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Project Information

My horses had triplet ponies! The design is from Roy Underhill's 21st season in 2001.

There are probably hundreds of different styles and varieties of sawhorses, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, but I've never seen any that are more elegant, light, and strong for the materials used, than these deceptively simple Underhill-design versions. They are the best exemplars I know of Buckminister Fuller's adage, "Do more with less." Each of the full-size sawhorses is made with a short piece of standard tubafor lumber for the beam, and a six-foot piece of 1" x 6" board, both ripped in half the long way, and cross-cut in half, to make the four legs. A small piece of wood for a leg brace on each end, and some screws, glue, and nails, is all that is needed in materials for each sawhorse. Most other sawhorse designs use much heavier material, unnecessarily so in my opinion, and as a result they both weigh more, and are larger and harder to carry around and to store away, not even to mention that most of them are very fugly. They are however probably ultimately stronger, but much more so than they need to be for most normal uses. I'm sure the other designs are also very useful and have unique advantages too though.

Although these sawhorses appear to be very simple items, I have found them to be a challenge to make with hand tools, primarily because of the many compound angles involved. There are four complex-angle insets cut out of the top beam, to be first hand-sawn and then chiseled out of both sides and ends of it. Then each of the four legs must have matching compound angles (on both ends!) so that the legs splay properly in two directions, and sit flat on the floor. And to make matters worse, all four legs must be exactly the same length so that the sawhorses will be stable on a flat floor. I've struggled to get that part quite right, but I make up for it by using them on uneven floors and ground. They work great that way anyway. The small end-braces, that according to Roy, are simply nailed in place after all the other fancy work, almost seem like an afterthought. I take the time to inset them into the legs as well because I think that looks better than just slapping them on the side as Underhill does, and I use screws-for-the-ages instead of just nails. I don't use brass screws to attach the legs as Underhill does, but I do use steel screws and glue to make sure they hold together. I think my design is a slight improvement on Underhill's, not only aesthetically, but also because it makes the end braces more strongly attached and integral to the legs. Roy would probably say I've violated the spirit of the thing by doing that extra work unnecessarily.

If I recall correctly, according to his original video shown 14 years ago, if the inset joinery is made really tight and proper, the sawhorses will support full weight, even without permanently fastening the legs with screws and glue. He doesn't recommend that though, and it's a step too far for a skeptic like me who does woodworking a bit on the sloppy side. I use BOTH the screws and glue, but no nails.



28 Posts
Congratulations on the birth of the triplets! Sawhorses always intrigue me! Great Job!!!