Looking to “fill out” an order of woodworking supplies, I decided to buy a four pack of bench cookies. I was somewhat skeptical of these relative newcomers to the woodworking scene, but for 12 bucks, how could I go wrong? I figured I could always use them as drink coasters if they didn’t perform well in the wood shop.
The idea behind bench cookies is simple. They’re basically heavy plastic pucks with non-slip, non-marring rubber pads on each side. They’re designed to grip both the work surface and the work piece when sanding, planing, routing, cutting, etc. making clamps and other hold-down devices unnecessary. That means no repositioning clamps and no clamp marks. The cookies also elevate the work piece by and inch or so to make it easier to sand and finish the edges.
The bench cookies that I picked up were made by Bench Dog Tools, which I believe was the first company to make bench cookies. Rockler also has their own brand of cookies – they look identical to the Bench Dog Tools product but they are blue rather than orange. Both companies have steadily expanded their line of bench cookie accessories with things like risers, cones that minimize surface contact, and racks for hanging your cookies on the wall. No telling what they’ll come up with next.
A recent project where I used bench cookies was refinishing an old walnut bench. This involved arranging the cookies into a rough rectangle to match the footprint of each piece and laying the piece on top. I was able to sand down the old finish using both a palm sander and random orbit circular sander without the wood budging an inch. I have to say I was pretty impressed by that. I also appreciated the ability to sand the edges without hanging the board over the edge of the work surface. A definite time saver.
The cookies kept a good grip even when coated with sanding dust. Whether that gripping power will hold up over the long haul remains to be seen. In terms of holding the work piece in place, I would say that the cookies were at least as effective, it not more so, than a routing mat. Even so, I have to give the nod to the bench cookies because they elevate the work piece and don’t fill up with dust the way a routing mat does. They also look cool – that has to count for something, no?
To date, I’ve only used bench cookies for light routing, sanding, and finishing. I hesitate to use them for operations such as cutting and planing that apply more force to the work piece and hence are potentially more dangerous. Even if I thought it likely that the bench dogs were up to the task in these other situations, I still feel more comfortable using traditional clamps to keep the work piece secure. But when it comes to boring jobs like sanding, the bench cookies are a real time saver and I expect they’ll get lots of use going forward.