bookmark_borderAssembling a Sawhorse

I realized that it might be a little mysterious how those sawhorses I made actually fit together. Here are some assembly instructions.

1) Collect the pieces

You’re going to need two feet, two legs, one stretcher, one top, two pegs, and two wedges. The legs have a wide end and a narrow end. The feet have one mortise in their top sides. The top has two mortises in its underside. you’re also going to need a small hammer or mallet.

2) The foot bone is connected to the leg bone

Insert the wide tenon of one leg into the mortise in the top side of one foot. It is very tempting to hammer the top of the narrow tenon, but this may mash it making ti difficult to insert later, so resist the urge.

3) Add ye peg

Use the mallet to hammer a peg all the way through the sideways through-mortise in the foot. These are designed to be drawbores, which means that the mortise in the leg does not line up perfectly with the mortises in the foot. This makes it more difficult to hammer in the peg, but as you do so it draws the joint tighter.

4) Play it again

Repeat those steps to assemble a second leg/foot combo.

5) Add stretcher between legs

Insert the stretcher between the two legs, sliding the tenon at each end of the stretcher entirely through the sideways mortise in each leg. Note that the wide dimension of the 2×4 is vertical. The mortises and tenons are square, so make sure the stretcher isn’t sideways.There’s no “inside” or “outside” to the legs, so whichever way fits better, just go with it.

6) Wedge the stretcher

Insert a wedge into the through mortises that run vertically through the tenons at each end of the stretcher. Hammer these nice and snug, or the resulting horse will be wobbly.

7) Add the top

Slide the top down onto the tenons at the narrow ends of the legs.There should be enough tension in the assembly to hold the top firmly in place once the horse is assembled. If there is too much tension, and the top just won’t go on, remove the wedges to release the tension, add the top, then replace the wedges.

Ta-da! Now do it three more times. You made four, correct?

bookmark_borderMid-Height Japanese Sawhorses

Some years ago, I made a pair of low Japanese sawhorses for my workshop. They’ve been great, and very useful (mostly for keeping lumber off the floor in the garage), but it was time to take the next step up. My rickety western sawhorses spend most of their time itting outside in the rain and snow, so they are not in very good shape. A set of mid-height Japanese sawhorses would be nice to have, because they are designed to break down into pieces for transport and storage.

Sawhorses Four

These sawhorses are about 24 inches tall, 24 inches long, and 22 inches wide at the feet. This height is just short enough that I can put my knee on a board to hold it while sawing, but tall enough that I don’t need to worry about scraping my saw along the ground. All the joinery is mortise and tenon, and there is no metal hardware in anything.

They are made almost entirely from pine. Given their modest stature, I could cut all four horses from three 4×4’s, two 2×6’s, and one 2×4. This means that there is only about forty dollars of material in the whole set. The pegs that secure the feet to the legs and the wedges that secure the legs to the stretchers are made from some surplus walnut I had in the shop. It’s always best to make the fasteners from wood that’s harder than the wood it is securing, but maybe walnut was an extravagant choice.

I wanted to make these from cedar instead of pine, but it turns out that these days cedar is five times as expensive as pine. It used to be only twice as expensive as pine. My next big woodworking project is going to cost me $500 instead of $100 for the lumber alone. Gasp.

I cut all the pieces to length by hand, but I used the mortising machine to cut nearly all of the mortises, and the band saw to cut nearly all of the tenons. I smoothed the walnut fasteners with a hand plane, though. After completing all of the shaping and joining, it took me about three hours with the orbital sander to clean everything up and remove most of the saw marks.

When taken apart, I can fit all the pieces for three horses into a single large (27 gallon) storage tote. This means that in the winter I can put the horses away in the garden shed instead of having them sit outside like the old ones.

Four Sawhorses