In Ireland, where I was taught, the first jig a woodworking apprentice makes is a bench hook—a simple, yet amazingly effective device used to hold small stock for sawing and trimming. The design itself is ancient; bench hooks have been used for centuries. But in the United States, my trusty “third hand” seems to be something of a novelty to my American woodworking friends. A bench hook allows you to hold workpieces securely on your bench without clamps. It's simply a flat board with cleats attached on opposite ends. During use, one cleat bears against the bench to act as a stop. The other supports the workpiece and provides a square shoulder for sawing and planing. A bench hook is great for cutting small hard-to-hold pieces, like dowels. As easy to set up and store as it is to use, a bench hook is one of my all-time favorite shop helpers.