Be sure to visit the Hand Tool Headlines section - scores of my favorite woodworking blogs in one place.  Also, take note of Norse Woodsmith's latest feature, an Online Store, which contains only products I personally recommend.  It is secure and safe, and is powered by Amazon.


A Cool Idea



I just noticed a cool thing being done with a bench hook.

One of the handiest tools to have in a hand tool shop is a bench hook..  In its simplest form, it serves as just a backstop to hold a piece while sawing or otherwise working on it.  There's a fence on each side, one to hold against the bench and the other to hold the material being worked on.  It's a simple tool, a fence, one easily constructed from scraps in the shop.  Indeed, over the years I have constructed many - none really worthy of showing here, and the last I had was long ago used up as material in another project (something that seems to happen to the jigs in my shop all the time...).

For a great deal of the work one does, it doesn't have to be anymore than that.

A few days ago, the latest Evenfall Woodworks blog entry went through the old Norsewoodsmith aggregator caught my attention.  He is showing off his latest offering, a bench hook.  I know, I know - but here was a real cool idea - a new twist on a simple tool.

I've known Rob for a while now.  When the recession came knocking, his work in the construction industry took a hit, so he's made some lemonade from it by producing an innovative shooting board - one that has an adjustable fence so one can shoot different angles all with one shooting board.  With quality craftsmanship, it's a good product, and a space saver - at least over the 4 I always seem to have.  I should say three, because whenever I need one I suddenly realize it's now part of the other jig I made and didn't have the right piece of plywood that one bench hook was made of, and now have to make another.

Anyway, he's taken his shooting board idea and applied it to the lowly bench hook:

The Evenfall Adjustable Bench Hook
The Handsaw Mag Guide

An adjustable fence on a bench hook.  Now, why didn't I ever think of that?

My first thought, looking at it, was what a good idea for cutting inlay.  I've cut my inlay using a bandsaw or with a specially made bench hook - or if doing it on a square bench hook with a scrap fence at the right angle one always have to contort themselves to the angle with the saw as it sits on the bench in front of you.   Think of the inlay classical guitar makers create rosettes from...  cutting the delicate "logs" requires a good deal of finesse.  This thing solves a lot of those issues and would work perfectly. He's even added a sacrificial strip that can be replaced.

While perusing his site, I also see he's come up with some rather neat magnetic fences for sawing (he calls them "Handsaw Mag Guides"  - again, a cool idea for sawing inlay where you want to waste as little as possible, or when accuracy is important, such as with stick moldings on drawers.  I seem to remember Veritas making something similar for cutting dovetails - this is infinitely more adjustable.  I like it!  About the only thing I think I might change is the acorn nut - I think I'd want that flush so it could sit flat on the bench should the need come up.

I own a great old Millers Falls miter box that can do a lot of this too, but frankly I find the mechanics of it sometimes get in the way when I'm working on smaller stuff.  I like the freedom and openness a bench hook gives, but again, it has its own limitations...  So often it's just too simple for its own good.  Here we have a set of tools that addresses the limitations of both  - it has the openness of the bench hook and  (with the guides) the accuracy of the miter box.  Good job, Rob!

Are they for everyone?  Of course not.  Not everyone is going to need that fine control.  But if you are working with small pieces, and waste is something you don't want, then these look pretty nifty...  I might try making my own at some point - or perhaps not,  I might just bite the bullet and have Rob send me them.  If there's one thing I've found that is most precious to me as of late, it's time.  I simply don't have anywhere near the time I used to to do these things as I used to.  

I encourage you all to peruse Rob's site.  He's got some great references available and sells some pretty innovative, neat stuff.