use them as a pair that gives me the spread of a full size bench-top when I needed it
    wood I was thinking would be Jarrah {or if too heavy Pine } both are readily available to me me in Australia, Any suggestions would be Welcome

    Kind Regards and Be Safe

  20. dlanglands on 24 September 2016 at 1:17 pm

    just been watching paul making a sawhorse ,by jings he works at some speed !!

  21. John Carruthers on 11 September 2017 at 2:16 pm

    I’ve seen and used dozens of horses on various sites, never as posh as these though,
    I’d varnish a pair of these 😉
    All the old ones we used when glazing had a notch in the end to keep a door upright.

  22. David Moody on 12 September 2017 at 10:14 am

    Definitely looking forward to this 🙂

  23. Eduard Schooltink on 18 September 2017 at 6:49 pm

    The cross beam W = 3.75 inch, it isn’t 88 mm, it is more or less 95 mm in metric.

    • Philip Adams on 26 September 2017 at 4:26 pm

      Hello Eduard,
      Thank you for pointing this out. We will get it corrected as soon as possible.
      Best, Phil

  24. John Reynolds on 20 September 2017 at 3:43 pm

    I have a question about technical drawing/cut list. The cut list states that the legs are 29″. At the same time the technical drawing states the final height on the saw horses is 29″. I know I can make the saw horses any height, but how can I start out with leg stock that is 29″ and end up with saw horses that are 29″ high? Am I missing something about the basic math of triangles? Or is there an error in the drawing/cut list?

    • Philip Adams on 26 September 2017 at 4:25 pm

      Hello John,
      Apologies that it isn’t very clear. The ~29″ means that it will end up in the region of 29″. As you say, it will not end up quite 29″ tall.
      Thanks, Phil

    • Alan on 27 September 2017 at 12:15 am

      My legs had to be re-cut from new stock at 29.610″ to attain an exact 29″ Saw Horse.
      Then I realised it didn’t matter.

  25. Sebastian Popa on 22 September 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Dear Paul,

    In the video playwood is mentioned instead of the boards. That was also a very good possibility for me, however if we would like to use only wood and glue, can we use dowels (oak) and how thick should they be (e.g. 3/8″)?

    Best regards,

    • Alan on 27 September 2017 at 12:20 am

      It’s not going to look too fancy with nice Oak Dowels if they’ve given-way, and your project is on the deck with a three-legged Saw Horse.
      Better to use screws, then plug the head recesses, if it’s going to be used as furniture.

    • Philip Adams on 28 September 2017 at 9:54 am

      Hello Sabastian,
      Very much agree with Alan. Paul said that it’s not really a suitable use of dowels as they don’t have any pulling power and don’t have a consistent long-term resistance.
      Thanks, Phil

  26. Emery Miller on 7 October 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Any suggestions for how to make these without a vice or a workbench? I’m just starting out, and therefore have nothing except a saw, a No. 5 plane, and chisels. The workbench build video uses saw horses. So I wanted to make a pair of these before starting on the workbench project. However it looks like you need a workbench and a vice in order to make the saw horses. Bit of a catch 22 in order to get started. 🙂

    • Ecky H on 7 October 2017 at 10:47 pm

      Hello Emery,

      those double-angled joints are the most critical part to make the saw horses sturdy – imho.
      So I suggest that you prior build a “work horse” with more simple joints and a clamping capability like that one:
      I would add very low, but beefy stretchers between the front leg and the rear legs to put a foot on it or to put some heavy stuff on it – just to add weight and to reduce the tendency of the work horse to move and tilt under the forces of sawing, paring and planing.

      Hope that helps. 🙂

      I know this bootstrap challenge very well and started to build my first project (a saw buck for my father) on a big cardboard box filled with other boxes to get off the floor. Two plastic buckets or beer crates probably will work better.
      To fasten the parts I wound a cord around the bigger boards and sat on the whole “thing”. The whole process is documented (in German, but with pictures) here:
      Later that sawbuck was pretty helpful to build a sawbench.

    • Harvey Kimsey on 8 October 2017 at 10:39 pm

      Wow, that’s a tough one! I dont think you could make these without a vise/workbench combo. You might be able to fashion simpler sawhorses, similar to what you might see at a construction worksite, then go from there.

    • Alan on 9 October 2017 at 6:43 am

      Working outdoors repairing fencing and barn doors in remote locations presents similar problems. It’s a little awkward, but can be done! You just need to be a little more inventive than someone who has a readily-available workbench at waist height. Be prepared to work at awkward angles, or at ground level. Take it slowly. Use a chair/crate/step/tailgate to lift your wood off the floor for sawing while steadying it using your knee/foot/hand/friend as best you can. Clamp the wood to the chair/stool/crate to plane it. Work on the kitchen floor, planing towards a shallow doorstep. The same for chiselling. Work away from yourself, with the far end up against a wall. Drive a stake into the ground, using that as a bench-dog. Screw your wood to an old pallet/door on the ground to work on it. So long as all screw-heads are well below the surface, you’ll be fine. Cut your wood longer than you need, screw/nail it at each end, work on it, then cut the ends off afterwards. You’ve only got this hassle once. Your first sawhorse helps with the second, then the workbench.

    • Philip Adams on 9 October 2017 at 2:11 pm

      Hello Emery,
      The other option is to get a hold of a workmate or similar. They are useful as a starting point and Paul has used one often when making a workbench.
      Best, Phil

  27. tas on 4 November 2017 at 12:32 pm

    Is it ok if i laminate two pieces to make the cross beam or is one correct-to-size piece preferable?

    • Alan on 4 November 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Laminate them side-on, as with the Workbench build.
      Glue and BOLT the laminations together to form a very-solid beam before adding the legs.
      In case continual stressing from the legs causes the joint to flex and separate over time.

  28. tas on 4 November 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Ok Thanks Alan.

  29. tas on 9 November 2017 at 9:13 am

    I see that the screws used are 4mm X 60mm as the cut list suggests.
    Paul what brand are the screws used here? I see that the are zinc plated? or am i wrong? Are they countersunk? Do they have that self drilling part in the beginning of the screw?

  30. Paul Fowler on 7 April 2018 at 9:35 pm

    Re; build sawhorses witout workbench

    I was perusing local flea, found old workmate
    perfect tomake saw horses, and it folds up to hide in corner for later use.

  31. Fabris Massimo on 23 April 2018 at 11:32 pm

    Thanks Paul !

  32. Rod Riffel on 14 October 2018 at 7:59 pm

    Just finish my first saw horse and really liked the design and challenge. One suggestion; had some difficulty understanding the birdsmouth joint layout. Couldn’t see Paul’s lines on the board very well. After screwing up one leg I finally figured it out by watching the video 6 or 7 times. Hope you can forgive us slow learners!!

  33. Naomie Bradburhry on 2 February 2021 at 11:39 pm

    this was very helpful

  34. Jacob Lee on 11 September 2021 at 6:06 pm

    Thanks so much for this series! I’m making my first ones now. Should not have gotten construction grade fir though…
    It’s be handy to have a materials list as well as a tools list!

  35. Colin Scowen on 12 September 2021 at 10:09 am

    Why not use construction grade fir? These are sawhorses, not a fine dining table. Keep your tools sharp, and if you truly don’t like the material, at least finish making them so that you have a chance to learn from any mistakes, and then you have a spare set that you can use outside, or lend to another newbie, or use for a makeshift table at the next large BBQ….

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