I have spent some time thinking about how to make the benchdogs for my workbench. There are loads of sources online about how to do this and I’ve looked at many, many of them. I hate to sound egotistical (when anyone says this, you know they are about to), but I think I can do it better. There… I said it… Sorry. I apologize. Forgive me.
Benchdogs should be made of a strong straight-grained wood like oak or ash. The grain should run the full length of the dog from top to bottom with no run out. I recognize all of this, and yet I’m going to deviate from it. I normally wouldn’t stray from such well-reasoned and logically sound advice, but I’m going to use some leftover wood that I have on hand. If they break, they will have cost me nothing but time, and I can always make some more following the conventional wisdom.
I have some scraps of sapele left over from the workbench build and I’m turning these on the lathe to make the dogs. The on-hand availability of this wood is not the only reason I want to use it. My workbench is made of both douglas fir and sapele and I think it will look great if I continue along that same theme.
One last warning… I usually try to self impose a limit of 20-25 pictures in each of my posts and if the posts get longer than that, I break them into multiple parts. This post is 51 images, so I apologize if it takes a little longer to load. I just didn’t want to do a two-part exposé on how to make something as simple as a benchdog.
I will not write a lot of extra text in between the images during this post, but will rather let the picture captions tell the story (mostly).
So to get started, I gathered up my sapele scraps and ripped them down to 7/8″ strips. I then laid those strips on edge and ripped them again to make them 7/8″ square.
I am very, very new to turning and only have this benchtop mini lathe. I still find it a little tricky turning a consistent cylinder.
I removed the dog from the lathe every so often and checked the fit in a sample dog hole.
I’m using a bad photo above, but found I didn’t have a good one. I realize the the above photo is not the right way to round an end. For most of the dogs, I turned the round piece a little further down the stock of the cylinder and left some wood near the live center on the tail stock. I smoothed the round section with sandpaper while the dog was turning, and then cut the dog free from this small piece on the end.
I found some oak in my off-cut scrap pile and cut a V-notch in it. I did this by tilting my table saw blade to 45° and running the piece through, turning it around and running it through again. These two pieces of oak will hold the dogs during the next steps.
I put the dog in the “jig” and added a C-clamp to hold it in place. Note the grain direction in the dog. This should increase the strength an hopefully prevent the dog splitting along the grain in use.
Here you can find the Small Bullet Catches from Lee Valley.
I found the scrap piece of fir that I had used as a backer when I drilled all the holes in the sliding deadmen. I banged in a few nails and made a quick drying rack for the dogs.
I’d only bought 10 bullet catches, so had to order some more from Lee Valley.
I want to give these benchdogs a little bit more grip, so I am going to line the face of the dogs with leather. Last year, I purchased a half hide of book binders leather from www.brettunsvillage.com. Brettun’s usually has a deal of the week and you can find quite good prices. This half hide was one of their weekly specials and was $50 shipped. I purchased it for lining the faces of the vise chops. More to come on that in a later post. In any case, I used a scalpel and a straight edge to cut some small squares from the areas of the hide that would otherwise not be of much use. I made sure that these squares were bigger than the face of the dogs.
I thought that the freshly cut edges of the leather looked a little bright, so added a little of the mahogany paste wax to them. They blended in with the wood nicely after that.
A quick update.
The trickiest part of this process was installing the small bullet catches that I bought from Lee Valley. They require a 5/16ths hole, but the fit is very, very tight. They need to be pressed in, as hammering them in might damage them. Above, I used a bench vise and some scrap hardboard to do this. It was awkward to say the least.
A friend at my local woodworkers club suggested that I use the quill of my drill press to press in the bullet catches. I thought this was brilliant idea. It certainly never would have occurred to me to use the drill press in this manner. At the end of my previous post, I had run out of bullet catches and was waiting for more to arrive from Lee Valley. Well, they got here and I decided to try out the drill press method.
I used one of the pieces of oak that I had cut a V-notch in to support the benchdog.
This works very well. It made installing the bullet catches as simple as you could wish.
I just thought I should post this quick tip, in case you try making your own.
– Jonathan White