2017 February 2 Wood Workbenches & Tables
One day I realized that I use a sawhorse worktable more than any other type.
It's no wonder. This ultra-simple work surface has a number of advantages. It can be ready in a few minutes, it doesn't cost much, and it's portable enough to cart out into the driveway for an afternoon project. So let's talk about this great tool for a basic workshop, and how you can improve it a lot more than the one you see in that picture above. (Disclaimer.)
And yes, that is the exact "table" that I used, up until recently when my plastic sawhorses finally broke apart from years of too much sunlight. But it's all good, because now I have an excuse to build some more wooden ones!
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In This Article
The Basic Sawhorse Work Table
The Heavy Duty Sawhorse Work Table
The Basic Sawhorse Worktable
This is the one where you just throw a wide plank across a couple of sawhorses. I'm sure the idea has been around for centuries, if not thousands of years.
Depending on the task, a single two-by-ten plank might be wide enough. Better yet, use a two-by-twelve, or get a piece of planking from an old barn that was torn down. Some of those old boards are well over a foot wide. Use two planks, parallel to each other... more work surface.
Another easy solution: use an old door. Many times, people throw these away. They might be kind of awful-looking from being left out in the rain, but what do we care? It's not for a beauty contest. (To make it look better and have a more uniform surface, you could probably use construction adhesive and small nails to stick a sheet of plywood to it.)
I've used this type of thing as a saw table, as many people do. (Do this at your own risk; disclaimer, again.) It's common practice to use an arrangement like this with a circular saw, too. Obviously, exercise caution and pay attention to what you're doing. Clamp your work down before sawing anything.
The basic sawhorse worktable is is a great catch-all for various hand tools. It's a lot better than constantly picking up tools off the ground. Obvious, right? The thing is, if a work surface is not immediately handy, that's often what happens: stuff is on the ground. As you get older, that sort of thing starts to become a real drag.
Now, which sawhorses? For just holding an assortment of hand tools, the work surface doesn't have to hold a lot of weight. A pair of those black plastic saw horses will work OK.
Then again, you might want better sawhorses like these or these, so that later you can build the Heavy Duty Sawhorse Worktable...
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The Heavy Duty Sawhorse Worktable
The basic premise, in contrast with the slap-it-together variety, is to use better sawhorses, make a better plank top, and perhaps even secure it in place. Do that, and it will be much safer if you want to use a miter saw on it.
First, the saw horses. If you've got the time and materials, you can make ones that are sturdier than you'd ever need. To save time, though, I would consider these. Made in USA, and rated to hold 2,000 lbs each. Another option is a set of these or these. You'll need a pair of 2x4's or 2x6's to complete them.
There's also this option, which is basically a set of brackets that make it easy to build your own sawhorses from 2x4 lumber. From what I can see, I think it does away with most (all?) of the angle cuts that tend to put off beginners.
Now for the table top. Get three 2x10 planks, each 8-foot long. You won't use the full length of these, probably. The saw horses should be far enough apart that you can stand between them, but close enough together that the planks don't bow in the middle when you set something on them. Offhand I would say to make the planks 60 to 80 inches. Remember to leave some room for overhang. That should probably be a foot-and-a-half, maybe two feet, on each end.
If you want to get fancy, use a table saw to remove the rounded edges. Plane the cut edges if necessary, then wood-glue the planks edge to edge. Clamp with a couple of these fitted on some 3/4" black iron pipes, and let the glue joints dry for a few days.
Whether you glue-laminate or not, you might want to use battens. Those are shorter pieces of plank that are attached perpendicular to the main planks, and from the underside. Here is one flipped over so you can see it. Don't mind the rain that started falling when I took the picture...
The result should be a table top that you can place on sawhorses whenever you need to. And when you're not using it, stow the top and put away the sawhorses somewhere. (That won't happen, because you'll pile stuff on it and then need to build another sawhorse worktable....)
One more thing. To make this semi-permanent, you could attach the top to your sawhorses with some deck screws. This is why it's a good idea to choose wooden-top sawhorses. I would use 2 1/2" deck screws to hold the top on. Drill pilot holes so you don't split the nice top you've made. Another alternative: hold the top on with four big C-clamps.
Done properly, a table like this is not going to fall apart; I don't see why you couldn't attach a serious bench vise to it, as long everything is put together well.
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The sawhorse work table may be simple, but it could be the most useful work surface you can make. You'll end up doing real work on it, because after all it's just some planks on sawhorses. (It's not some fancy, high-end woodworker's bench that you'll be afraid to mar up.) What's more, it's portable. RV, tiny house, camper, etc... the sawhorse worktable could be the one that accompanies you.
This is one item that will always remain useful, no matter how many other workbenches you build, or what type they are. You can never have too many work surfaces.
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