2020 May 15      Woodworking    Various DIY Projects


A while back, I built a pair of I-beam sawhorses.  They've seen heavy use;  as you can probably see in the photo, the wood split in a couple places.  Some of the galvanized nails also worked loose.

As you can also probably see in the photo, I added some plywood gussets.  That fixed the wobble and gave new life to these old sawhorses.

So let's look at this simple DIY project.  (Caution:  Please read the Disclaimer.

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In This Article

Gearing Up

The Gussets

All Four The Same

Fixing The Loose Nails


Gearing Up

It's possible to nail the gussets on, but you may want to use a drill and an impact driver instead.  You'll need some deck screws, at least 1 5/8" length, to go with them.  Or get 2" ones if using thicker plywood.  Don't forget the carpenter pencil, a straightedge, and a drill bit for the pilot holes.  Try 7/64", though the size will depend on what diameter fasteners you're using.

A countersink drill bit makes this whole project much easier.  (Try this link for 7/64" countersink bits.)  I didn't have one of those, so I used a basic countersink that doesn't have a drill bit;  this resulted in constantly having to switch bits between a regular drill and the countersink. 

You will also need a jigsaw, unless you prefer to use an old-style carpenter saw or Japanese saw.    A $40 or $50-ish jigsaw could be all you need as an occasional user, but if you're going to use it more often, consider something like this one.

Finally, you'll need some way to clamp the piece of plywood while sawing it with the jigsaw.  Clamps, or a bench vise, can work.

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The Gussets

Find a scrap of 1/2" plywood, preferably with at least one straight edge.  It doesn't have to be 1/2" plywood;  you could use 5/8", 3/4", even 3/8".  Next, put the straight edge of the plywood scrap against the underside of the wooden I-beam on the I-beam sawhorse.  Trace along the outside edges of the 2x4's that comprise the legs. 

This should give a trapezoid shape on the plywood.

Then, cut out the shape with a jigsaw (or Japanese saw, if you prefer).  I used this to clamp the plywood.  Whether it's that method, or clamps at the edge of the worktable, there has to be enough clearance to saw the wood. 

The height of the trapezoid is not critical;  the gussets I made were 5 1/2" tall.  That allowed for three deck screws along each side.  You could probably make the trapezoid as short as 3 or 3 1/2 inches;  two deck screws on each side would probably work.

It really helps if you paint the gussets with exterior paint, just like the sawhorses.  Do this before you attach the gussets.  This will make them last much longer if the sawhorses are outside much.

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All Four The Same

If the sawhorse legs are all at the same angle, you can make all four gussets the same size and shape.

The angles on mine varied a bit, but this was easily fixed by pushing them back into place.  Then, just attach the gussets.  A pair of Irwin Quick-Grip Mini bar clamps will make this much easier.  The medium duty ones are better-made and they grip stronger, but the mini (light duty) ones are incredibly handy.

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Fixing The Loose Nails

The plywood gussets fixed the wobble, but the galvanized nails are still loose. 

These are leading-brand fasteners from the home center;  I think these may be "mechanically plated".  Either that, or they're powder-galvanized (also called "hot galvanized", not to be confused with hot-dipped.)  They lack the gripping power of real hot-dipped galvanized nails.  One good thing though:  they don't rust as quickly as uncoated nails.

So anyway, here are the sawhorses:

That's not as much a problem, now that the gussets are on there.  Still, it would be nice to keep them from backing out of the wood.

This stuff from Liquid Nails is supposed to bond anything to anything (except certain plastics).  Metal to wood should be a piece of cake for it. 

I didn't have that, so I used PL-375 instead.  So far it seems to be working as intended.  I think it would work better if these were real hot-dip galvanized.

Both these adhesives are flexible when they cure.  That's good, because the expansion and contraction of the steel nails could break other types of glue, causing the nails to back out again.

Whichever one you try, let it cure for a few days before using the sawhorses.  These adhesives reach full strength after about a week.

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A pair of sturdy sawhorses is better than a pair of wobbly ones.  This upgrade can save a lot of time and frustration later.  Don't make your I-beam sawhorses "throwaway";  make 'em good, built to last.

This goes along with the whole idea of workshop efficiency.  Rickety, wobbly stuff is going to add a big nuisance factor while you're trying to work.  So it makes sense to fix it.

This was a look at an easy carpentry project that's useful for building other stuff, too. 


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