Bench Hook - Versatile shop made clamping device

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Blog entry by David Craig posted 06-08-2010 09:42 PM 4404 reads 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I am sure most wood carvers are familiar with this one, as the bench hook is probably one of the first shop made contraptions relief carvers would make for themselves. I do find them quite useful for any task in which I need both my hands and the piece I am trying to hold down is irregularly shaped, a piece that I don’t want marred, or one that is too small to be effectively held in place by the bench cookies. While I know many woodworkers are already familiar with the contraption, I have seen a few holding a piece with one hand while attempting to chisel or sand with the other. I thought I would post in the event other woodworkers might find this useful.

I recently completed a bowl that I parted off and I had the nib and some rough spots I wanted to remove from the bottom. Seeing as the bowl is hollow and one that I didn’t want to put in a vise, it would normally be a challenge to find a means to clamp it and still allow me access to the bottom. But, as the picture below demonstrates, the bench hook makes this job fairly simple.

Bench Hook Top View

My benchhook is a piece of plywood 12” x 12” with a row of 3/8 inch holes spaced out every inch in both directions. I have two slim pieces that form an L bracket on the top and left side to brace the piece and a slim piece of plywood on the front to hold the board against a bench. Pegs are used to hold the work piece in place to keep it from sliding.

Here is a view from the front so you can get a better visual of the plywood “hook” that braces the device against the bench.

Benchhook Front view

Obviously a good use for those very ugly boards :) Very easy to make, only part that gets tedious is drilling all the holes.

I know most of you are familiar with the contraption but I do hope one or two, who are not previously familiar with this device, will find this useful.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

9 comments so far

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3079 days

#1 posted 06-08-2010 10:21 PM

I thought you was talking of a normal benchhook for sawing small stoff
but what a surprice a new one for other purpose (at least to me)
thankĀ“s for sharing this idea David

take care

View a1Jim's profile


117062 posts in 3541 days

#2 posted 06-08-2010 11:15 PM

Good modifacation and idea well done Daviid

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 4050 days

#3 posted 06-08-2010 11:50 PM

Well, that was a wake-up call. I have a bench hook, with holes drilled in for capturing odd shapes, and I don’t know how many bowls I’ve held on my lap while chiseling off the last nubbins of the bottom turning, worrying about a slip sending the blade into my wrist. Thank you! I feel pretty dumb now, but I sure will haul it out in future.


View Bob Collins's profile (online now)

Bob Collins

2503 posts in 3648 days

#4 posted 06-09-2010 02:53 AM

Thanks David for a simple solution to a bigger problem. Like Barb I work with relief carvings and odd shaped projects on my lap hoping not to slip with the chisel. Squeaky voice doesn’t suit a wood worker. Have many times had the dremel burr caught up in the clothes.

-- Bob C, Australia. Your best teacher is your last mistake.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18246 posts in 3640 days

#5 posted 06-09-2010 05:34 AM

New modification for an old idea ;-)) thanks

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3073 days

#6 posted 06-09-2010 06:47 AM

Thanks folks. I am glad that a few will get some use out of the posting. I wish I could take credit for the modification, but I pulled the design from a book by John Hillyer called Woodcarving 20 Great Projects for Beginners and Weekend Carvers. Nice little volume and includes a plan for the aforementioned hook as well as a nice selection of carving patterns. He gears it more towards a hold down for relief carvings but this has served me well for holding down many awkward objects in other areas of woodworking as well.

If nothing else, knowing Bob won’t be singing soprano in his church choir in the future gives me great satisfaction. I am also delighted to know that I might have helped save Barb a trip to the ER.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View alexsutula's profile


96 posts in 3018 days

#7 posted 06-10-2010 05:16 AM

Wow, lately I have been bashing my brain trying to figure out a quick way to secure various length boards to the bench. The bashing can stop and my search is over. Thanks for posting

-- You can't stand apart unless you're prepared to stand alone. Alex, Cleveland

View blockhead's profile


1475 posts in 3273 days

#8 posted 06-12-2010 05:30 PM

Count me as another who will benefit from your post. Thanks David

-- Brad, Oregon- The things that come to those who wait, may be the things left by those who got there first.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3073 days

#9 posted 06-13-2010 02:27 PM

Thanks Alex and Brad for commenting. I am glad you both can make some use of the post. Hapy woodworking to both of you.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

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