Wooden Bench Dogs for the Win
We all know that wooden bench dogs are great for those times when you accidentally hit them with your planes or chisels. They are also great for those times when you intentionally hit them with your tools too. Ever since Woodworking in America in 2011 I have had a glut of wooden bench dogs floating around my shop. You see I shared a booth with Time Warp Toolworks that year and they were giving away bench dogs to folks who joined their email list. At the end of the show, I think Chris Wong dumped the remainder in my toolbox, not wanting to deal with taking them home. You know how the TSA can be about items they don’t understand. Also recently I purchased a set of their new 5″ long bench dogs for my own workbench and the existing 3″ models got set aside. I knew they would find a purpose and some of them now live in the tool tray of my joinery bench, some are in my mobile workbench/toolbox, and 2 of them were integrated into joiners saddles. This still leaves me with 4 or 5 of them floating around waiting for the coach to call them into the game.
The call came this weekend when I needed to hold an irregular shaped table leg on the bench so I could thickness the pieces with my scrub plane. The fact that these dogs are wooden means that I can shape the dog to a specific application. In this case a simple V notch that would grab the opposing corners of the leg since the grain is oriented to run the length of it. A V gouge and a bench chisel and about 30 seconds of work and I was in business.
One dog went in the bench and the other in my wagon vise’s moving block. A quick turn of the wheel and the legs was held firmly in place. The fact that my bench uses round dogs too was a benefit that allowed me to rotate the dog to best position the v notch for the best holding.
While I was scrubbing away I kept thinking of all the other ways I could use my newly mangled dogs and the myriad of other potential profiles I could carve into their faces for those weird work holding situations. I have a fretwork project on the drawing board that comes to mind and some curvy projects that would benefit by a convex bench dog face too. Who knows what else will come up but I’m certain that I can tackle it with the judicious use of a chisel and a wooden dog. Of course while I want to support my friends and their businesses, you don’t have to buy your wooden dogs from Time Warp Toolworks (sorry Garth and Chris). They’re wood right? Buy a hardwood dowel or turn one on the lathe and stick it in the bench top and carve whatever profile you need.
By the way, in the ongoing Scrub plane vs Fore plane debate this is one of the reasons I find the Scrub to be a great tool to keep around. Using my Fore plane on these short and skinny legs would have proved overkill and perhaps a balancing issue with the longer sole. My scrub plane was just the right size to remove 1/4″ of material in seconds working across and along the grain. Followed up with my Jack plane and I had all 3 legs dimensioned and finish ready in about 5 minutes! I think trying to balance my Fore plane on this narrow surface would have resulted in a tapered shape that would have taken longer to correct.
How have you tackled a tough work holding situation? Would a custom profiled bench dog have solved your problem? Please share your insight and experience in the comments below.