The doe’s foot – a block of wood with a “V” cut into it – is one of the most versatile and cheap appliances for your workbench. I have an article about this little gizmo coming up in the next issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine (look for it in the November 2017 issue, or perhaps subscribe).
I work with a lot of odd-shaped parts, especially when I build chairs. These components can be curved and comprise compound angles. No tail vise could hold them. Face vises marr them (no matter what your jaws are lined with). And clamping them to the benchtop is unwieldy.
Many times, the solution is a doe’s foot or two.
A Doe’s Foot in Use
Last week as I finished up a chair commission I had to plane the long edges of the chair’s crest rail without damaging the piece. Clamping it in the face vise dings up a crest unless it is swaddled in thick felt (which I did not have). Clamping this between dogs was impossible because the ends of the crest are compound angles. If I wanted the dogs to grip the work I was going to have to damage the work by cranking the tail vise hard.
There are lots of ways to hold a crest that involve handscrews and clamps. But I’m always looking for a simpler solution. I want a solution that won’t mark the work.
Using two doe’s feet was the answer. One in front of the work and one behind. These two appliances captured the crest without marking it. It was easy to plane the edges clean.
I now have six of these doe’s foot appliances stacked below my bench, ranging in thickness from 1/8” to 1”. They are humble and beaten-up pieces of wood, but they are remarkably useful.
— Christopher Schwarz
If you want to learn more about the doe’s foot, check out the revised edition of “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use” at Shopwoodworking.com.