March 13, 2010

Bench Hook

Have you ever needed a little portable workbench you can use on the dining room table or counter top? Have you ever tried to saw something too big for a razor saw miter box and had it slide all over the place? If so then make yourself a "bench hook". Bench hooks have been around for eons, they are an ancient, simple and very useful jig. They are called hooks because they have a cleat that hooks over the front edge of a work bench or table or counter top.

There is certainly not much involved in making one of these. You will need a flat board and nice straight wood to make the cleats. One cleat is on top at the rear of the top, the other goes underneath the front edge. Be sure to keep the top cleat shorter than the length of the board you glue it to so the saw can clear the cleat. I have left room on both the left and right side of the cleat. Cleat boards are easy to make from 1" x 2" lumber. I have used a leftover piece of Baltic Birch plywood for my base since it was lying around unused. I make sure my top cleat has a truly square 90 degree cut on the ends so they can be used a guides for a flush razor saw that has no tooth set. That type of saw won't cut into the cleat that is guiding it. You could make the other end of the upper cleat a 45 degree angle for a miter cutting guide.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

I have spray glued some rubber drawer liner to the bottom side of mine. That will protect the table top or counter top I use it on from scratches. It will help the bench hook grip to the surface I am using it on which will make working with it easier.

Look Mom no clamps to screw and unscrew! Need to stop to make and eat dinner and your project is in the way? It is easy to pick up the board with the project still on it and set it aside until you can get back to work.

How they work is simple, if you are using a saw that cuts on the stroke that pushes away from your body or using other tools that you push away from you such as chisels then the force of the tool keeps the bench hook in position. Of course you are not limited to just those tasks, you can use them for cutting boards with knives or for light duty hammering tasks. Make one with a Formica (laminate) covering on the top, wax the Formica and you can glue or paint projects on top of  your bench hook.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

In the photo above I have placed a board I am going to cut against the rear cleat lining up the cut mark with the end of the cleat. Next I clamped a piece of plywood in place that lines up with the edge of the rear cleat. That clamped wood will do two things for me, first it keeps the wood I am cutting from shifting around so much, second it gives me a square edge to guide my razor saw against. I did not care that my scrap plywood had a hole in it or that it looks ugly, what matters is that there is an accurate 90 edge to guide my saw against.

See the bucket in the photo below? Just think of all the potential jigs for making miniatures that are hiding in there! With a few buckets of leftover wood, some glue, brads and a few screws you can create so much for so little money. There was that scrap of plywood with a hole in it sitting right on top.
photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010