Design & DIY

How to build the perfect cottage sawhorse


This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

I have to roll my eyes when a cottager tells me he doesn’t own a good sawhorse—that absolutely indispensable woodworking accessory. By “good,” I mean sturdy, reasonably lightweight, versatile, inexpensive, and somewhat attractive (a crappy-looking sawhorse says something about its owner). Clamp stuff to it, cut stuff on it, rout or sand stuff on it, paint on it. Throw a sheet of plywood or a couple of 2x10s on a pair, and you have an instant workbench. Add a tablecloth, and you’ve got an extra table for a cottage party. Frankly, if you don’t have sawhorses at the lake, how do you get by?

This design meets the above criteria, and, as a bonus, the plywood deck stows tools while I work. I got all fancy and used cedar, but feel free to sub in any offcuts you’ve got: pine, pressure-treated, and spruce 2x4s (the cheapest option) all work and won’t earn you any eye-rolls from me.

Material and hardware: 

2  2×4 x 12′ lumber

1 1⁄2″ plywood sheet cut to 9″x36″

40  #8 x 2 1⁄2″ wood screws

26 #8 x 3″ wood screws

6  #8 x 2″ wood screws

How to:

1. Cut your lumber to the lengths specified in the diagram. Note that both the legs and the spreaders have a 15° angle at each end (most mitre saws will have a pre-set stop at that angle).

2. Assemble the top work surface by screwing the struts, the centre block, and the braces to one
of the horizontal pieces using 20 of the 2 1⁄2″ screws. For this project, drill clearance holes for all screws. Ensure that screws near the top edge are 1 1⁄4″ from said edge (you don’t want a saw blade hitting a screw when ripping a sheet of plywood).

3. Make sure the struts are squared up. When securing braces to struts, use a 3″ screw in each heel, toe-nailed on each side.

4. Screw the other horizontal piece to this assembly.

5. Screw the spreaders to the bottom of the struts and then screw the legs to the struts and spreaders (3″ screws). Note the angle of the clearance holes.

6. Screw the shelf to the bottom of the spreaders (2″ screws). I used a piece of 1⁄2″ plywood, but you could substitute 5/8″, 3⁄4″, or even pieces of tongue-and-groove.