What is a bench hook?
A bench hook is a woodworking accessory that enables a piece of wood to be held firmly in position on a workbench while it is cut. It has no moving parts and acts simply as a support for the workpiece (the piece of wood currently being worked on).
By keeping the workpiece firmly in place, a bench hook can help prevent errors, improve precision and increase safety. The cutting is usually done with a saw, but can also be done with a plane or a chisel.
Why is it called a bench hook?
Although the tool is called a bench hook and does have a part that is called the ‘hook’, it does not look like a traditional hook.
It gets its name from the way it ‘hooks’ to the workbench with one of its two battens – pieces that go across the width of the bench hook on opposite sides of either end and the way the work piece ‘hooks’ against the other batten, as shown here.
It is the forward pressure of the woodworker’s hand on the workpiece and the forward cutting action of the tools used to work the wood that hold the bench hook in place. When a piece of wood held by a bench hook is being sawn, the wood is usually cut across the grain. Wood grain is the direction, texture and pattern of the fibres that make up a piece of wood.
The bench hook is very often used together with a tenon saw, or back saw. This saw has a reinforcing spine, or back, along the top of its blade to keep it very stiff, which improves the accuracy of the cut. Some bench hooks are designed specifically for either left-handed or right-handed use, with others designed for use either way.
What are bench hooks made from?
Bench hooks are relatively simple to make (even at home). However, if you want to ensure that you have a high-quality bench hook the professional products available on the market don’t cost that much. These can be made from metal, plastic or wood. The most commonly used material used to manufacture bench hooks is wood and that is simply because of how versatile it is.
At Wonkee Donkee, we recommend choosing hardwood when buying or making a bench hook, as it is the most durable material. Hardwood bench hooks have a much longer life span than other models and allow you to cut a large range of materials without causing damage. Cheaper alternatives such as softwood products or plastic have been known to snap when under too much pressure which can lead to poor quality cuts.
Once you have decided what material to use for the base of the bench hook, you will need to decide on what to use in order to fasten the stops or hooks. These can be attached using either dowels (which are surprisingly strong) or glue. Alternatively screws can be used to secure the hooks to the base, although this is less common.
If you want to find out more about how a bench hook is made then read our helpful guide at What are bench hooks made of?