Bench Dog Hole Size & Spacing Guide

(Last Updated On: May 7, 2021)
Drill bench dog holes.

The bench dog hole is often a point of argument amongst woodworkers around the world. What should be the size of the hole? Is there a perfect size for the spacing between each bench dog hole? All these and more are common questions that fly around during such debates. 

In a woodwork shop, the workbench is undeniably one of the most necessary equipment of the trade. Indeed, if you set up your workbench right, it instantly becomes a 3-D clamping gadget that will hold any workpiece in place. To do this, all you have to do is dog holes into its top. This way, the workbench becomes more efficient in working with your vice to secure workpieces of various sizes.

However, it is at this point that many woodworkers seek answers about dog holes.

Have you ever engaged in arguments about the parameters of bench dog holes? Perhaps you’re a new woodwork enthusiast looking to find answers. Whichever the case may be, you’re in luck. Today, we will shed light on everything you need to know about the size and spacing of bench dog holes.

What is a Bench Dog?

Bench dog is the term that describes an accessory that woodworkers use on their workbenches to clamp wood pieces. To give you a clearer picture, a bench dog is essentially a peg that goes into a matching dog hole in the top of a bench. 

Typically, these dog holes are perpendicular to the vice on your workbench. This way, you have the distance between one dog hole and the jaws of your vice to clamp your wood pieces.

Bench dogs may be square or round. Pro tip: round dog holes are more convenient to drill but may not have the best gripping surface. However, you may use round bench dogs that have one of their sides flattened. 

You may also need to provide a source of friction for your bench dog (square or round) to prevent it from slipping down the hole. You may achieve this by wrapping some spring wire on the side of the bench dog. Or better still, ensure that your bench dog fits the hole snugly.

Making A Bench Dog Hole: How Large Should It Be?

I can confirm that the most common and applicable bench dog hole size is 3/4, as it is the most commonly used dog hole size for almost every woodworker.

However, the truth is there is no standard for the size of bench dog holes. It all depends on the type and size of vice you use, the scale of most of your work, and several other factors. In other words, the size of your bench dog holes must be suitable for all the work that you do.

That said, a ¾ inch dog hole is the most common size that most woodworkers use. Understandably, you may think that this size is small and may not work for your needs. The truth is it’s really not. Indeed, many pro woodworkers swear by the ¾ inch bench dog hole. 

However, if you need to, you may try the 1-inch dog holes. Interestingly, they are the second most common size of dog holes in workbenches.

Before you start drilling your dog holes, it is best to decide on the bench dog you’re getting. After all, you cannot fit a square peg into a round hole. Moreover, you also want to make sure that the sizes correspond such that your bench dogs don’t slip out while you work. Or worse, you can’t get them in at all.

After deciding on your bench dog’s size and shape, the next step is to drill the hole. If you are drilling a round dog hole, you can use a drill with a bit size that works. However, a square dog hole is not as straightforward. You may have to use a chisel and hammer, much like the way you create a mortise. 

Or, cut some corresponding dadoes into the boards that will make up your benchtop. Then, all you have to do is laminate the boards, and you’ll have your square dog holes.

Interestingly, dadoes and lamination is the more common method. But it requires more planning. You’d have to decide the number and spacing of dog holes you want on your workbench. This brings us to your next point.

Making A Bench Dog Hole: What is the Optimum Spacing?

Typically, your dog holes should be in a position perpendicular to your bench vice. Now, you probably already know one dog hole is not enough. So, how many should you drill into your bench? More importantly, what should be the spacing between each dog hole?

Once again, there is no universally-accepted dog hole spacing. Instead, your work requirements should be your deciding factor. For instance, are you using both sides of your workbench, or it’s up against a wall? Several other factors also play a role in determining your dog hole spacing. Notwithstanding, we can guide you in deciding a spacing system that works for you.

With dog holes, the goal is to create a spacing interval such that you can secure a board of any width to your workbench. Here’s how to do it:

  • First off, measure the width of your vice’s jaw. (We’ll use a maximum capacity of 6½ for this analogy) In other words, any board larger than that requires a bench dog.
  • Next, close the vice jaws. Then, measure 6 inches (slightly less than the vice’s maximum) perpendicularly from the vice’s dog and mark that point. This is where you’ll locate your first dog hole.
  • With a bench dog in the first dog hole, your vice can now clamp boards with sizes ranging from 6 inches to 12½ inches. Don’t stop now!
  • From the center of the first dog hole, measure another 6 inches, and drill a hole at that point too.
  • Repeat this step until you run out of room on your bench surface.

In this analogy, we used a 6-inch spacing, and we find that it worked reasonably well for all workpieces we used. However, it is not a hard and fast rule. You may choose to use any spacing that works for you, as the above is merely a guide. 

But, always remember to take the maximum capacity of your bench vice into consideration. Based on that number and other related factors, you may decide the spacing for your dog holes.

Wrap Up

There is no established rule for the size and spacing of dog holes in workbenches. All you need to do is consider your various work requirements and decide based on your answers. However, we hope we’ve been able to share some insight into choosing a bench hole size and spacing that works for you. With these tips, you should have a useful bench dog and hole system in no time.

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