These Puppies Have Bite
Clever bench jigs grip workpieces of any size or shape
Synopsis: Bench puppies—shopmade jaws that slip into the dogholes in a workbench and tail vise to clamp a workpiece on edge—are as simple as they are ingenious. Made from scrap hardwood and a dowel, with a cork face to protect the workpiece and discourage slipping, they work in pairs to grab both ends of a workpiece and hold it against the front of the bench. They can hold any shape, from a long board, to a door, to a drawer, or an odd-shaped piece. Once you’ve made a pair, you will wonder how you ever did without them.
My workbench is one of the most valuable tools in my shop. It is a traditional European design and, with a few accessories, it has served me well for nearly 30 years. one accessory that I reach for often is a pair of shopmade jaws that slip into the dog holes in the benchtop and tail vise to clamp a workpiece on edge. I was introduced to these devices as a student at the College of the redwoods, where they were affectionately known as “bench puppies.”
These helpers are about as simple as it gets when it comes to bench jigs. They’re made from scrap hardwood and a dowel, with a cork cushion glued to the clamping faces to protect the workpiece as the puppies bite down.
The problem with a tail vise is that its grip is limited. It often leaves one end of a workpiece unsupported, and it doesn’t easily hold odd-shaped pieces or drawers for planing. Bench puppies step in to stretch the clamping limits of the tail vise. They grab both ends of the workpiece and hold it against the front of the bench. They’ll hold any shape workpiece, whether it’s a long board that…