Search Now:

Benches and Tools

The Handplane Book
Garrett Hack


Making and Mastering Wood Planes
David Finck & James Krenov

Making Traditional Wooden Planes
John M. Whelan


Toolmaking for Woodworkers
Ray Larsen

The Workbench
Lon Schleining


The Workbench Book
Scott Landis


All photographs and content ©2005 Robert Karl  

A shop made Bench Dog
for retrofitting an existing Workbench

My workbench is a substantial table that I inherited from a friend's divorce. Originally it was used for leather work and he liked a high work surface so I had to cut down the legs a bit for woodworking. Last year I bought a used Wilton vise and attached it to the table and I've used a combination of that and bar clamps for my work holding ever since. This just doesn't do it for everything I want to do, so I've been puzzling over adding other work holding devices. I had seen and used dogs made from a 3/4" dowel, and I thought drilling holes in the table top would be easier than chopping square holes for the other type of shop-made bench dogs I've seen.

Even though I had a plan and a couple scraps of dowel, I'd been holding off making these because I didn't have a good spring mechanism. I knew I wanted a 1/4" ball catch but my local hardware stores (and yes I broke down and tried visiting the Borg too) didn't have these in stock. I just couldn't bring myself to pay Rockler as much for the postage as for the hardware.

Finally, after a recent wood buying trip to the local Rockler store, I netted two of these ball caches and I was ready to make some dogs. Note: These ball catches cost about $5 each. If you are on a tight budget, you might be able to opt for a cheaper bullet catch, though it requires a bigger hole and might be too tall for 3/4" doweling.

To determine the length of the bench dogs, I measured the thickness of the table top and added about 1 1/4". This gave room for the work holding surface and some extra. I dug up some walnut doweling left over from building the loom last Fall. After checking the grain direction and thinking about what I thought the mechanics would be, I decided to have the grain run side to side rather than front to back. I'm suspicious that I chose exactly the opposite of what I should (since the cut is parallel to the grain, I think I might have trouble with splitting under pressure, but I'll know soon enough...). Here are pictures and summary text describing how I made a pair of these:

A picture of the brass ball catch used for building the Bench Dogs
I really only needed the spring loaded ball bearing to provide tension and prevent the dog sliding right out of the drilled holes, so I'm left with a couple small hunks of brass.
A dowel scrap marked for cutting my Bench Dog
I measured and marked the dogs on the two scraps of dowel I had.
An improvised saw stop for cross cutting
I've tried a number of ways to hold work for crosscutting and haven't found the perfect solution yet. Someday I plan to have a saw stop like Franz Klaus has on his bench, but this scavenged work surface and its current position in my basement doesn't really lend itself to one of these. I've taken to clamping a scrap of wood in the Wilton and using that as a stop. This one started life as a practice block for hand chiseled molding details...
Cutting the bench dog to lengthOnce that's in place, I cut off the marked waste, using it as an opportunity to practice vertical cuts...
The first cut in creating the work holding surface
Remember I said I use the Wilton for almost all work holding? Here it is allowing a cut that will form the base of the work holding surface.
Drilling the seating for the ball catch
While I have it clamped in the correct position, I drill the hole in which I'll seat the spring mechanism.
The seated ball catch
The spring is inserted dry. The fit is tight enough to prevent it sliding out unbidden and downward pressure should reseat it whenever it is in use. This way if the dog breaks I can recover the spring and use it in a new dog.
Cutting the clamping face on the bench dog
The dog is turned in the vise and the clamping face is cut either vertical or with a very slight forward slope to push the work down toward the bench. Since I plan to drill the holes at 90 degrees to the table top I will give it a slight slope. Here I'm aiming at a vertical cut with the intent of changing the angle slightly during clean up.
Drilling the seating for the ball catch
Finally, I pull out a 1" chisel to clean up the corner where the two saw cuts met. Since I did a good job making the cut vertical I took the opportunity to adjust the angle slightly while I had the chisel in hand.
Drilling the seating for the ball catch
Now all the shaping was complete. Since the doweling was pretty rough on the surface I scuffed it clean with some 220 grit sandpaper. After that I added a couple coats of Tung Oil finish to seal the wood and make it look nice (hey, it is walnut, and I do deserve pretty tools. Especially when I've made them myself). One bench dog ready for use.