As a professional contractor, carpenter or woodworker who works from jobsite to jobsite on a daily basis, it’s very likely that you use sawhorses regularly. Even if you don’t work in a jobsite regularly, or you just carry out some basic DIY projects here and there, you might still need one depending on the type of projects you handle.
Sawhorse as the name implies, is basically used for supporting a wood, a plank or a board for sawing. Its design is quite simple as it comprises of just one straight horizontal beam to which four legs are attached, with two each on either side of the beam, each leg forming an acute angle with the leg opposite it.
I believe that’s why it’s called a sawhorse, because it has four legs like a horse, and it’s used for supporting wood for sawing.
Apart from supporting wood for sawing, two or more of it can also be used to form a workbench for carrying out other tasks and projects apart from sawing wood.
You can do that by just placing 2 sawhorses a few feet apart and placing a board on top of them as a platform to accommodate your work. The board can be screwed against the sawhorse or just placed flat on it.
Now, the question is, should you buy a sawhorse or build your own?
I’d say you can go with whatever is okay with you. If you decide to build it by yourself, it’s okay and if you decide to buy one, it’s also fine.
However, one should consider how long it will take to build it as well as the cost. Building it can be very simple and it can also be very complex depending on the type being built and the materials being use to build it.
There are different types of sawhorses and some take more time and materials to build, while others are fairly easy to build and almost cost nothing.
So, let’s look at the different types you can go for.
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Types of Sawhorses
There are 3 main types you can choose to build or buy. They include:
Stackable sawhorse are the most basic types you can use. They’re very easy to build and don’t require much skill to put it together.
It usually consists of a wooden I-beam with 4 legs attached, 2 on each side under one lip of the I-beam. These are very easy to build and the pair you need can easily be stacked on top of each other to save space and keep them out of the way when they’re not in use.
Apart from the ease at which you can build these, they’re also very cheap to build. All you need to build one of these are scrap 2x4s, deck screws and a power drill to drive the screws into the 2x4s.
You don’t really need to buy a long piece of 2x4s if you have some scrap ones lying around and a few decking screws to spare.
Since these are very easy and cheap to build, I wouldn’t want to buy one of these especially if they’re made with wood. I have several scrap pieces of 2x4s lying around, and can easily put 2 of these together with a little drilling and screw action.
A folding sawhorse is much more complex and requires more materials to build, more skill to cut more complex joinery and requires more tools or accessories, which makes it more expensive than an ordinary stackable type.
Depending on the method of folding you want to accomplish, you’re going to need some 2×4 hardwood, screws, nuts and bolts and piano hinges.
You’re also going to need tools to get the job done, like a miter saw or a Japanese pull saw to make cuts, a power drill to drill holes and drive screws, and a bevel gauge or angle finder to measure accurate angles. If you have power tools like a jointer and thickness planer, then you’ll find those pretty useful too.
Like I mentioned earlier, it requires more skill and materials to build a pair of these. If you’re a beginner, you might not have enough skill to build it accurately and might resort to buying one directly from a hardware store.
However, if you’re inclined to use it as a learning experience, you can as well build it yourself. This YouTube video should get you started on that learning.
As a professional however, with the right tools and skills, you can make a foldable sawhorse easily in the workshop. Buying one though is also an option, depending on how urgent it’s needed, you might decide to drive to the nearest hardware store and get a pair for yourself, in order to save the time you could have spent building them.
Whether you have a stackable or an adjustable sawhorse, one feature they don’t have is that they’re not height adjustable. That’s why there’re height adjustable ones.
Of course every user does not have the same height, and it’s quite uncomfortable working on a sawhorse with a top that’s too high for you or too low.
These height adjustable sawhorses allow you to adjust height to a position you’re most comfortable with.
Without telling you, it’s quite obvious these a pro level types and will require more skill and materials to build.
If you have the skill, the time and the resources, then you should definitely go ahead and build a pair for yourself.
How to Choose a Sawhorse
Whatever the type you choose to build or buy, here are some of the most important factors and features you should consider before getting one. Here’s your guide to choosing a sawhorse.
Build Material – Wood vs Plastic vs Metal Sawhorses – Which is Better?
Sawhorses have been around for a very long time, but their basic form and use still remain the same. What has changed though is that they’re now made of different types of materials such as wood, plastic, metal or a hybrid of plastic and metal.
The question is, which is better for the job? Well, let’s consider each material to find out.
When talking about sawhorses, the first material to come to mind when building them is wood. Wood is very easy to work with whether you’re a professional or a simple DIYer, unlike metal and plastic.
It also has a high load bearing capacity, which means heavy materials can be carried on it without it getting damaged.
When used for making a sawhorse, it will not damage your saw blade if you accidentally strike it when making a cut.
The drawback of using wood though is that it can get heavy quite easily, especially if it’s hardwood, and as a result, it’s difficult to move around a jobsite. Even though softwood is used in order to reduce weight, it can break easily if it’s not strong enough.
Some foldable sawhorses are made so that the legs fold in totally, living a very small footprint for storage and transportation. It’s quite difficult to make these types of foldable units with wood, that’s why most manufacturers prefer not to use it.
The main advantage of making sawhorses with plastic is that it’s very lightweight. As a result of that, they’re very easy to move around.
That however lowers their load bearing capacity and thus make them less than ideal for heavy duty projects.
They’re very good for lightweight projects like spray painting doors, cutting of 2x4s and plywood and other similar projects.
Most plastic sawhorses come with other built-in features like a clamp, built in storage and cord hooks for organizing tool or extension cords.
If you intend on carrying out some really heavy-duty tasks and support some real weight with a sawhorse, then going with one made with metal will be a wise choice.
Most metal sawhorses are foldable and height adjustable. In fact, some have legs that fold out completely into the body, so that’re easy to carry and occupy a very small footprint during storage.
They’re also equipped with many other functionalities like an included clamp or vise and storage space for tools.
The drawback with these is that they’re quite heavy compared to wooden and plastic units. You also have to watch out when making cuts because a metal sawhorse can damage your saw blade if it strikes it accidentally.
Apart from that, sawhorses made with metal are excellent both for workshop and jobsite projects.
Size – height
When building a sawhorse, it’s very likely that you’ll build it in a way that the top will be at a height that you’re most comfortable working with it.
But if you’re buying it from a big-box store, you don’t have that luxury because it’s already built. At the store, you can have a feel of the height and determine if you’ll be comfortable working with it. On the other hand, if you’re buying from an online marketplace like Amazon or eBay, you might not be able to test before you buy.
That’s why the adjustable units are very good and are a usually more expensive than the stackable ones because the height can be adjusted to suit the user’s need.
Sawhorses are built to carry work pieces which can be heavy or light. For instance, you might want to cut large logs or you might want to paint doors.
Large logs of wood are very heavy and will surely be too much for a plastic sawhorse while buying a metal one for painting doors is definitely not advisable.
Before buying or building one, you must consider the type of projects you’re going to use it for, and build or buy one that is capable of carrying that work piece without buckling under the load.
Of course metal and wooden sawhorses are usually capable of bearing more load, unlike plastic ones. So take this into consideration when making your choice.
A bare wooden stackable sawhorse has no other functionality apart from serving as a platform for carrying out projects.
Other types however come with additional functionalities such as clamps for holding the workpiece, a storage space under it, and cord hooks to wrap extension cords of tools neatly out of the way.
A wooden sawhorse might rot when exposed to moisture and a metal one can rust and get damaged in the same conditions, while a plastic one can become brittle and might even melt when left out and exposed to too much heat.
The more durable the one you choose is, the longer it will serve.
Sawhorses are meant to be moved around and transported especially if you’re a contractor, carpenter or a handyman who works on different jobsites.
This means it should be easy to move them around. Some are easy to build on site, but they’re not very easy to move from one jobsite to another.
There are some like the Bora Portamate PM-4500 that come with foldable legs that reduce the overall size of the unit, making it very easy to tear it down after use and store it away or transport it to another jobsite.
So, put this into consideration when choosing the one for your projects.