A bench hook is one of the simplest of tools, but you’ll come to wonder how you did without it. It is made up of a few small scraps and allows you to cut with precision just about anywhere.
It consists of nothing more than a few scraps of wood that form a useful brace for sawing small parts. Rather than trying to clamp them in a vise or hold them on a sawhorse, the bench hook literally hooks on the edge of your bench and has a backstop to hold your part against.
This one was made from a small scrap of 1/2'' Baltic birch ply (14'' by 6-1/2'', but the exact dimensions are not critical) and two cleats of hardwood. A narrow cleat (about 3/4'' square) forms the “hook” and is mounted to the bottom edge of the ply panel. The second cleat is a bit wider (2'') and provides the backstop for the saw. Being wider, it also acts as a guide for the saw.
Ideally, you want to glue and clamp the cleat to the ply base avoiding the risk of damaging the saw blade on metal. But time is often an issue, so take a few seconds to mark out a square cut in the center, and 45 degree miters to each side to insure that your nails or screws are well away from those lines. The bench hook is now nearly ready to work. The last step is to use a trusted square to cut the guide kerfs where the lines are laid out.
Making the bench hook is easy, using it is simplicity itself. Rest the hook on the edge of the bench, and hold your stock tight to the back stop as you cut. The lower cleat holds everything from moving as the saw cuts away from the bench edge.
The bench hook is easy to make, needs no set up time, and works with nearly any flat surface. The kerfs will tend to wear, and at some point will no longer be accurate. When it gets worn, simply throw it away and make another. I often use mine with my hand planes as well.
By now, I hope that this series on handsaws has convinced you of their utility in your work shop and on the jobsite. Having a bench hook handy will only convince you more.