The bench hook is without question one of the most indispensable tools in my wood shop. The force of gravity and the force of using the tool up against a solid fence is all that it takes to keep the work from moving. It’s deceptively sophisticated and exceptionally simple to make. It’s a great choice for a first-time hand-tool only project. They can be as long, as wide and as decorative as you like, and can be made from hardwood scrap.
I can make a pair from rough sawn lumber in less than an hour. They’re a natural test of precision hand-tool skills as there’s no room to ‘fudge’ anything. They’re either straight, flat and square or they aren’t. You’ll notice any deviation while in use. Think of it as a Gottshall block with a real function; a great way to practice being accurate while still producing something of value. Yet another benefit is that it’s made in one piece and then sawed apart, giving you a pair with minimal layout. A matched pair, so to speak, of bench hooks is more useful than a single hook because they can be used in tandem on longer pieces. By making it in one piece and then sawing them apart, you ensure that each fence on each hook is in exactly the same place relative to the bench edge. This helps hold the work square and steady without sliding or rocking.
Though many furniture projects, especially those done entirely with hand tools, can easily be done without four-squared stock, I like to use shop projects as an opportunity to practice my precision woodworking skills. I’m constructing a large pair of hooks here, with a working length of 18″ and a fence thickness of roughly 3/4″, but they can easily be made in all different sizes for different operations and different sizes of lumber.
Bench Hooks, Step by Step
I hope that you take a look at your own shop practices and find a use for the indomitable bench hook. The simplified construction of this particular style of hook makes it a great way to use up some scrap while practicing your stock preparation skills and boosting your overall accuracy. Focus on getting everything just right on this project, and you’ll have success doing the same with your next furniture piece.
This article appeared in the December 2018 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine.