Sawhorses are handy even when you have a workbench as they help with edge-cutting, safe routing, and even cross-section engraving work. But getting the perfect sawhorse is difficult, which is why many woodworkers choose to build their own. If this is your first sawhorse, the thing you must care about the most after the material choice is the structure width.
A standard sawhorse is 24 inches wide, while narrower ones are 18 inches wide. The maximum width of a retail-grade sawhorse is 36 inches, and it features thicker and longer legs to achieve a standard height and decent balance.
In this article, you will learn how to start thinking about the sawhorse in terms of leg angle to produce a more stable log holder. We will explore why the angle matters first, then go over the two main types of sawhorses and what width works for each.
Why does the sawhorse angle matter?
It is essential to know the importance of the sawhorse angle so you can adjust it to get the maximum weight-holding ability out of the structure. First of all, the degree to which a sawhorse leans, the more it shares the weight with the crisscrossing leg.
Think about a single leg holding weight. It has to be upright even to support its own weight. The more the leg starts leaning, the more weight it shifts from its own center of gravity. The other leg leaning to the same degree cancels the imbalance creating a platform that can carry lumber.
More than this, the angle of the sawhorse legs affects how far the lumber is from the ground. When the sawhorse legs have an angle far from the ground, the sawhorse holds the lumber/weight too high up.
The center of gravity not being close to the ground means the weight is less stable. This, alongside the lack of leaning, results in the sawhorse having poor weight-holding capabilities.
The verdict: the more the sawhorse legs lean, the more weight it can hold. And the more the legs lean, the wider the sawhorse is.
What angle should sawhorse legs be?
Earlier, we established that a wider sawhorse could carry more weight than a narrow one, especially when using one sawhorse. Since this is tied to the angle of the sawhorse legs, let’s go over the best angle at which the sawhorse legs should connect or cross.
Sawhorse legs should be at 70 degrees to 82 degrees from the depending on whether they connect to support a workbench or crisscross to carry a single log. Their angle also depends on whether they’re carrying heavy or light lumber.
Sawhorse angle by use
There are two main uses of sawhorses, and their width (leg angle) depends on these uses, as mentioned above. Here, we explore the two ways in which you could use your sawhorse and the recommended angles at which you should construct/set them.
Sawhorse as a workbench foundation
Using two parallel sawhorses has become a popular method to set up a workbench tabletop. This allows the workbench to carry more weight, remain more stable, and have fewer chances of toppling over. It allows you to double the foundation’s surface area from 4 legs to 8 legs. When using two sawhorses for a workbench, you can position their legs at 82 degrees from the ground.
This would average width of around 21 inches between the two legs of the individual sawhorse in the system. You can also get away with setting up an 18-inch width because the presence of the other sawhorse offsets the potential imbalance of the highly acute angle. The 21-inch width works as it leads to a 22-inch height for an average height. The 18-inch width results in a 24-inch height.
Sawhorse as a log support
If you plan to use the sawhorse as a solo support structure, the way it was traditionally used, then the angle of the legs matters more. When the sawhorse legs are at a 70-degree angle, they’re leaning on each other with enough balance to support heavier logs. You must err on the side of having a wider spread as there is no second sawhorse to offset a potential imbalance.
This averages a width of around 28 to 34 inches, depending on the height of the individual legs. The sawhorse legs are slightly taller than they would be if being used for workbench support. Usually, the legs converge and cross each other, creating a “V” where the log can rest.
What happens when the sawhorse is too wide?
If the sawhorse is too wide, it has a lower elevation from the ground. To make sure you don’t have to crouch over while woodworking, you must get the height of the sawhorse to be within 34 to 36 inches.
One way to avoid errors in width and height is to make the equivalent of your sawhorse legs in rolled-up paper or other mock material and converge them at the planned angle. If the faux legs achieve the right working height, you can stick with the plans.
If the mock legs are too short, try again after adding an inch to the material. You can continue doing this until the faux legs converge at your desired angle while achieving a practical height. Then you can re-measure the size and adjust the plans.
What happens when a sawhorse is too narrow?
If the sawhorse is too narrow, it can easily topple over. It can also become much taller. To avoid having your elbows raised throughout your woodworking sessions, make sure your sawhorse has a minimum width range of 18 to 20 inches.
You can use the same strategy covered in the section above and use mock-material legs to first mock-up the width and height. Except, in this instance, you’ll need to subtract the leg height until the sawhorse is at a practical height. Then, you can adjust your plans and proceed.
If you’re making a generic sawhorse, you should aim for a 27-inch width, which falls squarely between the maximum and the minimum breadth options. A standard sawhorse is slightly narrower at 24 inches, though, but building one yourself with that breadth can be somewhat risky. The 27-inch width creates better room for error.