Intro: The Littlest Workbench
I was going to start this Instructable with a comment aimed at the Maker community arguing why everybody who cuts wood, but is not lucky enough to have a dedicated workshop, should build one of these contraptions. But then I realised that even though I've got a moderately sized workshop I still have a couple that I use regularly so now everybody should make at least one of them.
So what is it? In the UK these are called Bench Hooks but that is such a funny name that doesn't describe it at all I wouldn't be surprised if it has a different name elsewhere.
So what is a Bench Hook?
It is a sacrificial cutting surface that helps hold pieces of wood secure whilst you cut them and provides a better finish with less ragged edges. But here is the good thing . . . it is small, portable and doesn't require clamps so take it anywhere you are working and no longer risk taking a nick out of the dining room table, drilling a hole in the kitchen work surface or cutting off a finger or two.
Bench hooks use gravity and the force of the tool to aide in cutting or planing a piece of wood. They also have the benefit of adding a measure of safety for operations that should never be considered with power tools.
Step 1: Materials Required
This build is so easy and almost any wood can be used, size an shape do not really matter.
The biggest component of this build is the flat base or bed and in that description is the first of only two build rules; the wooden board or sheet material that you are using must be FLAT. It is a simple as that, you can use rectangular. circular or irregular shapes. As long as it is flat then you can make it into a bench hook. Then you have the batons and this is where rule number two comes in. They must have at least one straight edge each. If your only intent for a bench hook is a rough cross cut, there isn't any need to make any of these parts with extraordinary care and you can build this thing in minutes. However, if you do decide to mill them with a high degree of accuracy, it's easy to turn this simple appliance into a precision tool with only a little more effort to do so.
So what do you need?
- Flat piece of wood approximately 8" wide x 14" long.
- Two battens
- Four screws
- Wood glue (optional)
Step 2: Construction
I started out with the battens and planed them smooth and square on all faces. To check the surfaces are flat use a square on the edge. If it sits flush to both the side and the top then you know that it is nice and square. To determine if both sides are flat then you can check if they are parallel by simply measuring the thickness at each end as any difference would be amplified at ends. Don’t cut them to length just yet, wait until you have planed up the board.
Now attach the battens at the top of the bed and the bottom of the flipside of the bed.
For the screw holes you can either drill the board or the battens. I went for the latter as their smaller size makes them easier to managed in the drill it also means that the base will be totally smooth as it contains no screw heads so cannot scratch the surface you use the bench hook on. Make sure you have some supporting wood underneath so that the drill does not cause the surface to break out when the bit goes through.
You could glue the battens as well as screwing but that’s not really necessary. The screws need to be long enough to go through the battens and into the board but not too long so that they would come out the other side. Carefully line up the batten on the end of the board and all the way to the left. Make sure the countersinks are upwards and clamp in place. Screw both screws tightly down.
For the second side use a batten that is narrower than the bed and place it all the way to the far right if you are left handed or to the left is right handed. I've made a left-handed one.
Step 3: Using a Bench Hook
So to use your bench hook, place it on the table and use the palm of your hand to push both the work and bench hook forwards. Your other hand is then free to saw.
I like to place my saw on the waste side of the line and use my thumb as a fence as I slowly pull the saw back a few strokes to get my cut started. Then, being careful not to grip the saw too tightly, I saw through the piece, paying attention to where my lines are.
A useful additional enhancement you can make are cuts through the top batten at 45 and 90 degrees so you can quickly cut mitres accurately and consistently.