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Comments in What is a shooting board? have taken me further down the rabbit hole.

What is a bench hook and how is it used?

  • Good answers below. If you compare these with the shooting boards in the other question I think you can see the similarities. In a pinch, one can sometimes be used as a substitute for the other, or you could design something that is a shooting board on one side and a bench hook if you flip it over. – keshlam May 7 '15 at 3:40
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A bench hook is quite simply the most useful simple woodworking jig/appliance that the handtool user can make. As Chris Schwarz says about them, "After working with one for a couple weeks, you will wonder how you ever got by without it."

In addition to its main purpose as a sawing aid a bench hook can function as a basic shooting board, the large surface can be used for chopping with a chisel (why they're sometimes also called chopping hooks) and the bar can also be used as a backstop for planing, so in essence larger bench hooks can convert any suitable flat surface into a temporary woodworking area, with sawing, planing and chopping functionality. Which is a neat trick for just three pieces of wood glued together.

There are many minor variations in design for bench hooks as you'd expect for an accessory like this which is so commonly handmade by the woodworker. The one in the photo in the response by WhatEvil is actually more suited to a left-hander, a right-hander's would more commonly have the stop offset to the left like this:

Chris Schwarz bench hook

Some have a stop that spans the whole width, which can be low-profile to allow planing of thinner stock:

Low-profile bench hook

And with a minor modification a bench hook can function as a mitre block as well:

Mitre-block bench hook

  • The first picture (with the clamp) is somewhat confusing. You say 3 pieces of wood, and I see a larger board with 2 smaller 'sticks' sitting on top on one end. All the other pictures show one 'stick' at each end and on each side. Is that top picture the supply list for making a bench hook, prior to assembly? – FreeMan May 6 '15 at 18:59
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    @FreeMan Since the picture is Birdseye the board below is obfuscated. While the clamp might be misleading it looks like it is being used to measure the length of dowel that was cut in that picture on the bench hook. – Matt May 7 '15 at 1:30
  • Yep, the clamp acts as a secondary stop to allow repeated cutting to the same length. – keshlam May 7 '15 at 3:41
  • Ahhh... got it. See, I said it was confusing! – FreeMan May 7 '15 at 14:54
  • Actually the one I posted is ambidextrous - look at the pic again - you just need to flip it over and it becomes right-handed. – WhatEvil May 8 '15 at 13:14
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Bench Hook

This is a bench hook!

A very simple and handy device, it gives you a nice solid fence which you can push a piece of wood (or metal, or whatever) against, holding it steady and allowing you to saw it easily.

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    Not just for sawing, but also carving, planing, etc. – Caleb May 6 '15 at 16:52

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