Buy or Make Bench dogs:

Bench dogs are essential to a workbench, as they enable you to wedge your work piece between the vise and the dog. Above is an example of bench dogs that I use for my Sjoberg workbench (and a couple other cheap ones):

  • Here are the bench dogs that came with my Sjoberg workbench: click here
  • Here is a huge selection of more affordable bench dogs on Highland Woodworking: view bench dogs.
  • I’ve also made bench dogs out of wooden dowels. Wood is better in case you hit it with your tools. If you have square benchdog holes, then you can easily make square benchdogs.
  • Warning: make sure you get the right size or that you drill holes the right size for whatever you buy.

Buy Metal Hold Fasts:

Holdfasts are amazing fixtures, and you’ll find that it’ll becomes hard for you to NOT use them. You drill holes in your bench top, and then you drop your holdfasts into the holes and hit the top of the holdfast to wedge your workpiece down. Then you hit the back to release the holdfast. It’s ancient magic.

These Gramercy holdfasts are what I purchased (and many other people that I know), because they are high-quality and pretty affordable. I use these holdfasts in my woodworking school, and I also know that Roy Underhill uses these holdfasts in his Woodwright School. You may need to rough up the shaft of the holdfast with sandpaper if it doesn’t stay wedged properly. Last I checked, they run $34.95 for two and $19.95 for one on Tools for Working Wood. That’s an excellent value. Here’s the official video:

  • If you can afford $75 for a hand-forged holdfast (two would be helpful, so it would be $150) then I’d recommend ordering them from master blacksmith Peter Ross (former head Colonial Williamsburg blacksmith…and he’s always on The Woodwright’s Shop). Here’s his website. But I’m not sure how long it would take to get these.
  • Here are some really excellent holdfasts made by Lie-Nielsen (Maine), Auriou (France), and Veritas (Canada): click here
  • I also purchased a couple of these forged holdfasts from a blacksmith on Etsy, so you can try that source also.

  Make a Bench Hook:

A bench hook lets you quickly hold your work piece in place while sawing across the grain, without having to clamp your piece down. It’s very helpful. You should really make this tool yourself. I hope you can’t buy one! I built mine from a scrap piece of white oak, but you can use almost any wood since it’s meant to be replaced. It can take just a few minutes, or a bit longer if you want something more useful. Here is a video that I published on making a bench hook (you can also read the article here):

Make a Shooting Board:

A shooting board is used to square the end grain on your work pieces, and should also be made in your shop. Here’s a good short video by Lee Valley tools that shows how to make a simple shooting board:

Buy or Make Vise Rack Spacers/Stops:

These simple blocks are designed to help prevent racking when clamping work at one side of a face vise. Obviously you wouldn’t need these if you don’t have a face or end vise. But if you do have a face or end vise, you can easily build several common sizes to set in the unused side of the vise, like in these photos that I took at the Woodwright’s School. But they have a major drawback.

They don’t cover every board thicknesses, which you’ll certainly encounter if you dimension your own boards. So in my woodworking school I use this extremely cool “Vise Rack Stop” (made by Veritas) which lets you micro-adjust for different wood thicknesses.

I use this accessory all the time on my face vise and end vise.

Make a Sawbench Pair:

Saw benches aren’t necessary for sawing, but they are really convenient and cheap to build. My favorite design are these heavy duty saw benches that incorporate sliding tapered dovetail joints:

timber framing saw benches with a woodworking hand saw

They are perfect for woodworking in your workshop and for heavy-duty use in timber framing. The tapered sliding dovetail tightens over time as the top dries. I made four of these for my woodworking school, and the students love them. I also taught a class on making these, and the students didn’t find the build too difficult.

woodworking student using a joiner's mallet to build a timber framing saw benches for woodworking hand saw

Here is Roy Underhill’s video tutorial on making these saw benches. I also like the look of Christopher Schwarz’s design in “$5.87 sawbenches” as shown in this article.  The article and his class on building the saw benches was made into a DVD that you can find here.

Make or Buy Tool Chests:

Most joiners of the past stored their beloved hand tools in a large tool chest so they could transport them from job to job. The cabinetmakers (furniture makers) typically stored their tools on shelves and in cabinets since they didn’t travel to jobs sites, but worked in their own workshops.

As far as tool storage goes, I prefer storing my tools on shelves (see bottom of this page) and in smaller, easier to transport, tool chests. But Christopher Schwarz and Roy Underhill (among others) have been popularizing large tool chests in recent years, so many modern traditional woodworkers have jumped into building large joiner’s chests. Chris Schwarz introduces his “Anarchist’s Tool Chest” and his “Dutch Tool Chest” on both of these Woodwright’s Shop Episodes:

I highly recommend that you purchase “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” book & the accompanying DVD. This really is a great book & DVD that show not only how to build the chest, but which tools to fill it.

You can even buy cool antique woodworker tool chests here.

Make or Buy a Workbench Tool Tote:

I really like to have a workbench tote or two to hold my most-used small tools. I can move the tote around all the workbenches in my school, or move it off a bench if needed. The best option would be to make one similar to this one that I made:


I made internal dividers so I could store a lot of little tools and gauges is my school.

Woodworking tool totes with wooden dividers with marking and measuring tools

You can also buy a tool tote or small tool box for cheap, like these on ebay or at flea markets.

Build Tool Cabinets and Tills:

Like I mentioned above, I prefer tool cabinets and storage shelves over large tool chests (like Frank Klausz and Don Williams told me), and I continue to build more and more to store my hand tools. Here is one saw till that holds my some of my hand saws and hand planes:

Buy a Shop Apron:

Some traditional woodworkers love shop aprons and some don’t. I like wearing one, and like having my pencil, small square, and other small measuring devices right next to me. Here are a few highly rated shop aprons on Amazon:

  • Here are some excellent shop aprons: click here
  • Here is a cheaper shop apron that I purchased: click here. I don’t love it, but it was cheap…I’ll probably buy one of the above leather aprons.
  • Here’s another affordable leather apron.
  • Here are some cool leather aprons on ebay: click here.

Continue to Layout, Marking & Measuring Tools (#2)…

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