Bench dogs are as important as vises in maximizing the flexibility and utility of a well-designed workbench. A set of bench dogs works like a second pair of hands to secure workpieces for planing, chiseling, mortising, carving, or other woodworking tasks.
Although the bench dog looks like a deceptively simple peg, it incorporates design features that enable it to hold a workpiece firmly without slipping in its hole. One feature usually is a thin metal spring attached to one side that presses against the inside wall of the dog hole in the workbench. To help strengthen the grip of bench dogs, the holes are also angled toward the vise at 4°.
Bench dogs can be either round or square. Round dogs are easier to incorporate in a bench that does not yet have dog holes; it is simpler to bore holes than to make square dog holes. Since round dogs can swivel, their notched, flat heads enable them to clamp stock in practically any direction. This can be a disadvantage: Some woodworkers claim that round dogs tend to slip in their holes more than square dogs, which cannot rotate.
Bench dogs can be made of either metal or wood. Metal dogs have a weight, strength, and stiffness that wooden ones cannot match. Yet wooden dogs have their advantages—as any woodworker who has nicked a plane blade on a metal dog will attest.
Bench dogs are not the only method of securing stock; bench hooks, carving hooks, wedges, and hold downs are also useful for keeping stock in place. The following pages illustrate a number of commercial and shop-made options to keep workpieces put while you work.
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