What is a Bench Dog? A bench dog is a wooden or metal dowel that rises up or down in your woodworking bench top to clamp wood between with your workbench vise. Having a bench dog set is essential to a wooden workbench, as they allow you to wedge your work piece between the tail vise and the bench dogs that sit in your bench dog holes. Bench dogs come in an assortment of materials, shapes, and sizes. Most commercial workbenches come with metal bench dogs; some round and some square.
Both a round bench dog and a rectangular bench dog seem to work fine for me. However, there’s a danger of seriously chipping your hand plane blade if you’re not careful. That would cause you a lot of work to re-grind and re-hone your hand plane blade. So on all the workbenches that I’ve built, I’ve made wooden bench dogs.
And I prefer round bench dogs, primarily because I can just buy wooden dowels from the hardware store to make them. Also, it’s much easier to add round bench dog holes to your wooden workbench top than it is to add square holes. You can watch the video at the top of this page to see how I make wooden bench dogs and how I use a power router to add accurate bench dog holes into my wooden workbench top.
Just a quick tip on how to make bench dog holes in a wooden workbench top: to make a lot of consistently-sized bench dog holes, and also holdfast holes, I use a plunge router with an adjustable fence, and plunge as deep as I can with a ¾-inch or a 1-inch spiral up-cut bit. It’s super easy to just move down the bench as you plunge. Then I finish boring the hole with a spade bit in a powerful corded drill.
You can certainly do this with a brace and bit, but just be prepared for it to take a lot longer, and maybe have holes that aren’t as tight. I stop just when the lead screw exits the bottom of the workbench, and then I bore back up through that small hole. This gives me clean bench dog holes.
As I just mentioned, to make a bench dog set I buy wooden dowels from the hardware store. I’ve used both ¾-inch oak dowels and 1-inch poplar dowels, and both wood species have worked fine. I cut the bench dog to length – a little longer than the workbench’s thickness is nice. Then I use a handsaw and chisel to add a flat face to the top of the dowel. I sometimes also add a notch to the bottom end of the bench dog, so I can hold abnormally-shaped pieces of wood.
And my friend Will Myers, who I showed assembling his Moravian Workbench in 58 seconds in a video on the previous page, introduced me to a pretty cool way to keep these round bench dogs from slipping through the workbench top.
I bore a little hole in the bench dog, and epoxy a little 1/4-inch bullet cabinet door catch inside. It works really great to hold the bench dog in place. I couldn’t find these brass cabinet latches in any stores where I live, but I eventually tracked them down online. The best place I’ve found these is here. They’re cheap, but the shipping is a bit expensive. But even with shipping it’s still the cheapest source I’ve found. Square bench dogs have similar spring methods for holding them in place.
And below are some sources for good metal bench dogs, if that’s the route that you’d like to take:
- Here are the round metal bench dogs that came with my Sjobergs workbench: click here
- Here is a huge selection of more affordable bench dogs on Highland Woodworking: click here
- See a bench dog selection on Amazon: click here
Here’s a video that I made on how to make bench dogs, bench dog holes, and holdfast holes: