Workbench Build #5: Square or round? Round or Square? Doggone it, somebody throw me a bone!!!

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Blog entry by Mark Kornell posted 04-17-2014 04:02 AM 4915 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Almost the whole top Part 5 of Workbench Build series Part 6: Mmmm, bacon »

I knew I’d come to this point – and I don’t mean throwing out pithy blog entry titles. I’d have to decide what kind of dog holes I want.

Jameel Abraham (Mr. Benchcrafted) feels pretty strongly that square dogs are the only way. Chris Schwarz used to be agnostic, but now has a strong preference for round dogs.

Lon Schleining suggests using both. Scott Landis doesn’t really state a preference in his book, but most of the benches he shows have square holes.

Interestingly, Roubou’s plate 11 bench doesn’t have a vise, and therefore no dog holes. It does, however, have round holes for holdfasts. And a square planing stop.

So, naturally, I went with square holes.

A week ago, I milled the dog board. Got a piece of jatoba nice and straight, and cut off a chunk for where the wagon block will slide. That chunk will become the wagon block.

Today I built the jig to make the dog holes. Pretty basic stuff:

I built it square, then cut a spacer with a 2° taper to slant the dogs. The spacer was from a 6-squared 2×10:

Fastened the spacer on the template at my mark:

Next step was to cut a 3/8” slice off the edge of the dog boards. First, drill some holes for alignment when gluing back together:

I’d already laid out where the dog holes are going, so I made sure the alignment holes wouldn’t get in the way. (The pencil lines are pretty faint in the pic.) And they are placed toward the bottom of the board. If the top ever gets flattened down far enough to expose the dowels, it is time for a new bench.

Then off to the bandsaw, small chunk first.

Good excuse to tune the bandsaw. The result is nice:

Then comes the long board:

And about 2 feet in, I notice the fence has slipped due to me putting a lot of lateral pressure on the board to keep it squared to the fence. Hasn’t slipped much, but enough that I consider re-purposing the board for firewood.

I look in my lumber stash and find some 9/4 jatoba. Would be perfect, except it has over a 1/2” bow. Well, maybe I can salvage this board, just need to make it a bit thinner.

Tighten up the fence lock, set some featherboards to apply lateral pressure. And make the cut. Works out OK, except the one straight board is now two pieces of bacon. Serious reaction wood, I’m kind of glad I didn’t use my tablesaw to do the cut. And they are bacon-y enough they may not even clamp flat. (I tried.)

And considering the firewood option again, I decide to see if I can make it work before abandoning the piece. That’s the great thing about woodworking – if you screw up, you can always start a fire.

I try using the router to do the first dog hole:

Works OK, but is pretty hard on the router. I waste away most of the holes using my table saw and the tapered spacer.

Routing the rest of each hole is much easier.

I got about halfway through the board and called it a day. The interesting part will be trying to glue the thing back together.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

7 comments so far

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8574 posts in 3095 days

#1 posted 04-17-2014 04:11 AM

I can’t believe you went with square holes. Your so gonna regret it….lol. I can see tiny advantages to each, but either will hold your work.

Looking good man.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1171 posts in 3643 days

#2 posted 04-17-2014 04:12 AM

I may yet change my mind :-)

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View JayT's profile


6425 posts in 3323 days

#3 posted 04-17-2014 11:09 AM

Now you know why round holes. Glue up the top flat and square and then make the dog holes later. No bacon required.

Mmmmmm, bacon! I shouldn’t have posted around breakfast time.

We could start a great round vs. square debate. See if we can get to the vitriol of the SawStop threads. :-)

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View john2005's profile


1768 posts in 3290 days

#4 posted 04-17-2014 06:48 PM

Lookin good Mark.

And I’ll enter any debate where I get bacon. Just sayin.

-- In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

View BubbaIBA's profile


545 posts in 3489 days

#5 posted 04-18-2014 04:03 AM

I’ve done both. My current bench has square, the next will have round. The next bench will only have dog holes that are associated with the tail vise running about half way up the bench, the ones near the front vise are never used….holdfast holes are another story and also the reason for round. Square are a PITA to install, not as functional, nor as versatile, for me it’s a no-brainer. YMMV

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1171 posts in 3643 days

#6 posted 04-18-2014 06:40 AM

In truth, the reason I went for square dogs boils down to aesthetics. I simply like the look better.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View Kaytrim's profile


63 posts in 4688 days

#7 posted 12-28-2014 10:58 PM

You have your reason for the square holes. One way to avoid the bacon problem is to use two boards of the same type of wood. Then cut the holes on the face of one. I can see the aesthetics of having the holes in the center of the jotoba though. Seeing that the bench is finished as I type this it is all mot. Good looking bench, get some good use of it for a long time.

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