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Woodworkers, by and large, are a pretty resourceful lot. Although the last few decades have seen the resurgence of top quality hand tools, particularly from the New World and somewhat later from the Far East, it remains a fact that we can’t obtain everything we need and if we can’t buy it, we make it!

All craftsmen have their pet jigs, tools and appliances. A trawl through almost any woodworking tome will reveal pages of cunning and ingenious devices to make our lives a little easier in the ‘shop. This series of Blogs aims to show you some of mine as well as details how to make them.

Now, I ought to refer you to several rather excellent reference sources. Firstly, there’s Robert Wearing’s recently republished The Essential Woodworker and another one is 500 Workshop Tips & Jigs from GMC Publications which contains the collected wisdom of a whole host of their readers. One little reference book which you probably won’t get hold of is Charles Hayward’s How to Make Woodwork Tools and my battered copy has an LCC library date of 11 Feb 1952! There are also some very interesting and quite unique appliances in Robert Ingham’s book, Cutting Edge Cabinetmaking, some of which I’ll be detailing.  I’ve mentioned only a few, but other resource publications and websites may be mentioned when relevant.

And so to the bench hook, a very straightforward appliance and one of the most basic aids for sawing. The bench hook is simply a hardwood (ideally) board with a block on each opposite end, one on the top and one on the underside.

An arrow shows where the saw decimates the surface
An arrow shows where the saw decimates the surface

The problem with this simple design is that after a while, the saw decimates the surface (arrowed) and the hook is usually thrown away and a new one made. The area of damage shown by the arrow is a replaceable insert that slides into a dovetailed housing which is easy enough to machine on the router table.

Knock out and remove the offending insert
Knock out and remove the offending insert

The blocks on each side are normally dowelled in place, but the top one on my hook is screwed on so that it’s easy to remove it and knock out the offending insert.

The new insert can then be tapped into place
The new insert can then be tapped into place

The new insert is then tapped into place, planed flush with the surface and the upper block is then screwed back in position, resulting in a completely refurbished bench hook.

The top block has been set back from the edge so the work bears against the reverse side while being cut
The top block has been set back from the edge so the work bears against the reverse side while being cut

I always use Japanese saws these days which cut on the pull stroke, so with my particular bench hook, the top block has been set some way back from the edge so that the work bears against the reverse side as it’s being cut.

Next time I’ll be looking at other tools and appliances, but if you have any ideas or suggestions about jigs that you’d like me to cover, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

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