Chris Schwarz's Blog

Brass v. Steel

I quite like round dog holes in workbenches. They are easier to install than square dogs, plus you can use a wide variety of other bench gizmos in them.

But they can have a dark side. I have the Veritas brass dogs in my bench(es), and  used them for many years without incident , until last week.

I had a dog up a little too high and slammed the iron of a jack plane against it. The good news is that the dog didn’t scrape the plane’s sole. The bad news is that I have a grinding chore ahead of me to repair the iron.

I’ve been contemplating making some wooden round dogs, but I’ve also been contemplating taking a carving class, installing a wooden floor in my shop, replacing the doors on my kitchen cabinets and buying a goat. You know how that goes.

– Christopher Schwarz

20 thoughts on “Brass v. Steel

  1. Mark Wells

    I tried these Veritas dogs and also don’t like them much. My bench is 3.5" thick yellow pine. I drilled the dog holes with a brace & bit.

    Problem 1 is that the brass dogs are really tight in the holes. I have to use a hammer to move them up and down. To get them out, I have to pound them through with a dowel. I didn’t expect that. My holes were not very accurate, but I see now that Robert Lang had a similar issue.

    Problem 2 is the one Chris ran into. I always thought brass was soft enough to not harm a steel cutting edge. Wrong! FWIW, the same applies to little brass nails. I used little brass nails as stops for planing very thin stock. Hitting the nail does bad things to the cutting edge.

    Stick with 3/4" dowels. They make good dogs that are cheap and work better!

    Mark

  2. PAUL (But I'm Much Better Now)

    Mr. S
    I agree with the "Mutts"
    I go a step farther by counter boring the bench top 1/2" deep x 1 1/4" dia. Using nylon, wood, or whatever. For the top of dog(Mutt). Cut flat face,then flush to top of bench.

  3. Bill Dalton

    I use the 3/4 inch dowel (cheap) and then strip pig suede or leather the width I want the dowel to protrude above the bench. I use contact cement to glue the strips onto the dowel. If I need it shorter I can make one or use a razor and trim off the bottom of the leather strip. For really thin stock the dog is sometimes hard to get hold of, so I drill and counter sink a brass 1/4" threaded insert into the top of the dog. When done I just use an old piece of threaded rod bent 90 deg to pull it out. MTCW
    Bill

  4. AAAndrew

    I went the cheap 3/4" dowel rod dog approach. I have one made from oak that fits perfectly without any help. I have some cheaper poplar-like wood from China that slips right through. I just put in a small ball catch on the side and it holds quite well.

    I was afraid that the cheap poplar-like wood would not be strong enough, but I was wrong. What happens is that the first time I clamp something up in my wagon vise it flattens out a bit on that side naturally. No need to plane anything. And it holds like the dickens. No need for faces or leather. It’s a simple 7-inch slice of cheap dowel rod with a tiny ball catch in the side. I even was able to get the ball catches, without plates, at a ridiculous price from Lee Valley some months ago when they were selling them in boxes of 100. So now I have a lifetime supply.

    I talk about the cheap dogs on my blog and show pictures of who well they work, even when extended quite a bit out of the hole. That’s the beauty of a dowel rod dog. You want a 12" dog? Just cut one off the rod.

    Can’t help you with the goat.

  5. Ben Hastings

    I’ll trade you a couple of goats for a workbench. I almost have the lofts finished in my barn to have room for it!

  6. Joe Close

    Rockler bench dogs, you can get a 4 pack for about $8. They are little black plastic bench dogs. I’ve even trimmed the tops down on a couple so I have some low profile stops for when I plane thin stock.

  7. Ed Sutton

    I wonder if you could epoxy a small bit of hardwood to the top of the Veritas benchdog, thereby protecting from a plane strike but avoiding reinventing the wheel?

    Ed

  8. Jim Turner

    Chris,

    FWIW, I used the 3/4 wood dowel approach, cut a upward slice on one side, inserted a wooden toothpick as a fulcrum thus making spring. Trimmed a 1/2 inch flat face with shoulder on the upper portion giving a choice of flat or round with easily changed height.
    Takes 5 min.
    Easily replaced.
    Increased friction coupling in round hole drilled by hand auger.

    Regards,

  9. Eric

    Since I am new to the hand tool world, this brings up a question… when I was in the local toy store (woodworking store) the other day, I saw dogs that were made of a hard plastic, and was wondering what affect they would have on a plane iron compared to wood dogs.

    Any thoughts/opinions?

    Thanks,

  10. Phil Hirz

    Chris,

    Did you see the round dogs that Jameel had at the Indy Lie-Nielsen show? They were wood and had leather faces with a small ball-catch installed to hold them in place. Like every other aspect of Jameel’s benches and accessories they were pretty sweet. They are on my to do list. (Right behind getting some chickens. I hear they are easier to care for than goats.)

  11. Matt Davis

    I’ve only made one bench, and the dogs were made from .75" hardwood dowel. The fit in the dog holes was very tight, so I had to thin them with a block plane. Although I ended up putting a wire spring on them in a groove I ran down the side, it was probably unnecessary. Friction would likely have sufficed to keep them at the proper height.

    At any rate, they weren’t hard to make, gripped fine, and were of course easily replaced when an errant plane stroke ripped off their heads.

    One three-foot hardwood dowel, for maybe a buck, was good for six of the things. The fit-n-finish wasn’t up to Veritas standards, but big deal.

  12. Al Navas

    Buy the goat first! Then, use the hair to weave padding for the flooring, then use vinyl flooring on top of the padding…

    My metal dogs are history. Made seven oak (square) dogs, and things are much better.

    On second thought, it *is* time to grind that iron. Much easier process.

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