Roy Underhill’s Bench Hooks

Last Sunday morning I was searching YouTube looking for a Woodwright’s Shop episode to watch but everyone I found was really grainy on my TV. So I kept searching Roy Underhill videos when I ran across a nice high definition video he did for Lie-Nielsen Tool Works making a couple of bench hooks. I used to have a bench hook that I made based off of Robert Wearing’s book Making Woodwork Aids and Devices about 30 years ago. It was super simple jig. Just a piece of 6″ wide plywood with a piece of wood nailed on each side. But I liked Roy’s bench hooks so much I decided to make a couple, except I made mine using some power tools.

I found this piece of scrap cherry about 12″ long and 13″ long and knew it would work.

I scribed a 3″ line down the piece and cut a couple of chunks off on the band saw.

Then I milled all four faces smooth with my bench plane.

I ended up with two pieces of 2″ thick cherry, 3″ wide by 12″ long.

I then raised my table saw blade to 1″ and set my fence 2″ from blade. I cut a groove on the side of the piece, then flipped it over and ran it again on the other side.

Next I drew a line from the corner end of the piece to the bottom of the scored cut line on each side of the piece. Because these lines diverge at less than 90 degrees, it makes the top of the bench hook bite into the workpiece holding the wood secure.

Then I cut the waste off at my band saw giving it the classic bench hook shape.

I cleaned up the rough face left by the band saw with my bench plane and card scraper.

I then rounded over the ends of the bench hooks using my edge sander. I taped the off cuts to the face of the bench hook in order to keep it flat on the table.

I broke all the corners of the bench hooks with a bastard file and sanded them smooth.

I simply applied two coats of shellac and drilled a hang hole in each one. They’ll eventually be beaten up and dirty so I wasn’t too concerned about using a durable finish.

I finished making the bench hooks in about an hour. They’re nearly a necessity when it comes to using a back saw as it allows your hand to hold the workpiece more securely.

These bench hook are nice but they may be little over kill. A bench hook doesn’t have to be anything more than scrap piece of a 2×4 like on the side of the workbench shown in the picture below. If you don’t have any, make them. You’ll wonder what took you so long.

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