Skill Builder: Building Woodworking Low Horses

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In this installment of my series of woodworking articles, I will be building shop furniture that sees even more action than the sawhorses — these are called “low horses.” Since most Japanese woodwork is done while sitting, it stands to reason that the sawhorses would be short enough to accommodate. And while I don’t do too much work on the floor, I do use the low horses all of the time. They are incredibly useful in general but where they really shine is in keeping whatever I’m working on above the ever-increasing splay of tools that accumulate on my bench. In the years since I made my first pair, I’ve been recommending them to all of my woodworker friends as essential what-did-I-do-before-I-had-these tools. But it isn’t until I make a pair for them that they agree and often go on to make more for themselves.

Constructed using a two by four and a couple of hand tools they’re cheap and easy to build. I usually build them using hardwoods like oak or hickory, but anything will do. The pair pictured above are oak reclaimed from old church pews. For the ones I’m making here, I’ll be using a two by four. Okay, it is admittedly a fancy 2×4 (quarter-sawn hemlock) but a two by four nonetheless. Nothing but the best for the readers of the Make blog I say! As always, choose the clearest, straightest lumber you can find. As far as technique goes, this is mostly about connecting lines. Working both sides at an angle to create a peak in the center, and then gradually reducing the peak to a flat. This approach will give you much more control and cleaner, more accurate results. And that is what good joinery is all about.

What I’m using:

  • Fancy 2″x4″x8′ (1x)
  • Handsaw
  • Sharp chisel
  • Hammer
  • Adjustable Square
  • Glue

Start by breaking the two by four down into its parts, which in this case, are four 8″ long legs and two 22″ long beams. These measurements aren’t critical, they were determined by what I could get out of those original oak boards and I’ve been using them ever since. If you’re cutting them by hand, take a look at the method I outlined in the workhorses article.

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