First Item of Business: Holding The Work
1st in a series by Barb Siddiqui
a plan in a magazine for a project you'd really like to build. It looks
easy, the directions are clear and you've assembled the necessary tools.
The first step is to "cut pieces to length," and you are standing in your
garage or basement, saw in hand, wondering how you can entrap a two-inch
thick board or a 3/4" rolling dowel, and hold it steady long enough to
make an accurate crosscut.
quick and easy jig you'll find useful is a bench hook. Cut a precise 12"x12"
square of 3/4" plywood and sand it smooth if necessary. Attach an 11"
length of 2"x2" material for a fence, placing it atop the upper left corner
at the back edge of the square, and leaving one inch of plywood exposed
on the right.
all faces and end cuts of this 2"x2" fence material are squared to 90
degrees, which is a good habit to get into when making any jig for the
shop. Glue and clamp the fence piece on top of the plywood at the upper
edge. Countersink and pre-drill screwholes from the bottom, then screw
piece of the 2"x2" material 12" long to glue and screw to the bottom side
of the plywood at the front. This forms an L-shaped hook below the near
edge, which catches at the edge of your workbench or table.
the bench hook, press the workpiece securely against the fence with your
cut line exactly at the right end of the fence, which acts as a vertical
saw guide to keep the cut straight. To avoid chopping up the plywood base,
cut to within 1/16" and then move the workpiece off the right edge of
the plywood to finish the cut all the way through.
with longer pieces, make an additional "outrigger" bench hook the same
thickness as your original, but only 3" wide. This smaller hook can slide
to any length along the bench, supporting a long workpiece and stabilizing
it for an accurate cut.
bench hook has been through many adaptations. It can be made longer or
wider to suit your needs. You can drill 1/4" diameter holes part-way into
the base at random points, then insert 1/4" dowels where needed to secure
circles or odd-shaped parts for cutting.
idea is to glue a piece of fine sandpaper to the front face of the fence
so the workpiece will be less likely to slip when pressure is applied
to it. One specialized use for a bench hook is to cut several V-shaped
notches along the fence, attaching a second V-notched fence to the left
edge of the base to hold square pieces steady for relief carving or other
I now own
a table saw, a radial arm saw and a new bandsaw, but if I have a single
light cut to make, I'm most often reaching for my trusty old bench hook
to do it quickly and quietly by hand!