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What is a Bench Dog?

By T. Raleigh
Updated May 17, 2024
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A bench dog, sometimes called a workbench dog, is a tool that fits into pre-drilled holes to aid in securing a item to the workbench. It is a tool used primarily by woodworkers. The item being worked on slips between a vice, which is at one end of the workbench, and the bench dog, that has been slipped into one of the holes. When the vise tightens, the work piece is held tight between it and the dog.

A tool that impedes movement or secures an item is often called a dog. While the bench dog’s use is typically for woodworking, there are other types of dogs. Dogs are used on ladders, hatches, chainsaws, and other places where it is necessary to control movement. The types of dogs vary in size and shape depending on their purpose.

Bench dogs can be crafted from wood or metal, such as iron or steel. Metal bench dogs can leave indentations on wood secured to them if over tightened. This is one reason some woodworkers prefer to use a wooden bench dog. Most woodworking stores carry bench dogs; however, some woodworkers prefer to make their own. A workbench can often be modified to include an area for this exact use.

A vise on one of the ends of a workbench might have a bench dog set within it. The dog holes in the workbench are usually spaced evenly in a straight line from the vise. This is often called the dog strip. The item being worked on is placed between the vise’s bench dog and one placed in the workbench holes. Once the vise tightens, the piece is secure and ready for work.

Round or square bench dogs are available, though round is the more common shape of commercially offered bench dogs. Metal versions typically have springs on the sides of the dog to keep it snug inside the workbench dog hole. When springs are not present, a slightly smaller hole is usually sufficient for keeping the dog in place. The length of the dogs is normally high enough to hold various board thicknesses without impeding the work being done.

There are many times when a woodworker needs the wood tightly secured to a bench. Sanding, hand planning, or chiseling are a few examples where a snugly held piece can make the work easier as well as safer. Many workbench designs incorporate dog strips and vises because of the usefulness of bench dogs.

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Discussion Comments
By cloudel — On Oct 31, 2011

I wonder where the term “bench dog” came from? I've never known a dog to hold down anything for me so I could work on it!

Regardless of where it got its name, a bench dog sounds like a great tool. I have worked on many art projects while wishing that I had something to help me hold things in place, but a bench dog would not work for the delicate projects that I handle. I'm jealous of my husband, because his line of work is ideal for bench dog use.

My husband builds dog houses and bird houses and sells them. He uses his bench dog a lot in his work, and he says that it has saved him lots of time and frustration by serving as an assistant.

By myharley — On Oct 31, 2011

If my husband wasn't a woodworker, I would have no idea what a bench dog is. I have heard him use this term many times and know he has more than one wooden bench dog in his shop.

He also has a bench dog ProTop that he uses a lot for different projects he is working on. He likes using this because it has a cabinet that helps cut down on a lot of the noise and dust.

I don't spend much time out in the wood shop, but am familiar with a few of the tools he uses. He does produce some wonderful, finished products that I enjoy around the house.

Whenever I want to go shopping he says he gets equal time and money at the woodworking store. This can be a scary thought because that could get really expensive.

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