I promise I’ll get better at my titles but I couldn’t help it. This post was based on a question Eric Goodson asked about the dog I have in my stump (chopping block). Dogs are generally used on benches, and Felibien and Moxon had dog holes all over their benches, although I’m not sure that they called them that. In the pictures of their benches there are holdfasts and planing stops, and the uses are very basic. Planing stops were used by placing the stock against the stop, and it’s teeth kept it in place while you went to town with your plane. Holdfasts were set into the dog hole with the stock between the foot of the holdfast and the bench. When struck with a mallet the lateral pressure inside the dog hole keeps the holdfast pressed down hard on your stock, then by striking the back of the stem it comes loose. Keep stock put so you can work on it; simple stuff, but indispensable on a joiners bench.
Moxon’s bench (planing stop on left, holdfast on right)
My dog is used much like a planing stop or dog on a bench, but adapted to be used on a very modern tree stump. The dog is a piece of a 3/4″ inch oak dowel and it fits into a hole around 1.5″ deep. I use the dog for two parts of my process. First is if I need to make any saw cuts I place the spoon blank on the far side of the dog to keep it put while sawing. I use a Japanese saw so it cuts on the pull stroke. Of course a western saw could be used, but the blank would go between you and the dog to push the saw and have the dog support the blank in the cut. This is especially useful as the blank for an eating spoon is 6-8 inches long and awkward to hold without clamping or using a vise.
I make the cut, then flip the blank and make the other cut looking from above to make sure I stay close to my line.
The second use of the dog is for one particular axe cut. When shaping a blank with the axe it is important to have a good unobstructed view to insure consistent thickness and symmetry. In most cuts this just means finding a good way to grip the blank safely and lining your eye up with the cutting edge of the axe to always insure you are staying close to your drawn or imaginary line. The cut that always gave me trouble was thinning the thickness of the end of the bowl and keeping the shape I was going for. One way this cut can be made is to cut cross-grain with the spoon blank parallel to the surface of the stump. The problem I have with that is I can only see the thickness of one half of the bowl, leaving the half you are cutting blind. One of the other problems is you can blow out the whole side of the bowl if you are not careful.
My solution is by placing the end of the blank handle against the dog I can stop the blank from moving while making a cut at the very end of the bowl towards the dog. Also, it helps make a dangerous cut a little safer by having the dog between my hand and the axe (although my fingers are kind of hanging out there). I don’t recommend beginners or those skittish around axes to jump right into this cut but it can be very useful. The big benefit of this cut is that I can see the axe entering the bowl and make sure it is removing an even amount of waste left to right.
I then stand the blank vertical and remove the waste.
Now I’m ready to move to the hook knife.
I’m a sucker for efficiency and this cut reduces the amount of hook knife work dramatically. There are a few other times having the dog comes in handy, but these two functions are why I installed it in the first place. Please understand axes are very dangerous and I have a few years experience using them in close quarters to my hands. Alright now don’t blame me for anything that happens to you and have a great day!!