Making A Carver’s Bench Hook

As anyone who reads regularly knows, I’ve been doing some carving recently. Part of this comes from the desire to create something different and partly to use up the wood scraps laying around. My efforts have been mostly spoons and shallow bowls but the occasional other piece gets done as well. Up until now I’ve been using whatever way I could to hold them while I worked on them but when I was cleaning up the wood pile I found a scrap of 1/4 pegboard I hadn’t used. It wasn’t big enough to use in a cabinet so it was on the throw out pile until I happened to see a picture of a carver using a bench hook with a few holes drilled in it to help hold their work.

A light went on and I realised that if I cut the pegboard up and glued it into a block I’d have the base of the hook done. I figured it was a good way to use up the scrap and it would give me something useful at the same time. Total build time ended up being a bit over two hours including finishing and making pegs.

To start with I cut three pieces to the roughly the same size, glued them up and when dry I cut them to final size. I’d decided to use the back of the pegboard as it looked nicer and the textured surface could be helpful.

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The next step was to cut a few pieces for the top as these stop the work moving. I’m right handed so the stops go top and left, if you were left handed you could put the left stop on the other side. I had another project being glued at the same time and it was at this point I stopped to think ‘I’m glad I have so many clamps’. I also cut and added the piece to make the hook part and attached it the same way. All of this is scrap pine leftover from other projects.

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Once the glue was dry, I removed the clamps, put in a few nails just to stop them moving when in use and cleaned it all up with a scraper. I’ve got an old skarsten scraper that does a great job removing glue. I picked it up for maybe $3 ages ago and use it all the time.

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The next step was to put a small chamfer on the edges. I used a block plane for what I could then finished with a chisel into the inside corner. I just happened to pick up my favourite 1″ chisel (funny that) and had to work pretty hard to get a shaving. Maybe I need to stop building jigs and spend some time sharpening!

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After this was done then the whole thing gets sanded. I didn’t sand the pegboard totally smooth as I wanted to keep some of the texture for grip, but I wanted it to look nice. I know some people who think that a jig is finished when it works, but there’s not much difference in time and effort between ‘works’ and ‘works and looks good’ so I put in the extra effort.

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Following on from the sanding, I gave the whole thing a coat of beeswax and buffed it to a nice shine. Then I cut some small length’s of 1/4 dowel to use as pegs and rounded the ends. Finished!!

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I wanted to take some pictures of it in action to show you how it works though. Here it is holding a relief carving I’m working on. You don’t need the pegs in place for this as the frame stops the work moving. It’s really good in use, I was finding on a normal bench hook the work would slip sideways as I pushed a gouge into it but this doesn’t have the same problem. You would of course put the hook over the edge of the bench but that doesn’t make for quite as a good a photo 😉

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It’s great for working on the bowl of a spoon. I normally hold the spoon and knife carve it, but the bowl normally give me trouble. Now with the pegs in place I can use a gouge to work on it without a problem. The pegs fit firmly into the holes and do a great job holding the spoon.

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Lastly, it also works on really odd shaped work. This is a dolphin I’ve been working on and just by moving the pegs into position I can get it to any angle I need.

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I’m really happy with the way it turned out and have already used it for a few more spoons since making it. Would I change anything about the design? Not at all. It works just the way I’d hoped. The only thing I may do is build some pegs with a piece on top that turns so I can lock a workpiece that doesn’t quite sit between pegs in place more tightly and that can be a project for another day.

Cheers

Andrew

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