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Man's best friend in the shop: Bench Dogs

Flat board with a metal  form in front of it
Planing Stops, a type of bench dog, come in various lengths to provide firm support along long edges

Your first decision: round or square

WOOD® project designers/builders Kevin Boyle and John Olson differ in their preferences for dogs that require round or square bench holes. Kevin likes dogs with round shanks for their versatility. "You'll find a tremendous variety of dogs and other bench accessories, such as hold-downs, that fit into 34 " round holes," he says. "I really like Veritas' Planing Stops (shown below, in 934 -25 14 " lengths) because they provide a wide edge to prevent parts from twisting." Kevin also finds that round holes provide greater flexibility as woodworking needs change. "I can quickly drill more round holes if I need them," he says. "Making new square holes takes a lot of time and effort."

On the other hand, John prefers bench dogs with square shanks. "They can't pivot," he points out, while admitting that attribute can be a detriment when working on pieces with curved edges. "But, I'm almost always working on square workpieces, and I prefer knowing that my dogs won't move at all." He crafts his own bench dogs from medium-hard woods—such as mahogany, cherry, or walnut—that will not damage his projects.

To spring or not

It's simple to make effective bench dogs from a length of dowel rod attached to a small block of wood. (See photo below.) The only problem: you can't adjust the dog's height for project parts of varying thickness. That's why Kevin and John both prefer dogs that utilize springs that press against the holes to hold the dogs at various heights. You simply reach under the bench to push them up, using a finger.

The innovative Prairie Dog from Veritas (shown below below) has a coiled spring at its base, allowing you to pop it up 5x16" high, or down flush with the surrounding surface, by alternately pressing down on its top. Kevin installed a pair in his vise's adjustable jaw, where typical dogs would not work.

Veritas, available from Lee Valley,, 800-871-8158.

3 bench dogs on a bench
Dogs like the one at left rest at a fixed height. Adjustable-height dogs have metal or wood springs that hold them at a desired vertical position.

Bench clamps with dogs
Pop-up Prairie Dogs excel in stock that's so thick or wide (like this vise jaw), you can't push them up from beneath. A quick finger press from above does it.

Flat board with a metal  form in front of it
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