Making Push Button Pop Up Bench Dogs Workshop Projects

The terrifying part: drilling holes into my brand new workbench. The payoff? A one-of-a-kind bench dog solution to a fairly common problem. And that problem is stock holding on a workbench, in particular holding stock while I work on one edge.

This idea came to me while cutting biscuit slots in the edge of a board and not having anything convenient to put the stock against. That’s key: convenient. If I have to fetch a clamp to get the stock secured, I’ll just try to hold it with my hand.
The inspiration for the push button action actually came from the pop-up dog I made in the wagon vise of my workbench and I thought it would be neat if I could do something similar in the top of the bench.

The Holes!

I started by building my drilling guide and using that with a 1″ Forstner bit to bore the holes 2″ deep:

It’s not unusual that one project can spawn another. The drilling guide was something I wanted to make, but the need for it on this project was the motivation required to get it done.

Each dog needs two holes that are spaced 1-3/8″ apart. One for the dog itself, and the other for the button that activates it:

I gave a lot of thought to the number and locations of these dogs, and settled on nine. The spacing from the edge is 1-3/4″ to the first row and 2″ farther for the next two. This will accommodate stock as narrow as 1-1/2″ and as wide as 6″ or more on the last row. The length-wise spacing is 12″ for the first set, then 24″ to the last, so shorter pieces of stock can be supported:

They also line up with the rectangular dogs on the other edge of the bench so that wide panels can be supported while working from the end of the bench. Of course it’s possible to add even more, but I thought that this would be just the right amount for nearly everything I’d want to do.

Connecting The Holes

The holes are connected at the bottom for the part that I’m calling the flipper or toggle. It lifts the bench dog when you push the button. Hard to take a picture of it, but if you look closely at the top two holes you’ll see that opening:

And here it is with the flipper inside:

I made a very simple drilling guide with a 1/2″ Forstner bit to make the bulk of the opening. A chisel clears the rest and cleans it up. These don’t have to be perfect – it is surprisingly easy to make the flipper mechanism work properly:

I show the drilling operation for this in the build video below.

The Flippers

The flippers are made from 1/2″ Russian birch plywood and I experimented with different angles before settling on the one that worked best:

It needs to be just slightly shorter than the total width of the two holes and rounded on the ends for smooth operation. Again, this is hard to mess up. It wants to work even when you do a sloppy job of making the part and cutting the connecting hole. Too tight would be the only thing to watch out for.

The Dogs And Buttons

I decided to go fancy with the bench dogs and use some of my spalted maple. I cut square blanks and then rounded them into 1″ dowels on my router table. The build video below shows this in detail:

I used walnut for the buttons.

Each bench dog needs to be done individually. There will always be some variation in the parts and depth of the holes that will affect the length of the dog and the button. I cut the dog to length first by putting it into the hole on top of the flipper with the flipper fully down:

Then with the dog in the hole, I can measure the button and cut that to length. The button will be much shorter, since it will be pushed up by the flipper:

Very important that these are either flush or slightly recessed. Having things catch on these when you don’t want them to would probably become annoying very quickly.

With all three sets installed you can see the amount of lift:

Changing the angle of the flipper will change how much sticks up, but I think this is perfect. And it doesn’t have to go fully up – you can go part way if you are working on thinner stock and need to clear these bench dogs.

Adding Some Friction

As shown in the build video, I used steel springs in the dogs to add some holding friction. But a good alternative is this foam:

The foam will act like a spring in the same way. Real spring best, but this is certainly good enough.

To finish, I dabbed on some oil to darken the walnut and make the spalted maple pop:

One problem that “popped” up was that these bench dogs tend to rotate while they are being used, and that spring loaded dowel I added can get trapped in the tunnel between the holes. A fix for it is to cut a groove in the bottom of the dog and button that fits over the flipper to keep them from rotating. That needs to be done before they are fitted and cut to length, though. I fixed mine by gluing pieces of wood to the bottom:

Another way would be to cut a shallow groove in the sides of the holes for the spring loaded dowels, but that’s a lot more work.

The build video shows the details I couldn’t cover here: