What Is a Bench Dog?

woodworking bench with bench dogs

Woodworkers know that a well-designed workbench is the heart of any shop. It's the sturdy, versatile surface where the magic happens - where projects take shape through the careful application of hand tools and craftsman's skills. Among the many essential features of a traditional workbench, bench dogs stand out as a simple yet invaluable tool that opens up a world of possibilities.

So, What Is a Bench Dog?

A bench dog, at its core, is a peg or post that fits into holes cut into the workbench top. These dogs can be raised or lowered when needed. Bench dogs are used to project above the surface and provide an anchoring point for holding workpieces securely in place.

The origins of bench dogs can be traced back centuries, to the time when hand tools were the norm, and woodworkers relied on ingenious workholding solutions. As workbench design evolved, integrated dogs became a standard feature. They were typically arranged in rows close to the front edge and along the center of the benchtop. Traditional wooden bench dogs are still popular. But modern variations now include metal options and spring-loaded mechanisms for added versatility.

How to Use Bench Dogs

Woodworking bench dogs serve two primary purposes that make them indispensable for efficient, accurate handwork.

Clamping Workpieces Securely

The most common use of bench dogs is to clamp boards, panels, and other workpieces firmly against the benchtop. You can use them in tandem with a bench vice, clamps, stops, and other work-holding devices. By extending the dogs just above the surface, they hold even the most awkward or delicate components in a secure, stable position. This allows you to focus on your hand tool work - whether sawing, chiseling, planing, or more - without worrying about the workpiece shifting or slipping.

Supporting Long Workpieces

Bench dogs are also invaluable for supporting the overhanging ends of longboards. They prevent sag and unwanted movement during operations. Used along with accessories like bench hooks and support sticks, woodworking dogs ensure your workpiece remains perfectly aligned and stable from end to end. They work even on pieces that extend far beyond the benchtop.

Apart from the mentioned core uses, woodworking bench dogs offer incredible versatility. They can serve as a fulcrum for bending or breaking down components. Bench dogs provide an anchor point for specialized clamps or jigs. This device can even offer a solid mounting surface for routing, shooting boards, and other accessories. The ability to securely fasten workpieces and add support opens up limitless possibilities.

woodworking bench with bench dogs

Common Bench Dog Types and Accessories

The traditional workbench relied on simple wooden bench dogs. They are often made from the same hardwood as the bench itself. These dogs are still popular today for their durability and classic look. More modern options include metal bench dogs crafted from steel, aluminum, or other sturdy materials.

Spring-loaded bench dogs are another innovation boasting a mechanism that allows the dog to retract below the surface when not in use. This is a convenient solution that protects both the user and the bench from damage.

Beyond the standard bench dog, there is an entire ecosystem of specialized accessories that enhance their functionality:

  • Dog hole accessories like plates and clamping squares provide a smooth, flat surface around the dog hole and add stability.
  • Attachments like clamping pads and risers mount onto the dog and increase work-holding options.
  • Corner accessories help you secure workpieces at a perfect 90-degree angle.

When selecting bench dogs and accessories, consider factors like the diameter of your existing dog holes, the thickness of your benchtop, and the specific tasks you need to accomplish.

Bench Dog Installation and Use Tips

To get the most out of your bench dogs for woodworking, proper installation and use is key:

  • Position bench dogs and accessories thoughtfully, ensuring they will align with your workpieces and clamps in the optimal configuration.
  • Install dogs securely to prevent them from popping out unexpectedly during use. Adjust their projection height to match the needs of your project and tools.
  • Use bench dogs together with other work-holding accessories like clamps, stops, and support blocks. Layering these tools is the key to achieving a rock-solid hold.
  • Always follow basic safety precautions. Keep your bench dog installation tight, your accessories in good repair, and your hands far from pinch points.
woodworking bench top with metal dogs

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Make Bench Dogs?

Craft short, cylindrical pegs from sturdy hardwood. These pegs should fit snugly into the dog holes on your workbench. Select a dense, durable wood like hard maple or white oak. Rip pieces to the appropriate length for your bench - typically 3-4 inches long. Then crosscut these into square blanks slightly larger than your dog holes. You can craft the pegs using a woodturning lathe. But a tried-and-true method is to shape them by hand using rasps, files, sandpaper, and good old-fashioned elbow grease.

How to Drill Bench Dog Holes?

To achieve well-placed holes for bench dogs, lay out the hole locations thoughtfully and drill them cleanly to ensure proper fit and stability. Start by marking hole locations along the front edge of your benchtop. They are typically spaced 4-6 inches apart. Mark a row down the center if you intend to support longer workpieces. Use an awl or punch to create a starting divot at each spot.

Select the appropriate drill bit - one that matches the diameter of your bench dogs for a snug fit. Chuck the bit securely in a corded or cordless drill. Make sure to drill straight down into the benchtop at a perfect 90-degree angle.

How Deep Should Bench Dog Holes Be?

The ideal depth for bench dog holes depends on the thickness of your workbench top and the type of bench dogs you'll be using. As a general rule, you'll want the holes to extend approximately 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through the benchtop thickness. This provides enough depth for the dogs to securely anchor in the wood while leaving an adequate amount of material at the bottom of the holes.


In the world of woodworking, bench dogs may seem like a simple tool, but they are truly invaluable. By allowing you to clamp workpieces securely, support overhanging ends, and open up countless work-holding possibilities, they elevate your benchtop into a more versatile, productive workspace. From the traditional wooden peg to modern spring-loaded designs and specialized accessories, bench dogs will always have a place in the well-equipped shop. Make bench dogs an integral part of your workbench, and take your handwork to new heights of efficiency and accuracy.