Bench dogs are a work bench accessory used to clamp work down to the table, or used as a stop when planing or sanding a piece. They can also be used as standoffs to keep work elevated off your workbench. Bench dogs fit snugly into openings drilled into the workbench and can be square or round.
I made the ultimate workbench recently and included openings for bench dogs, so this was the perfect accessory for my new workbench. While you can easily buy bench dogs, making your own is super easy and can be customized any way you need them.
Ready to create custom bench dogs? Let's make!
Step 1: Materials
There's no standard size for bench dogs, but I've found that 3/4" or 1" to be the most common size for round dogs.
I had drilled 3/4" openings in my workbench, so that's the size of dowel I'll need.
The strip of metal used for the spring of the dogs can be any thin piece of steel. Those with a keen eye may have seen thin bits of steel along the street, left over from the metal brooms the street sweepers use. These are perfect for our application. If you can't find these on the street you can always buy 1/8" wide steel fish tape and cut it into sections.
Step 2: Cut Dowel to Length
The dowels will need to be cut down to size to make useful bench dogs. How long your dogs are is up to you, but should be no less than 1/2" taller than the work surface - any shorter and you may have a tough time removing the dogs after they are inserted.
I sunk the dowel completely into one of the workbench openings, then used a pencil to mark where the top surface of the workbench was on the dowel. This mark will be my baseline that I offset the actual height of the bench dogs from.
Step 3: Offset + Cut
Using the pencil mark I made earlier as a guide, I scribed a new mark at a 1/2" offset.
Clamping the work securely I cut the dowel at this new mark. Then, I used this bench dog as a template to scribe and cut the remaining dowel in equal lengths.
Step 4: Clean Up Edges
The dowel ends are likely to have burrs from cutting. Smooth the rough edges with a coarse grit sandpaper, then switch over to a fine grit sandpaper and make the edges smooth and even.
Step 5: Find Your Drill Bit
Next, we'll need to drill into the side of the cut dowels to insert the thin steel to act as a spring.
Using the width of the thin steel as a guide, I found a drill bit that was the same diameter and loaded it up into the drill.
Step 6: Clamp and Mark Blanks
With the dog blanks cut to size we can make the opening that will hold the spring.
I measured 1/2" from each end and made marks with a pencil. I used a straight edge parallel to the side of the dog blank to make sure the marks lined up.
Step 7: Drill Spring Openings
To get the spring to stay in to bench dog the openings need to be angled.
Starting with the drill perpendicular to the bench dog, an opening was made and then the drill was slowly rotated to create a sharp angle towards the end of the blank.
Once both angled openings were made I used the drill to bore out a rough trough between the angled openings. After, the troughs were cleaned up with a sharp knife and sandpaper.
Step 8: Measure Spring Length
Insert one end of the thing steel into one of the bench dog openings and gently bend it until it goes over the other opening on the same dog.
Approximate where the steel will end inside the covered opening and mark with a pencil. Since this steel is going to be bent to act as a spring, allow a little extra in your measurement.
Step 9: Cut Steel Spring to Length
After marking cut the steel to length. Since it's so thin I used a rotary tool with a cutting wheel, which made quick work of cutting the steel to the right size.
Step 10: Bend Steel to Make Spring
Using pliers I was able to bend each section of thin steel into an arc, which will be our spring set inside the drilled openings of the bench dogs.
It's okay if the bend isn't perfect, the final bend shape will happen after it's installed. The important part is that there is a bend in the metal.
Step 11: Insert Spring
Place one end of the bent steel into a drilled opening of the bench dog with the arc zenith facing away from the dog, then use pliers to bend the steel and force the other end into the other drilled opening.
It might be a little tough at first, but you'll soon get the hang of it.
Step 12: Hammer Springs
Once inserted the spring should fit snugly. If you tried to put the bench dogs inside the openings in your workbench you'd probably find the spring prevents them from being fully inserted. That's because we need to seat the springs into the bench dog before we can use them.
A few blows from a hammer onto the spring will seat it inside the bench dog, allowing only a small arc protrusion of the spring, You can refine this further by either a few more blows of the hammer, or inserting a screwdriver underneath the spring to pull it back out a little more.
Step 13: Get Back to Work!
Your dogs are finished! These inexpensive dogs are easy and relatively quick to make, so don't worry if they get banged up or lost. I keep a few scattered around so I always have them on hand when they're needed.
You could make a few different types of dogs for specific projects, like longer dogs for larger boards, or dogs with soft fabric tops so they won't scratch the surface of things resting on them. No matter the use, bench dogs are a great accessory for your workbench.