Bench hooks are probably the simplest, most useful, and easiest-to-make workshop accessory. Some are certainly prettier and more functional than others, but even the most basic of bench hooks can be as useful as an extra hand. This accessory minimizes the need for a vise or jig, allowing you to cut quickly, can perform the same function as a bench dog, and more complex versions make quick mitering easy. So here's a short guide on how to make a simple bench hook.
First off – what is a table hook?
Before we dive into how to make a bench hook, it's best to explain what it really is. At its heart, the table hook holds the workpiece in place while crosscutting with the hand saw. This accessory—usually handmade—both improves the accuracy of the cut and gives you an extra measure of safety.
It sits on top of your bench with the "hook" overlapping the front edge. This allows you to push the workpiece with one hand over the temporary fence while the cut is being made. The fence is held in place by the front lip of the bench hook – it literally "hangs" on the bench. It frees your hands to control the material you see without having to hold the board steady at the same time.
You can also combine the use of a face vise or even clips to hold the bench hooks in place.
As you can see from the photos, there is not much to a simple bench hook. Much like the author, you don't have to be good-looking to be useful! You can use three pieces of scrap wood secured with screws or strong wood glue. Part A acts as a fence, part B is the base and part C is the "hook". There are many ways to make a simple bench hook, which you can customize to meet your specific needs.
Steps to Make a Bench Hook
- Find a plank or boards for Part B and determine the length and width you need. It can be on the shorter side if you'll be using it primarily for cutting, or if you want to use it instead of a bench. If you plan to use traditional woodworking tools, such as hand planers and spoke planers, you may need more shooting boards. For this, deeper bench hooks work best.
- Cut fence section A and hook section C to the width of section B.
- Secure them to the opposite ends and sides of part B (see photo above) so that part C hooks onto the front edge of the table. Try to make sure any screws or fasteners are flush with the wood.
Bonus Options for Miter
If you want to add even more functionality, pre-cut the bevel in section A of the fence so you can make angled cuts quickly and easily. Just make sure those angles are correct!
Rachel's reward options
Consider having section B protrude beyond section A of the fence (not flush as in the picture). This allows you to use a table hook with a Japanese saw and make cuts while pulling the stroke. This way you can also pull on the far side of the fence instead of just pushing the fence like you would with a west saw.
You may also notice that the bench hooks are reversible. This allows you to increase the miter angle and even start over if the first try doesn't work out well!
Simple bench hooks are a great woodworking project for beginners and a very handy tool for experienced craftsmen. It's often overlooked, but it certainly shouldn't be. We hope you have fun with your new bench hooks. If you have any other tips on how to make them, please add them in the comments below – or get in touch and provide your own pro tip.