One of my early requirements was to be able to use square dogs with the bench. The square holes in the bench have been in place for quite some time. Now it’s time to fill them with dogs.
My thoughts on dog design, simple, elegant, and most important functional. I like the Benchcrafted designed ones, though my dimensions are slightly different.
Wood selection: I’d suggest seriously considering using scrap or just about anything you have laying around. I chose cherry, why? Well, no real reason other than aesthetically pleasing and I think it would look nice for this particular bench. Choose something of your liking and for your own reasons, not mine. A trip to a local Amish lumber yard, and a request for a nice piece of cherry, Herman (the owner) comes through with a beauty. It’s 6/4 stock, just under 8 inches wide and over 8 feet long. It’s bigger than I need but I am sure I will have future projects that I will use it on.
Since it’s only skip planed and slightly over sized, it needed a few passes through the planer to get it to the thickness desired and reasonably smooth. Then I rip cut it on the table saw to give an edge that was reasonably straight. A pass through the jointer, made that edge true.
The cherry gets ripped to approximate dog width, then cut to length. I need 17 dogs to fill all the dog holes in the bench, but we are making 20. My reasoning behind this? Just in case we screw some up along the way, break one some day or need something customized for particular jobs. Then there is the most likely reason, to replace the one I will inevitably loose, after all it is supposed to be a portable bench.
The next was to flip through the pieces and select the orientation, making sure the quarter sawn grain is toward the back of the dog. Hey it’s pretty, so shush! Then I made sure the sap pockets were minimal and in areas that wouldn’t affect structural stability or could be cut off with a future step. I also considered grain, trying to keep as much strength as I could. Unfortunately, the nice quarter sawn grain ended up losing a few times over strength. I just put a simple X on the face as a quick reference.
Then I cut the spring angle – this is where the wooden spring will be attached later. I did this on the table saw using my wedge cutting jig. This was a lot quicker than I anticipated. I just set on the line, locked it down and ran it through the saw. Very simple.
We should have done the next step before cutting the spring angle, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. Using a miter gauge with a stop set, I was able to quickly and consistently cut the shoulder on each of the dogs. Note this shoulder should be cut at a complimentary angle to the bench dog holes to minimize breaking the face off later.
Off to the band saw, after a few trial cuts and a little experimenting, the fence was set and I ripped them all to the desired width. The cut was intentionally left short for the following step.
To make the transition from the rip cut to the cross cut, I chose to use a small Forsner drill bit. This left a small radius, and I’m hoping it will slightly add to the strength of the face.
At this point all of the dogs are cut to approximate shape. One side is still rough, but its close at least. Next I cut a bunch of 1/8″ springs from scrap ash. Nothing special, just a little springy is all I need.
Onto cleaning up the rough side of the dog. This was accomplished with a couple of cheek floats I made a while back. I am still amazed at how well they work. It only takes a couple of passes and the dogs are smooth enough for what they’re for. The radius created with the Forstner bit was cleaned up with a course round file.
The previous angled cut on the table saw with the wedge jig was close, and we did a little fine tuning and smoothing with a Stanley #5, set fine. A typical smoother just doesn’t have the length. Brad did this step, he rested the heal of the plane on the face of the dog and with a few passes they were cleaned up and looking great.
The ash springs were mated with a cherry dog and pre-drilled. Both pieces were marked with a unique letter, this allows for easy matching later if they get separated. Unfortunately I couldn’t easily find my counter sink due to the recent move of the my shop space, so I used a carving gouge to counter sink the screw heads before attaching the springs. They are screwed together with a 3/4″ #6 stainless steel screw.
The assembly was taken apart, and the inside surfaces were looked over and cleaned up one last time. A quick coat of Danish Oil was applied to the inside surfaces, except where the glue will go. I did this step now as its much easier to get the finish on the inside before final assembly. I didn’t bother to wait for the finish to dry, I just reattached the spring to the dog, but this time I added a dab of hide glue before screwing it back together, no clamp needed. Hide glue allows me to take it apart in the future if I have a need.
Back to the bench for some trial and error fitting. I planed the sides of the dog to between snug and sloppy, this should be good enough for when I travel with the bench and they expand from the humidity changes. Once fit, each piece and the corresponding dog hole were numbered as they are custom fit.
Currently the dogs stand proud of the work surface. Once the work surface has been planed to its final thickness I’ll trim the dogs to be ever so slightly below the surface. Later I will add at least two coats of Danish Oil to them. After the finish is fully dried I’ll hide glued on some suede to each of the faces and trim with a sharp knife. The suede will help cushion and grip whatever is being clamped.
I’m very pleased to have the dogs in the bench and usable, a sense of accomplishment for sure. Now if I could only get the end vise attached and functional.