These flashy thoroughbreds are real workhorses.
To even the reluctant do-it-yourselfer, a good pair of sawhorses is essential. If you're still making do with upturned buckets or using a pair with more wobble than Jell-O, take a look at the herd we've corralled. They may not resemble the horses your father had or the set in your garage, but this new generation has features you can't find in older models.
For starters, some of these are made of plastic or steel, providing greater strength and flexibility than all-wood horses. Some are designed to fold flat so you can hang them out of the way on a wall in the garage. Others come apart for easy transport and storage. This innovation comes at a price. The products shown here range in cost from $10 to $90 per pair, with most quality sawhorses falling into the $30 to $80 range. We'll show you what you can get for your money and help you select the set that's best for you.
Factory-built sawhorses can be configured three ways. Four of the ones shown are complete — you just unfold them and go to work. Many of these horses cleverly
collapse for easy storage. Another way you can buy manufactured horses is as pairs of manufactured legs to which you add a 2-by crossbeam. These are often less expensive, and you don't have to worry about cutting into the easily replaceable, inexpensive crossbeam. Finally, there are brackets — you supply both the crossbeam and the 2-by legs.
Whatever configuration appeals to you, you should consider strength, portability and comfort when shopping for horses.
Strength. Most complete horses and better leg-only models, whether wood or steel, are sturdy enough for just about anything you're likely to throw at them. For example, both the all-metal Tote-a-Horse and all-wood Porta-Fold are rated for a half-ton load. Leg-only models can also shoulder heavy loads easily, although it's up to you to pick out a 2x4 or 2x6 without a lot of knots for the crossbeam.
Portability. Most manufactured horses run laps around most of their homemade competition when it comes to portability — you can easily stow a folding or knockdown horse in your trunk. And they are light enough to carry to where the work is. For example, weighing in at only 15 lbs., the legs on the Tote-a-Horse fold into the crossbeam. The beam also has a convenient carrying handle. Others models, like the Storehorse and Shop Boss, hang flat on the garage wall and still leave room for other tools. Remove the crossbeam from the Trojan legs and they'll fold up, scissors-style. Clyde & Dale's tubular aluminum legs stack flat enough to stash a pair behind the seat of a pickup. To save even more space, consider keeping a few sawhorse brackets under your workbench; then you'll need only to cut new crossbeams and legs when needed.
Comfort. Height is a consideration that's often overlooked. Most sawhorses give you a working height of 24 to 27 inches. This is a comfortable sawing height for most people. But if you're on the short or tall side, you might want to consider a model with adjustable legs, such as the Tote-a-Horse. For instance, when you use a power miter box, a taller horse will make it easier to see your cuts without straining your back. Adjustable legs are also a big plus when you're working on uneven surfaces. Another way to raise the working height of a legs-only model is to use a wider crossbeam, like a 2510. Bracket-made horses can be easily adjusted with just a few saw cuts. Consider keeping two sets of legs for high- and low-horse jobs.
Depending on how they're configured, sawhorses can do more than provide a cutting surface. For instance, the Storehorse features a strong lower shelf that not only reinforces the legs but also comes in handy for holding tools.
You might also want to consider the width or type of crossbeam. A narrow crossbeam is the best surface for resting long runs of trim for painting, while a wider crossbeam is better if your horses need to serve double duty as a workbench. More akin to a workbench than a sawhorse, the Shop Boss offers the largest working surface. Another option is to purchase horse accessories, such as Trojan Manufacturing's saw platform and roller stands. The table and rollers clamp to the crossbeam, transforming the horse into a chop saw station.
These Jaws ($10) from A.W. Engineering use cam-locking action to prevent the legs from slipping out in use.
Bracket hardware may require extra wood and assembly time, but it allows you to create a horse with the leg height and crossbeam height you want.
However, not all sawhorse brackets are created equal — something you already know if you own a pair of the cheap sheet-metal versions. For a few extra dollars, you can get much greater dependability. For instance, the Sawhorse Connection's welded-aluminum brackets are made from 1/4-inch-thick stock. The Jaws brackets from A.W. Engineering lock positively in place and are designed to keep the legs from slipping out in use without having to pin the brackets to the legs with screws. Lee Valley's plastic horse brackets are unique because they can accommodate beams of different widths to match the job.
The only problem with owning a good pair of horses is that they sometimes "walk" away. You might want to "brand" your pair with a splotch of spray paint or some other mark to make sure they don't stray.
High-impact polystyrene braces ($10) from Lee Valley can be fitted with a 254, 256 or 2512 crossbeam.
Can't see any reason to buy sawhorses when you can make them yourself? Contributing Editor Tim Snyder felt that way, so he built horses, one of which is shown below, out of salvaged 2-by lumber. "I needed a pair of horses that would be suitable for both workshop and home repair projects," says Snyder. "These trestle-style models are a little heavy, but they're strong and very steady."
The mortise-and-tenon joinery may look intimidating, but Snyder made each of the posts and legs in two pieces by notching the lumber with a circular saw then gluing them together to create the mortises. Except for the replaceable top, the horse is glued together with water-resistant glue. However, you could use screws instead of clamps to hold things while the glue dries, or even bolt the assemblies together without glue for a knockdown version.
The brackets ($34) from the Sawhorse Connection are made of welded-aluminum channel stock; they make a rock-solid horse.
Where to Find It:
A-W Engineering Co. Inc.
8528 Dice Rd.
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
562-945-1041. Shop Boss. Jaws Bracket
Clyde and Dale's Products
110 Skinner Ln
Longview, TX 75605
303 8th Ave
Fulton, IL 61252
Lee Valley Tools
12 E. River St.
Ogdensburg, NY 13669
Thoroughbred folding sawhorses
sawhorse brackets (Model 88K36.02)
The Lehigh Group
2834 Schoeneck Rd.
Machungie, PA 18062
Bangor, PA 18013
610-588-3019. Porta-Fold Workhorse
Rockler Woodworking and Hardware
4635 Willow Dr
Medina, MN 55340
Storehouse XT (# 34056), XLA (# 34069)
Cord n' Plug (# 34043)
The Sawhorse Connection Corp
Anacortes, WA 98221-6373
9810 N. Vancouver Way
Portland, OR 97217
800-745-2120. Trojan sawhorse