Make Your Own 1"-diameter Bench Dogs

Posted on 27 September 2016

Before the 3/4” brass dogs made by Lee Valley Tools became the de facto standard size (and that 3/4” size seeped into other bits of bench hardware), most workbenches had 1”-diameter metal dogs and holdfasts.

(In fact, some benches made in Western and Eastern Europe still use 1” or 25mm dogs and holdfasts.)

I’ve always liked 1” dogs because they have more bearing surface. But I’ve never been wild about metal dogs, no matter if they were steel, brass, 3/4” or 1”. My favorite dogs have always been made from wood, which doesn’t damage plane soles, chisels, scrapers or carving tools. Wooden dogs are inexpensive to make (less than $11 for a set of seven) and have no downsides in my experience.

“Wait,” I hear from under some bridge on the Internet. “Won’t wooden dogs eventually split apart when used with a tail vise?”

To which I respond: If you are cranking your tail vise so hard that you are splitting your wooden dogs, then you are doing it wrong.

Following is how I make my wooden dogs. If you’re considering switching your bench to 1” holes for the Crucible holdfast, this is a good solution to replace your 3/4” dogs so that all the holes on your bench are the same size.

Start with a 36” length of oak dowel from the home center. When you get to the home center, pull out all the dowels and place them on the floor. Select the ones with the straightest grain and roll them on the floor. The ones that wobble might be too warped. A little wobble is OK.

At home, crosscut the 36” dowel into seven 5” lengths. Scrape the dogs so they fit in your 1” holes – manufactured dowels tend to be a bit oblong.

Now cut the L-shaped notch in the top of each dog. The notch should be 1” long and leave half of the diameter. I’ve experimented with adding some adhesive cork to the flat face of the dog. It helps, but it’s not a must-do game-changer.

To keep the dog in its hole and at the desired height, I install small spring-loaded ball catches into the shaft of each dog – about 1” from the bottom of the dog. To install them, you drill a hole in the dog, use a vise to press them into the hole and then knock them slightly recessed with a hammer. If you don’t hammer them, the rim of the catch will interfere with the fit of the dog.

I usually add a coat of boiled linseed oil to the dogs, too. Not because they require protection, but it makes it much more difficult for me to confuse my dogs with scrap pieces of wood.

— Christopher Schwarz

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  • James Wicklund: October 05, 2016

    Do you have any information on obtaining 3/4or1"metal dogs?

  • rustymatheny: September 28, 2016

    No concern for grain direction? ’Twere me, I would make vertical cut perpendicular to grain.

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