Expand Your Workbench with Versatile Bench HooksFor hand work such as planing and crosscutting, these simple platforms hold the work steady against the workbench
Synopsis: Chris Gochnour offers plans for a standard bench hook, a miter block, and a miter shooting board, and tells you why you might want them and how to use them to steady a workpiece on your bench. Gochnour also offers tips for using these easily built jigs.
Even in a contemporary workshop filled with power tools and timesaving devices, it often is more practical and convenient to perform some woodworking tasks, such as final fitting of joinery and detail work, at the workbench using hand tools.
Since temporarily relocating with my family to a two-bedroom apartment in downtown Washington, D.C., I’ve embraced this notion to the extreme. My shop here, tucked into the corner of one of the bedrooms, consists of my bench and my most essential hand tools. Just as important is a collection of bench hooks that I draw on regularly, which are capable of performing a range of tasks, including cutting square and mitered ends as well as fine-tuning miters and ends to perfection. Even in less extreme shop conditions than mine, these bench hooks are indispensable tools.
Beyond the basic bench hook
In its simplest form, the bench hook is a platform that can be held steady against a workbench for performing tasks such as crosscutting and handplaning. A hook on the underside of the platform fits over the edge of the bench and keeps the platform steady as forward pressure is applied. A stop block on top of the platform, perpendicular to the edge of the bench hook, supports the work while it’s being cut or planed.
The bench hook I favor expands on this basic design. On the right side of the platform I cut a wide rabbet that serves two functions: First, it protects my workbench from being damaged when I use the jig to crosscut material with a backsaw. Second, it guides a handplane when the bench hook is used as a shooting board. I use this feature often to square and true up end grain after crosscutting.
The bench hook is handy for working tenon shoulders and cheeks, but I get further use from it with a thick auxiliary platform, which raises the worksurface to about 1 ⁄8 in. below the planing stop. In this configuration I can plane small, thin pieces such as loose tenons or splines.
From Fine Woodworking #174
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