by James McConnell
Any decent workbench with a face vise will allow you to easily work the ends and edges of stock, but finding an efficient and effective way to flatten and dress the faces of boards can sometimes be a puzzle. The solution is a good set of bench dogs, and these small ones by Big Horn are a perfect fit for any workshop.
These diminutive dogs might not look like much, but they have plenty of bite. They’re sized to fit any 3⁄4″-diameter hole in your benchtop that is at least 2″ deep, so if you’re already set up to use holdfasts, these will drop right in. They also work great in aprons or sliding deadmen to support longer boards held in a vise, and ably secure bench jigs and shooting boards for greater accuracy.
Side-mounted spring mechanisms prevent undue movement or rotation while in use, and the 2° negative slope of the cross-hatched faces helps to secure boards without damaging them. The anodized aluminum bodies of these dogs are corrosion-resistant and durable, yet somewhat forgiving in the case of an accidental collision with a handplane blade. There is nothing original about the design, but it works.
These Asian-manufactured dogs are quite similar to the brass Bench Pups from Lee Valley, but the machining, fit and finish fall well short of the Canadian bench accessories. But at $12 a pair (or $22 for a pack of four through Amazon.com) they are a decent bargain alternative.