Bench Hooks: a Woodworker's Secret Weapon




Introduction: Bench Hooks: a Woodworker's Secret Weapon

About: Patrick Waters is an award-winning educator who brings the Maker Movement to new audiences. He founded The STEAMworks, a makerspace for individuals with neurological differences at The Monarch Institute in ...

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.


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  • 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.
  • Countersink.
  • Miter box.
  • Brace with 3-Jaw Chuck and driver bit.
  • Clamps.
  • 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.


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    4 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I have seen something similar to this, in a larger size, used in the kitchen for kneading bread or rolling pastry or cookies.

    Uncle Kudzu
    Uncle Kudzu

    3 years ago

    I use a small metal bench hook for carving linoleum blocks. I didn't know what it was called and never thought about using one for larger projects. Thanks for sharing you idea.


    3 years ago

    Traditional bench hooks were usually made of one piece (two cut from the same length of stock at a time), and seldom more than a few inches wide. Im glad to see someone else making wide bench hooks as I do, mine are just under 12 inches wide.

    Really good idea! I have seen people use this for special jigs like sharpening stones and stuff, but never just as like a stop block go cut or sand against.