Category: Transportation Safety Equipment

DIY Subway Hook

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Subway Hook is designed for individuals who have limited shoulder movement or who may have a shorter stature and ride public transportation, such as subway or a railway and have difficulty reaching the horizontal bars for stability. 


Hardwood Veneer.

Glue: Any wood glue will work.

Leather: raw leather (e.g. an old belt).

Rubber: a bike tube or gasket tape.

Tape: Packing tape and blue painters' tape will be necessary.

Scrap Wood: 2x4- to be used for the molds.

Hardware: One bolt and one nut, but grommets are a nice addition.


A ruler and utility knife.

A few clamps

Drill and a leather punch.

Band saw


Rotary tool such as a Dremel.

If you are using raw leather I suggest some burnishing gum and a slicker.

Sand paper.

Technical Specifications: 

Step 1: Mold Making

This project employs a fabrication technique called bent lamination, or bent lam. (Refer to Tiny StumpChair, Wooden Air Plant Pendant, and Bent Lamination Bracelet for more bent lam projects).

Bent lamination uses multiple very thin strips of veneer layered on top of one another with glue in between to create extremely strong curved pieces of wood. The first step in any bent lam project is mold making. This project uses a three part mold.

Use a glue bottle to trace and mark out my curves.

Next cut a lollypop shape out of the 2 x 4 piece to create the basic shape of the mold. For this mold it was important to keep the cut off pieces since they will be used as parts of the mold as well.

Use a sander to smooth out the mold pieces in order to ensure a smooth surface on the inside of the hook.

Step 2: Tape the Mold

It is important to cover the mold in packing tape in order to keep it from getting covered in glue and sticking to the hook during the drying process.

Simply wrap the curves surfaces of the mold with tape and cut off the excess.

Step 3: Veneer Preparation

Veneer usually comes in fairly large sheets. Before creating any bends you'll need to cut the veneer into uniformly sized strips. For this project, 16 layers were used for the hook.  However, you could use more if you are concerned about strength. Each strip was approximately 2 inches wide and 14 inches long.

Another optional step here is to cover two of the strips with painters' tape on one side. These strips will go on the outside of the lamination and the tape is there to keep gobs of glue off of the finished product. You can skip this step if you would like but it will result in a bit more sanding work later.

Step 4: GLUE

Lay all your pieces of veneer out on a work bench and cover one side of each one with glue. Use enough glue that when you spread it out it covers the entire piece of veneer with a thin layer. You don't want any dry spots at all in your lamination, because the will cause weak points.

Once all your layers are covered in glue, stack them up leaving the pieces with blue tape on the top and bottom of the stack.

Bend the stack of veneers around the top of the mold. The veneers should go all the way down one side of the mold but only extend slightly past the curve one the other side. Place the cut off pieces from the mold making step on either side of the lamination and clamp the entire thing with a few clamps as shown above. If you have used the correct amount of glue some should be squeezing out from between the layers of veneer.

Once the veneers are in the mold, wait approximately 24 hours for the glue to dry. Even if the bottle says the glue will be dry sooner, wait a full day before removing the clamp. Laminations use way more glue than most applications, so the drying time is way longer.

Step 5:  Trim and Sand

Use the band saw to cut off a strip from either edge of the lamination. The ultimate width of the hook should be about an inch and a half to an inch and three quarters. Cut the ends off of the hook too, to clean up the ragged edge created by inconsistency in the layer length. Round each end with a belt sander to eliminate all of the potentially sharp corners. Use a rotary tool to round off the edges and sand paper to smooth out the whole thing.

Step 6: Drill

Near the end of the hook drill one 3/8 inch hole. You could use a drill press, but I just used a simple hand drill. It is good to use a backing block when drilling through wood so that you don't damage the table and to prevent tear-out in the piece you are drilling.

Step 7: Cut the Leather Strap

Cut the leather into a rectangle that is about 12 inches long by 1.5 inch wide. For this project, a 1.5 inch dowel to mark off a nice curve on the ends of my leather strap, but you could do it by eye or trace any other one inch diameter object. Use a leather punch to cut a hole at each end of the leather.

Step 8:  Grommets

Grommets are an optional improvement to the hook, but its highly recommend. They will improve the durability and look of your hook. Use a grommet setter and hammer to set one grommet in each of the holes in your leather strap.

Step 9:  Rubber

In order to give the strap some grip on the poles in the subway, cut a short section of rubber gasket tape, tapered the ends with a sharp razor blade and stuck it on the inside of the curve.

Step 10: Finishing

Wood and leather both benefit from some quality finishing.

For the wooden part of the hook, a few layers of clear paste wax. Paste wax does not change the color of the wood much but does protect it from the elements. It is also a very low gloss finish, which is usually something I like.

For this project, Jessyratfink's instructable on burnishing for help with finishing the edges of my leather strap. I suggest reading Jessy's notes on the subject, but in short, use some gum tragacanth to make the edge of your leather a little sticky and a slicker to smooth it out. This process takes a little while but it is well worth the time. I also used some leather dye to darken the strap and make it match the wood a little more.

Step 11:  Assembly

The last step is to attach the leather strap to the wooden hook. It is best if you have a nylon insert lock nut so that the strap can swing freely without the nut getting lost.

Author:  CobyUnger


Price Check
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Additional Pricing Notes: 
Cost of supplies and materials to complete project.
DIY Subway Hook