Bench hooks provide a very efficient and solid method of capturing a work piece in order to saw, pare or otherwise work with small pieces of wood. The hooks are pushed against the front of the bench, and the work piece is placed against the hooks, which keeps the workpiece from moving away from the user. Sawing or paring will push the workpiece against the hooks, and needs only light pressure to hold in place.
These hooks are patterned from ones made by Roy Underhill, as seen here. Made from soft maple, they are constructed from one piece of wood. One added feature these hooks have is a rabbet along the side of one of the hooks, which gives the saw a place to go rather than cutting into the workbench. The rabbet is cut onto both sides of the hook, which gives twice the life to the tool, as it can be flipped over. Thus, one of the hooks is 1/2″ wider than the other. This is available either on the left or right, depending on the users sawing preference. The narrower hook is used as a support, and can be placed any distance from the first hook, depending on the workpiece length and operation being performed.
The shoulders are cut with a slight undercut, which will help ensure that the work piece is seated against the shoulder. This also allows the bench hook to be used as a hold down when placed in a vice, similar to a holdfast. The large radius protects the hook from splitting off if the end is struck to secure the work piece. Note in the photo that there is a block of wood between the hook and vice jaw, which is necessary when using a leg vice. Vices with short jaw heights do not need a block since the lower hook would be below the vice.
This photo below shows the bench hooks in use. Please note this is my demonstration model, which has the rabbet on both sides for both right and left handed users.
They are left unfinished, which is preferred by most users. Over all length is between 11 1/2″ and 12″, depending on the raw material. (Wood is often sold in an even foot length.) Width of the wider hook is 3″, and the narrower is 2 1/2″ Thickness between the hooks is approximately 1/2″, with approx 1/2″ high hooks. Price is $50 plus shipping, and are sold as a pair.
These hooks are now manufactured using a milling machine to cut the ramped areas. It is difficult to eliminate tear out due to the cutting action of an end mill, so these hooks may display some on the stock surfaces as seen below. We feel this is acceptable for bench hooks because they are a “consumable” tool that are meant to be sacrificed instead of the workbench by absorbing the saw as it cuts through the work piece, and eventually will need replacing. More importantly, the surfaces of the hooks are more parallel than in the past, and offer a more stable working surface.