Bench Dog

A bench dog is a piece of hardware that fits into a workbench for the purpose of holding or steadying a piece of material. A woodworker might use a bench dog to clamp a block of wood in order to carve it, for example.

This particular Bench Dog happens to be a piece of furniture, a bench, that bears some resemblance to that popular animal, the dog.

It isn’t intended to be a true representation of a dog, or any other actual animal. It’s close enough, though, that I can’t help calling it a Bench Dog.

It began with a slab of oak from a collection I’ve been hoarding for literally decades. These pieces were cut from local trees (Connecticut) by the father of a close personal friend.

The design was essentially spontaneous, although the layout for the sliding dovetails required building the saw guide visible in a couple of the photos.   It allows for reasonable precision in the placement of the joints, as well as consistency in their size and geometry without a burdensome amount of fuss.  In fact, all four legs were more or less interchangeable.  That process was not the definition of spontaneity, though.

The carving was unguided freehand work.  End grain oak is not the traditional choice for carving.  It presented certain technical challenges, but I think that the unusual grain patterns it reveals are particularly beautiful.

I envisioned a double ended, two headed bench from the very beginning.  Each end has its own personality, but I’m a bit surprised at how similar they are to one another, given the freehand, eyeball-only methods employed.  I like the idea of these guys quietly, faithfully guarding their home.

I’ve given the feet the same recessed adjustable mechanism that I used on the Bench Racer, and applied felt pads as well, so it can stand steadily on any interior floor surface without worrying about damage.

Working with wood can be an intimate experience.  As a material, it has warmth and personality.  With it’s history, this lot of wood carries additional meaning, and as my own dog passed away before this bench was completed, I feel it carries a little more spirit as well.

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