Christian Becksvoort, Saw Horses, Tall Saw Horses
Comments 6

Becksvoort Sawhorses and Alabama football

The first of a pair of Christian Becksvoort designed sawhorses 75% complete.

My first Christian Becksvoort designed tall sawhorse about 75% complete.

I am still in the beginning stages of making a pair of Christian Becksvoort tall saw horses and I am concerned they are too tall. If you recall from my first post in this series, I am adding the second pair in a collection of sawhorses seen in Fine Woodworking magazine. These sawhorses are going to be the tallest of the three sizes Becksvoort recommends for shop use. My dilemma: as designed and without the adjustable components (called extenders), the saw horses stand 35 3/4″ tall. This is taller than both my table saw and my work bench. Only my router table is about the same height.

A feature of this design is that I can adjust the saw horses to be a lot higher. So, my thinking is to make them shorter and then I can simply raise the extenders. After mulling this over during the work week, I make my decision to take some height off the saw horses. While I have not yet determined how tall they will be, the comparison illustration below shows a four inch reduction on the left.

Not so tall: the saw horse on the left is four inches shorter.

Before and after: the saw horse on the left is four inches shorter than the original design.

The project starts with me cutting some components to size: first the legs and then I need to form the cross pieces which contain mortises for the extenders. The legs will be splayed outward by nine degrees, so with my saw blade set, I can get started cutting. Here are a majority of the components cut to size as shown in the earlier blog post.

Some mortises already cut.

Some mortises already cut.

As I start some assembly, I have one unknown measurement. The dimension for the lower cross member, shown in red below, is not given in the magazine article. One reason I created a SketchUp model is to determine what size this part should be.

Unknown: the red component's actual size is a mystery.

Unknown: the red component’s actual size is a mystery.

Funny thing, even with the SketchUp model, the first try at the lower cross member is too narrow. Even something like the lowly sawhorse can be challenging. Through some trial and error, I determined the correct size and moved on.

With the basic sawhorse formed, I trace the outline of the triangular pieces needed for each side – these are called “end plates”.

An odd cut calls for an old jig.

An odd cut calls for an old jig.

These end plates provide a reason to pull out an old jig from my dad’s TV Console project. With it, I can hold some plywood at just the right angle and make the needed cut.

With all the components cut I can assemble the basic sawhorse with screws. This enables me to figure out how much height to take off. I settle on 2 3/4″, not all that much but the reduction will make the saw horses align with the top of my work bench. The extenders will allow me to gain extra height when I need it.

Note the second saw horse coming together on top of my table saw.

Note the second saw horse coming together on top of my table saw.

I have one saw horse completed less the extenders. My plan is to make both saw horses in their basic form first and then create the extenders. I plan to have the two sawhorses completed by mid week and then have the extenders finished by next weekend. The extenders will be a little unusual since there is a pattern of many holes to drill. Should be interesting.

Something that has been taking away shop time
There are a lot of woodworking blogs which I read. On occasion some of them will give glimpses into the writer’s personal life. For me, this blog post offers a little peek into another part of my life which actually impacts my woodworking. I’m talking about college football.

New residents of Alabama often have to quickly answer a very important question: “Are you an Alabama or Auburn fan?” College football is big in these parts and not just in the state of Alabama, but all across the Southeastern USA. The Southeastern Conference is known to be one of the toughest conferences in all of college football. Even the pastor of our church understands the magnitude of the sport; he jokingly calls it “the other religion”.

My daughter, wife and me in Tuscaloosa for a game.

Me, my wife and daughter in Tuscaloosa for homecoming.

My wife and I are alumni of the University of Alabama. We both had the good fortune to attend the UA at a time when the Crimson Tide was a power house team under the direction of the great Bear Bryant. Our daughter is now a senior at Alabama and she is having a very similar college experience as coach Nick Saban has once again lead the Tide to greatness.

Since this is our daughter’s last year at The University, my wife and I decided we would make the most of the football season – we have attended five games, a record for us as alumni. This has greatly impacted my woodworking because typically, attending an Alabama football game is an all-day event. Even night games have us leaving home well before lunch time. This means that my weekend woodworking projects have taken a back seat to college football.

Alabama football: what I have been spending a lot of time on this fall.

SEC Champions for the 23rd time (photo Vasha Hunt via

Last night we watched what is already being called the greatest football game under Nick Saban. Number two Alabama beat the third ranked Georgia Bulldogs 32-28 to clinch the SEC Championship title. The game was a roller coaster. Our team had to rally from behind three times and fight off what appeared to surely be a game ending touchdown drive by Georgia. But time ran out and Alabama’s win sets up a potentially historic game with Notre Dame on Januaray 7th for the BCS National Championship. It was a tough, physical game; smash mouth football all the way. With the game over, my wife and I were elated, but emotionally drained. Instead of some morning woodworking, I spent this morning reading the reviews of the game and watching the playback of the fourth quarter.

I recently told a friend that Nick Saban will go down as one of the greats. Last night, at the conclusion of the SEC Championship trophy ceremony, Tim Brando of CBS Sports said this about Saban, “We are looking right now at the greatest coach of our time, with perhaps the greatest program the Southeastern Conference has seen since Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant was at Alabama.”

A successful football program has an amazing over-all effect on a university. Since Alabama’s football program has returned to a place of national promenience enrollment has never been higher. Alumni support is up and there is a real sense of confidence on campus. The world may be falling apart in some ways, but at the University of Alabama, everything is just fine. My daughter could not have happened upon a better time to be a college student.

Post script: While you no doubt can tell how pleased I am with Alabama’s football program, it was not too long ago the Tide faced some big challenges – NCAA penalties and embarrassing turnovers at the head coach position. There are a lot of life lessons to be gained by carefully watching sports; many things that apply to woodworking, especially from a growth perspective. Things like working the plan, keeping focused, maintaining focus while working through problems, and simple hard work.

For me these lessons come in the form of working through some recent mistakes, being willing to stay the course when trying new things like adding hand tools into the woodworking mix, and being confident in what you are doing as it relates to the big picture.

Enough said. Time to go do some woodworking. photo source here.


  1. Congrats on the big Win! I’m not invested on either side and I found myself on the edge of my seat the whole game. What a fantastic championship game. I just hope the Notre Dame/Alabama game is just as good!

    • Thanks Russ. It was a nervous week. I think the hype for the Notre Dame game will be off the charts. I have seen only a little of ND this season, but I trust Saban will have the Tide in shape. Thanks for the comment.

  2. David Scott says

    Jeff as a okie I can imagine you know who I root for even here in Texas. But on the other hand I have started watching TCU games. Bit I guess for a Alabama fan you are in football heaven. – kep,the postings coming on the saw horses particularly on how stable you feel they are extended.

    • David, your question on extender stability is a valid one. The mortises are naturally wider than what the extenders will be, so I envision some movement. The basic saw horse is rock solid, but to get the extenders that way I am thinking of using wedges with them.

      Texas A & M has proved to be a good addition to the SEC. Do you watch them much?

  3. Sorry buddy. No football comment, but I agree with your decision to cut the legs back. There is nothing worse than having one lonely piece of shop gear that doesn’t work with ANYTHING! Good call. 🙂

    • Jason, this is still a woodworking blog, so no worries. 🙂 Where SketchUp is sometimes problematic is that you can loose perspective on an objects size relative to other things. After drawing the model, I was surprised how tall it was in real life. Anyway, like you say, I need it to function in my shop, vs. something was a respectable name attached to it.

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