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 How to saw wood using a bench hook

Shop for Bench Hooks

A typical tenon saw A bench hook is designed primarily for use in conjunction with a tenon saw – a hand saw which cuts across the grain of the wood.
Cross-cut hand saws Other hand saws that cut across the grain may also be used with a bench hook. Cross cut saws are distinct from rip saws, which cut along the grain.
Mark the cutting line on the workpiece

Step 1 – Mark top of workpiece

Make a pencil line on the top side of the workpiece, accurately indicating where it is to be cut.

Wood marked up for sawing

Step 2 – Mark side of workpiece

You should mark the side of the workpiece facing you as well as the top side. This will help you to check that the cut is perpendicular.

Perpendicular means a straight vertical line at 90 degrees, or a right angle, to the top of the workpiece.

Pushing the marked workpiece up against the stop

Step 3 – Push workpiece against stop

The workpiece, with its grain crossways on the base of the bench hook, should be pushed up firmly against the stop and the mark indicating where the cut is to be made, lined up with the end of the stop.

Using heel of hand and thumb to hold workpiece in bench hook

Step 4 – Exert forward pressure

Use the heel and thumb of your non-sawing hand to exert forward pressure on the workpiece so that it is held firmly against the stop and the hook is pressed hard against the edge of the workbench.

Cutting workpiece using tenon saw and bench hook

Step 5 – Start sawing

Start sawing the corner of the workpiece nearest to you, advancing on the width and thickness of the workpiece.

Cutting into the workpiece using tenon saw and bench hook

Step 6 – Continue cut

Gradually saw into the full width of the workpiece, but without cutting into the stop.

Continue sawing until you have cut right through, or as far as you wish to go if you are making a partial cut.

Saw makes contact with bench hook base at end of cut

Step 7 – Expect some damage

If sawing all the way through, the saw will probably contact the base of the bench hook at the end of the cutting action. This is normal – a little damage to the base of the bench hook is expected.

Keeping the saw blade horizonal and level towards the end of the cut will limit damage.

Housing part of housing joint sawn ready for chiselling   You might want to cut only part-way through, for example when you are cutting a shape out of the wood to make a joint.
Chiselling out a housing joint recess   In this case, the piece to be removed would probably be cut out with a woodworking chisel following sawing.

For a step-by-step guide to using a chisel with a bench hook, see How to chisel wood using a bench hook.

Cutting the tenon of a mortise and tenon joint One of the main uses of a bench hook is for holding workpieces when sawing tenons for mortise and tenon joints.
Sawing mitre using a bench hook Bench hooks with slots in the stop angled at 45 degrees are used for sawing mitre joints.

See our section: How to cut mitres using a bench hook to hold the wood for more information.

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