Holding your work: make your own bench hook and dogs
Words: Carol Russell
Having your work securely and safely held on your bench as you rout, cut, scrape, plane and sand can give you the confidence to concentrate entirely on what you’re doing without having half a mind on holding things steady.
Bench dogs come in a variety of effective forms. Most workshops will contain some form or another, many made from scrap to suit a particular task. Mostly they fit into pairs of holes in the workbench that run perpendicular to the jaws of your bench or tail vice. There are usually corresponding holes in your vice jaws. Some workbenches also have holes in their legs for vertical clamping.
Bench dogs are commonly made of brass, metal or wood. They can be round or square, and as simple as a piece of dowel or a tapered wedge that is easily replaced when the wood wears or breaks. On the other hand they can be easily crafted to match workbench accessories as shown here.
Making your own bench dogs
STEP 1: The size of your dogs will depend on the holes in your bench. Mine were cut from stock measuring
25 x 19 x 150mm. I left about 20mm for the head and then used the bandsaw to cut a wedge at a 4° to 7° angle – this becomes the spring.
STEP 2: Use a block plane or a cabinet scraper to smooth the sawn surface. Turn the spring around and glue the flat side to the base of the dog. Turning the spring around creates the angle.
STEP 3: When the glue is dry, plane the spring to half its thickness so it flexes as you push it into the dog hole. Trial and error will get the right fit. Without the spring, the dogs they won’t hold their position before you apply clamping pressure.
If you want to increase grip you can create a cross-hatch effect on the head using a handsaw. If you wish you can glue leather to the face to protect the edges of the workpiece.
The top of this page shows another aid to work-holding – the basic bench hook. This makes an excellent stop when using a handsaw to cut timber to length at your bench. The bottom cleat holds the hook against the edge of the bench and the top cleat acts as a stop to support the timber while it is being cut.
As many of us use Japanese saws these days you can position the stop in from the end about a third of the way and support timber from behind it as you cut on the up stroke.
Making one is simple. As shown above a piece of veneered ply with pieces of timber glued and screwed on is all it takes – just make sure all are flat, square and lined up perfectly at right angles.
Carol Russell is a Brisbane woodworker and woodcarver, see www.carolrussellwoodwork.com.au