I can hold my tongue no longer. After a decade of teaching woodworking I have become fed up with schools, books and magazines that promote a jig that reduces the general skill level of the population. It slows you down. And it is one more silly device that gets between you and the craft.
Decent craftsmen don’t need it.
I am talking, of course, about the bench hook.
While promoted as a way to get perfectly square results, this jig is a crutch that will prevent you from ever sawing straight freehand – then learning to stop your cut as soon as the teeth break through the work. This basic sawing skill, taught to apprentices for centuries, is the foundation for a mountain of other skills, such as freehand knifing of parquetry, cutting tenons without scribe lines and full-blind (meaning blindfolded) dovetails.
Oh, and the expense of the jig. Manufacturers will sell all manner of bench hooks to an unsuspecting beginner, wasting his or her money and feathering their own pockets. And beginners don’t buy just one bench hook – they end up buying four or five different varieties and end up never learning to saw.
Will you stand with me by refusing to teach beginners the use of this ridiculous crutch? And will you send letters to the editors of your favorite magazine every time one of these spurious time-wasters appears in their pages?
I await your affirmation.
— Christopher Schwarz