Introduction: Bench Hooks: a Woodworker's Secret Weapon
Bench hooks are portable work surfaces used to make basic woodworking tasks, such as crosscutting boards and drilling holes, easier to perform. As a bonus, they help protect the surface of your woodworking bench from bumps and dings.
In the makerspace, bench hooks can be used for numerous tasks and roles (such as a surface to solder on without ruining Mom’s dining room table).
These week, my youngest and I made two bench hooks. The first design works best with saws that cut on a push stroke. We also made and tested a bench hook modified for pull saws. Bench hooks can be modified in numerous ways, so next time you are in the shop, get hooked!
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Step 1: Tools & Materials
The Bench Hook
Bench hooks can be made many, many ways. When I have the time, I prefer to glue my bench hooks together or pin with small brads. Here, we used screws to get something sturdy and quick.
Materials:[gallery ids="4133,4134" type="rectangular"]
- 12”x8” plywood off-cut 1/2” thick or similarly sized scrap. 1”x12” common pine makes for great bench hooks. Just look for something flat.
- Two 1”x1”square rods at least 12” long or similarly sized off cuts. 1”x2” furring strips can work also.
- #8 – 1” wood screws.
- Hand saw
- Hand drill with small brad-point bit.
- Miter box.
- Brace with 3-Jaw Chuck and driver bit.
- Woodworking vise.
Step 2: Assembly
1. Measure the width of your plywood base and trim the 1”x1” square rods to even length. With young makers, I walk through the measuring process as shown in the pictures. This helps them develop foundational, experiential spatial awareness and improves their mathematical understanding.
These rods will become the fences in use.
2. Clamp a fence in the woodworking vise, then line up the edge of the base with the edge of the fence as shown. Clamp the base to the rod.
3. Mark and drill pilot holes using the hand drill and bit.
4. Use the countersink to ream out the hole.
5. Use the brace and driver bit to secure the base to the fence.
6. Repeat steps 2 – 5 with the second fence to complete the bench hooks.
Step 3: Using a Bench Hook
To use a bench hook, place it on the edge of the workbench as shown. One fence faces downwards and acts to secure the hook on the workbench. Place the work against the upper fence and lean on the piece slightly. Your weight should easily hold the work steady. Slide the cut line over the edge of the board. Secure the workpiece with a clamp if necessary. Hold the work and saw away.
Step 4: Modification
To accommodate pull saws, move the two fences so they lay against the same edge, like shown. Now, the action of pulling the saw pushes the work piece against the fence. This help young makers keep control of their work and work safely.
By gluing or screwing a 1/4” plywood cover on the base a channel can be formed. This channel can guide hand planes or sandpaper blocks to shave work pieces down to the perfect size.
Often, I will carefully rip the bench hook down the middle with either a hand saw or table saw and create a support hook for long work.