Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

Sawhorse Solution

Two old horses.

One of the items that’s been sitting near the top of my To-Do List pile for some time now involves replacing my existing pair of saw horses with something more ‘functional’ for a small workshop. This previous design also came from Danny Proulx’s Toolboxes and Workbenches title, like the toolbox tote I completed earlier this week. They’re not a bad design. In fact, they are very sturdy and will withstand a good amount of weight (as I found out, last summer, when I buily a 6ft workbench from 3in beech). I keep tripping over the feet, which consume valuable floor space on their own. They can be removed and stored on the legs but, it’s a real chore and a bit of a faff. A sound design then… But still, you need a good amount of working space to avoid any trips and falls.

So, what have I now come up with?

My latest solution comes from another title written in the US – WOOD Magazine’s How to Build a Great Home Workshop. This idea again breaks away from the traditional A-framed design (yep, I’ve also tried those, but not without similar frustration!). Two shorter “leaves” unfold in to a three-sided frame that easily becomes a temporary work or assembly table, with a sheet of ply, MDF or chipboard on top. As quickly as it unfolds in to position, it also folds away again, with a profile that’s low enough not to interfere with any machinery close by or my steel-capped toes.

Rather than to consign the old horses to the firewood bin (or Freecycle), I wanted to re-use as much of the existing timber [cheap pine; spruce] as possible. The tops on all three [did I not mentioned I actually have three of these horses? :-D] were pretty chewed up from the last couple of years of service but, I was able to reuse all the legs and did have spare lengths of PAR 4X2in to hand anyway. I cut them all to length on my sliding mitre saw before setting the depth stop to make the shoulder cuts for each of the lap joints – this should be much stronger than the butted screw joints they’ve used in the article. Now, my mitre saw does a good enough job of making trenching cuts but, without a dado blade (!) for these saws, it can take a very long time (especially if you have to chisel some of the waste away, afterwards). That’s why I next set up my bandsaw to complete the cheek cuts, running parallel to the grain (the joints came out looking very clean and it didn’t take too long, either).

Lap Joints - cut on the SCMS and bandsaw.

Each joint was then held together with 1¼in x 8 screws while the ten-minute PVA cured. Later, I removed each screw and replaced it with a short length of wooden dowel.

At the same time, I decided to fill the voids left at the bottom end of each leg, courtesy of the previous design. One block of wood for each, cut on the bandsaw. I don’t see any need to fill the saw kerf just above though, I did drive a couple more dowels through the sides, just to ensure the blocks aren’t going anywhere.

Oh, yes… This next image shows the shoulder I didn’t mean to cut! To fill the saw kerf left by the mitre saw blade, I simply cut a thin strip of timber (approx. 2.5mm) on the bandsaw and glued it in. If you can make this very slightly wedge-shaped then, it’ll improve the fit in the groove no end. It’s hardly an “invisible” repair though!! 😳

That is about as far as a got, Saturday afternoon, so, I decided to leave it all until the next morning. When dawn broke much earlier today, I was out in the workshop, looking to flush-trim all those dowels and any unevenness between the lap joints. If I was pressed for time, I’d have no doubt used my belt sander. But, as I like to try and keep noise levels to a minimum on weekends [with one exception of my radio!!], I got my Stanley no.5 out the drawer and proceeded to make shavings… Lots of shavings!

"Shavings... Lots of shavings!"

I’m not sure which ‘mess‘ I hate more… The very fine dust created by power sanding that gets absolutely everywhere… Or, having to drag my feet through small mountains of curly shavings, which also seem to fill up a black bin bag in no time at all!… I mean, I opened up my planer/thicknesser yesterday morning to do some service work [first time in two-years!!] and found all this inside (I can only imagine it’s been dragged under the machine by the wheel kit)!

...Shavings, bloody shavings!!

Anyway, back to the saw horses…

With all the joints flush off nicely thanks to my plane, I reached for my router and removed all the sharp arrises with a ¼in round-over cutter.

Each “leaf” is joined to the main beam with two 150mm T-hinges (as per the article). In practice, I’ve found that these hinges are quite flimsy. The steel is fine; it’s just the joint or pin location between the barrels.

One final step (something that has worked well before – I like to think of it as my own idea, as I’ve never seen it done before! :-D) is to cut a series of biscuit slots in the top of each rail, and a corresponding series of slots in to the face of some 44x20mm pine I had lying around. MDF is also find although, it tends to go mouldy if it gets wet or damp when used or stored outside. I glued no.20 biscuits in to the pine strips but DO NOT glue these in to the rails – this provides positive location but, also, it means I can easily remove and replace them once my circular saw has cut through them several times and they’re beginning to fall apart. That’s another reason I used biscuits rather than screws or nails – they won’t damage a saw blade or cutter in the same way. 😉

Biscuiting Tip!

And now, for the final photos…

In use, it’s a surprisingly sturdy unit with a sheet of 18mm MDF on top. If ever I was concerned about rigidity, I could easily fix the sheet down in to the sacrificial strips of pine and biscuits. Each leg flaps about while suspended but, the ‘floppy’ hinges don’t have any negative effect one all-fours are firmly rooted on to the floor.

And here, you can see it resting in position back against the lathe. I deliberately made this only 1200mm long so that I could store it easily enough in my workshop. As an assembly table, I think it will provide a useful working surface. Or, I could just stick a larger sheet of MDF on top! I rarely work with solid timber any longer than 6ft (otherwise, it won’t fit inside in the back of my car!) so, that shouldn’t give me many problems, either. As a solution for the small workshop, I think this will prove to be very handy indeed.

Thanks for reading.

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