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Doe's Foot Improves Your Workbench

The notched batten – also called a “doe’s foot” – is a great way to restrain your work on the bench without a tail vise. With a holdfast and a doe’s foot, you can even work across the grain aggressively and the work will stay in place.

During the last couple years of using this appliance, mine have evolved. They started as mere pieces of solid wood. Then I added some sticky-back sandpaper to them to give them even more grip on the bench.

Then Jennie Alexander, author of “Make a Chair from a Tree,” came up with an excellent idea.

Make the doe’s foot out of hardboard or Masonite and back it with some stick-on 3M Safety-Walk Tread.

Using Masonite or hardboard is a brilliant idea, especially for restraining thin pieces of work. Some people might balk at using an engineered wood product, but give Masonite a second look. Developed in the late 19th century, most hardboard is just exploded wood fibers that are re-formed into flat panels. No glue is needed – the wood’s lignum holds everything together. And tempered hardboard has a coating of linseed oil to help make it water-resistant.

Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself.

That means you can saw it, plane it and chisel it without your edges taking extra abuse. (Personally, I use hand tools all the time on plywood, MDF and whatever. You just have to sharpen more.)


Then Jennie took the idea one step beyond good. Instead of adding sandpaper to the underside, Jennie recommends non-abrasive tread material, such as 3M’s Safety-Walk tread. It’s the stuff you can put on the rungs of ladders so you don’t slip.

You can get it at your home center: $13 for a 2” x 15’ roll of the stuff. That’s enough for about 30 doe’s feet.

I made some up this week and have been using them. They work really well. Give it a try.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 6 comments
  • emlamb55

    Chris, what is the dimension of the doe’s foot?

  • WilliamDavis

    I have encountered two variations of 3M Safety Tread. The black version is abrasive and the gray version isn’t. The gray has a texture that shoes can lock into, but you can’t sand anything with it. I would think the black product would provide more grip, but apparently the gray works well enough.
    I have used both on different stairs and I keep finding use for the leftover lengths I have. The black stuff is great for making non-slip cross-cut fences. Just keep it away from the blade, of course. I’ll have to try the gray next time.

  • snacky227

    The front and back of Danelectro guitars was also built from Masonite. I’ll have to give this a try.

  • Jonathan Szczepanski

    I had no idea masonite was glue/resin free.

    ****** The More You Know!

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