How to make dog holes and bench dogs

Dog holes are holes drilled into woodworking work benches. Bench dogs are inserted into dog holes to allow for additional clamping capabilities of the workbench.

In this article, we will discuss how to create dog holes and bench dogs for your woodworking workbench. We will also discuss ideal doghole shapes, sizes, and more!

To learn more about bench dogs and dog holes, clamping methods, and their pros and cons, then you should check out this article “Workbench clamping methods: Bench dogs and dog holes”.


How to create dog holes

Before creating dog holes, you will need to determine if you want to make 3/4″ or 1″ dog holes.

3/4″ Dog holes

  • Less clamp force
  • More tabletop weight

1″ Dog holes

  • More clamp force
  • Less tabletop weight

I personally use 3/4″ dog holes because they offer plenty of clamping force and I have a workbench vise. I also wanted the extra weight for my workbench to give it more stability to prevent rocking when using hand tools.

Which every dog hole size that you pick, you will want to use the corresponding hole bring router big, spade bit, and dowels.

To learn more about dog holes sizes and their pros and cons, skip to the common questions section of this article.


  1. Router
  2. Hole boring router bit (3/4 or 1″)
  3. Router fence or straight edge
  4. Spade bit (3/4 or 1″)
  5. Drill
  6. Drill bit
  7. Sandpaper
  8. Dowels (3/4 or 1″)
  9. Handsaw
  10. Chisel


  1. Mark dog hole locations
  2. Set up router and router fence
  3. Mark router fence
  4. Drill pilot holes with router
  5. Drill holes with spade bit
  6. Sand rough edges


Step 1: Mark dog hole locations

In this step, you will need to determine the spacing between, and the location of your dog holes.

To learn more about how to space dog holes, go to this part of the article.

Determine the horizontal and vertical spacing between the holes, and mark the location using a straight edge ruler, level, or piece of wood.

-In order to determine the spacing, you will need to first consider what you will use the dog holes for. Are you are using your dog holes to hold bench dogs, holdfasts, or both?-

You only have to mark one row horizontally and vertically.

Step 2: Set up router and router fence

If using scrap wood as a router fence, make sure it is straight and not warped.

Place the router over one of the marked dog holes and align the router fence.

Hint: Make sure both ends of the fence the same distance from the front of the workbench.

Step 3: Mark router fence

In this step, you will mark the router fence so that you can align the router and perform quick boring.

Mark where the table ends on the router fence.

Align router over dog hole, and mark where the ends of the router fence touches the wood.

Now you will have an outline on where the put the router every time.

Step 4: Drill pilot holes with router

Now we will drill all of the pilot holes for the work bench. This will give our spade bit something to start with when we completely bore the holes and it will prevent ugly blowout.

Align router with marked locations on the router fence and plunge route the pilot hole.

Repeat steps 2 & 4 for the remainder rows. You can skip step 3 because we already marked our fence locations 🙂

Step 5: Drill holes with spade bit

After you have completed step 3 for all of your dog holes, you can now remove the router fence and get ready to completely bore the hole.

Bore through the wood until the drill bit barely peeps through the bottom side.

Bore the underside to complete the hole and prevent tear out.

Repeat for all of the pilot holes.

Step 6: Sand rough edges

Sand rough edges of the dog holes if there was any tear out.

I recommend using 80-120 grit for ugly tear out and 220-320 to smoothen edges.

How to create bench dogs

Wood dowels are the cheapest dowel to make. They provide needed stability to hold wood in place and are easy to make.


  • Dowel
  • Handsaw
  • Pen/pencil
  • Vise
  • Chisel
  • Mallet


  1. Mark dowels
  2. Cut dowels to size
  3. Handsaw dowel notch depth line
  4. Chisel dowel vertical line

Step 1: Mark dowels

First you need to mark two lines on the dowel, one for the dowel length and one for the depth of the notch.

Mark first line at least .5″ longer than the workbench thickness. For example, if your work bench is 3″ thick, then the mark the line at least 3.5″ from the dowel edge.

Mark second line at least .5″ shorter than the first line. For example, if you marked your first line at 3.5″, then your second line should be at 3″ or less.

My workbench tabletop is 3.5″ thick. I marked my first line at the 4″ mark and the second line at the 3.5″ mark.

Step 2: Cut dowels to size

Cut the further line to cut the dowel to size.

I have two lines, one at the 4″ mark and the other at the 3.5″ mark. So I cut the 4″ line.

Step 3: Mark the thickness of the notch

I like to eyeball and make my notches 1/4 to 1/2 the thickness of the dowel.

Honestly, this part is not too important. Just eyeball 1/4 to 1/2 of the thickness of the dowel and draw a vertical line from the marked horizontal line.

You do not want to cut off too much material like 3/4 or more of the dowel, because too much clamping pressure can split the dowel.

Step 3: Handsaw dowel notch depth line

Using a handsaw, saw down the notch depth line to the notch thickness line.

Step 4: Chisel dowel vertical line

Using a chisel, lightly chisel down to the notch depth line.

Chisel small sections at a time to prevent going too far. To learn more about chisel techniques, check out my article “Chisels Complete Guide”.

Common Questions

How deep should my dog holes be?

Dog holes should be the depth of your workbench. Having a hole that does not completely go through the workbench will result in wood shavings, saw dust, and other small items like nails getting trapped.

What diameter should my dog hole be?

I recommend using 3/4 to 1″ dowels for dogholes.

3/4″ dogholes1″ dog holes
Less clamping surface area- ConMore clamping surface area- Pro
Doesn’t reduce workbench weight as much – ProMore durability- Pro
Reduces weight of workbench- Con

1″ dog holes will have more contact area and will be more durable for tight clamping.

3/4″ dog holes will result in less hole area and more density and mass for the table top.

Both have their pros and cons; I personally use 3/4″ dogholes since they provide plenty clamping capabilities and reduce the weight of my workbench less.


In this article, we went over how to create dog holes and bench dogs.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article and I wish you luck on your woodworking journeys!


My name is Rachel Blanding and I am a woodworker. I started woodworking at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I mainly create and refurbish furniture and create art. In this site I will share with you the knowledge I have gained over the years, and what worked for me and what didn't.

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