Bench dogs are essential to a 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 shapes seem to work fine to me. However, there’s a danger of seriously chipping your handplane’s blade if you’re not careful. That would cause you a lot of work to re-grind and re-hone your 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 workbench than it is to add square holes. You can watch the video above to see how I make wooden bench dogs and bench dog holes.
Just a quick tip: 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 a clean hole.
As I mentioned, to make bench dogs 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 them to length…a little longer than the workbench’s thickness is nice…and 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, so I can hold abnormally-shaped pieces of wood.
And my friend Will Myers, who I showed assembling his Moravian Workbench in the last video, introduced me to a pretty cool way to keep these round bench dogs from slipping through the workbench top.
I bore little holes in the bench dogs, and epoxy these little 1/4-inch bullet cabinet door catches 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 Sjoberg workbench: click here
- Here is a huge selection of more affordable bench dogs on Highland Woodworking: click here
- See bench dogs on Amazon: click here
Here’s a video that I made on making bench dogs, bench dog holes, and holdfast holes: