It seems that some of the most useful devices are too simple to think of, and this little box is an excellent example of that. I first saw bench blocks about 20 years ago on a cabinetmaker’s bench, promptly said “doh!”, smacked myself in the forehead and made a set of my own. They ‘re dirt simple – an open-ended plywood box about 4″ x 8″ x 12″, glued and nailed together. Of course if you want to drag out the process, you can make them out of solid wood, shoot the ends to length and hold them together with cut nails or houndstooth dovetails. Then you can go online and debate what’s the best finish to use on something like this. Or you can grab a scrap of plywood and a pneumatic nail gun and be up and running in about 5 minutes.
In the photos, I’m making a template and I need to use the jigsaw and the router to make some precise openings in a piece of 1/2″ thick plywood. The block is clamped to the edge of my workbench, then I clamp the work on top of the block. This holds the work securely and brings it up to a convenient height. Without the block, I would be holding the work off the end of the bench. That is harder to clamp in most situations and I would need to bend down to see what is happening. That cantilevered method means an awkward body position, and for me that leads to either a stiff back or chips and dust flying in my face.
I’m only using one block for this operation, but I have a pair of them. For a bigger workpiece, I can place a block on each end and work within the space between the two blocks. The boost in height not only keeps me comfortable and allows me to see the action, it also keeps the saw blade or router bit well above the top of the bench.
The blocks also come in handy when used in conjunction with my vise. For dovetailing, I set a block on the bench behind the vise, and place the end of the work upright in the vise flush with the top of the block. That makes a stable platform to mark one half of the joint from the other, and if I want to cheat and use a router to hog out the waste, the top of the block provides a flat surface for the router base to stay level, without balancing it on the narrow edge of a board.
These can be used in any orientation, if I want to put the work even higher and they can be used on the ground as a short step to see the thermostat that’s placed just a bit too high on our shop wall.
Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.