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 Joel's Blog

Much Ado About Planing Stops  

06/27/2018

On my bench the planing stop is attached to a square peg that fits into existing bench dog holes.

I built my main workbench about thirty years ago and overall I am still pretty pleased with it. I knew about and loved holdfasts when I built it, so the bench has a row of holdfast holes. Since I was young and unschooled - perhaps more importantly, this story pre-dates the Internet - my holdfast holes were not quite 3/4" of an inch in diameter. This is why I am the only person on the planet who has Gramercy Holdfasts that are smaller than standard. Interestingly it isn't because I commissioned a special pair of holdfasts for my bench after we developed them; it was that the first prototypes were made for my bench. Strangely, they didn't work on anyone else's bench with standard holes.

Since that time I have built one other bench, and we built three other benches for use in the showroom and for teaching.

For work-holding on my bench I also have a face vise, a tail vise, and a row of square dogs. Over the years however, I have found myself using the face vise less and less, and the tail vise has become my go-to. My portable bench has a small Milwaukee vise on it and holdfast holes. The showroom benches have holdfast holes and removeable Moxon vises.


In the past decade there has been a ton of work, mostly prominently by Chris Schwarz, on workbenches and certainly his work has influenced the showroom benches. My other benches pre-date his work. In Chris's newest book, "Ingenious Mechanicks" he writes about all the accessories you can have on a workbench. One of the most important is the planing stop, which dates (at least) from Roman times. While immobilizing wood on my workbench for planing has never been that hard, the setups can be annoying especially when I am in a rush. And planing with something not properly immobilized is really a frustrating time waster.

The planing stop here is spiked into a removable square post. Mass produced wood screws and threaded inserts had not been invented yet.


Although I have known about planing stops for years (they are in Moxon from 1678 and Felibien (above) from 1676) I never really wanted to chop a square hole in my bench to try one out. However, being a tool maker in addition to being a tool seller, I have the means for making my own version. Or I should say our own version. We are currently in pre-production of our own planing stops.

This fixture is only for making four stops at a time. The production fixture will be much larger.


My criteria for the planing stops were very simple. I don't want to have to modify my bench unless I really wanted to (which I don't). The stop has to work well on 3/4" wood planed on edge since I don't do much bigger stuff. And the planing stop had to be basic so we could install it and use it differently on our different benches depending on the particular situation and configuration.

One more thing: we wanted to make it completely in-house.

I'll be writing more in the weeks to come - on installation, uses, more history, and other ideas that went into the project - but it's early yet. The stop isn't even listed on our website for pre-order yet. That should happen in a couple of weeks or so (there is many a slip between cup and lip).

The stop in the picture above is screwed onto a 3/4" bit of square scrap and drops (unnecessarily loosely) into the square dog holes on my bench. The stop has sharp undercut points and digs in really well. Planing an edge on a 3/4" board about two feet long and 4" wide is dead stable - no need for additional holders at the end. I need to test longer boards of course but right now I am pretty happy.

In the meantime We do have a few other new products out: a coarser version of our Gramercy Sawhandle Maker's Rasp. We had a coarse version out a few years ago - they are back this time for good. And our Osmo line of finishes keeps on growing.

Tags:Unclassified
Comments: 25
06/27/2018Richard 
Your photo shows a poor example of the use of the planing stop. Seriously, who does traditional woodworking works with a bench not equipped with a vise or two? And who would edge plane a stock as shown in your photo, ignoring the vise?
06/27/2018joel https://toolsforworkingwood.com
Richard,
I strongly disagree.
"who does traditional woodworking works with a bench not equipped with a vise or two"
Pretty much everyone before 1820 - when some of the best furniture was made. Metal vises are much later and wooden vises were not ubiquitous.

"And who would edge plane a stock as shown in your photo, ignoring the vise?"

If you have a long board planing an edge in the vise is unsupported, planing the face is even worse. You can use an outboard support in conjunction with the vise, as I used to do - but this is dead stable and super fast. It probably won't work for a long 1/2" or thinner board but I haven't had something that thin to plane recently. I used to think that planing stops were wonky. But after getting a nice sharp one I see why they were so popular in the pre-industial age.

I will never go back.
06/27/2018Charlie 
Richard, planing against stops is faster than using a vise; the ability to edge plane against a stop was the purview of fifteen year old apprentices, likely after only a few weeks on the job. If you're dogging, or using a vise for every workpiece, you're going about it *somewhat* incorrectly. Speed may not be important to you, but understanding how speed was achieved before power tools is important. Working against a dog allows the craftsman to flip and turn workpieces without touching anything but the workpiece.
06/27/2018Richard 
Thanks for your response.

I am talking about current days as in "who does...," not the history. I have not come across one single workbench (unless it is an assembly table) in any one's shop that has no vise.

Most people will find it difficult to edge plane a narrow stock, say, 4 feet long accurately square simply relying on the bench surface and a planing stop. It is much easier to sight to check the squareness when a stock is held in a vise by the edge of the bench.

Paul Sellers has repeatedly seen edge planing a long stock (5 feet or longer?) using the bench vise along, with no support on the other hand. I do use a support and he proves s way of working.
06/27/2018joel https://toolsforworkingwood.com
Richard,
Once again I would have to disagree.
I have milled a lot of wood up by hand from rough (didn't have a jointer or planer). The best part of a planing stop for me is that I don't worry that the board will shift in the vise, and to sight for square I just pick up the end and bring it to my eye - no stooping!
06/27/2018Richard 
I looked at two other photos and one video from different vendors showing a similar type of planing stop (one calls it bench stop). They all show the stock being surface planed.

The planing stop is simply limited in its ability to plane stock on narrow edges as there is no support on the side. Yes, a skilled plane user would be able to do edge plane with it, but I will bet that is not the case with an average user. Many average users struggle with edge planing an edge square even when the stock is fully supported. It is like saying you can flatten a long board with just a #4, as Paul Sellers does. But how many Sellers are out there?

All I am saying is if an average customer buys one of your stops, thinking he can do edge planing with it, he is in for some disappointment. I am commenting about the photo and not suggesting it is a bad product.
06/27/2018joel https://toolsforworkingwood.com
Richard,
I still disagree.
The key bit in a planing stop is that it is sharp and digs in. When it does that then planing an edge isn't a big deal. It's dead solid. How wide a board can you plane an edge on, or how long, is still something I am investigating. By the time we start selling this we will have a decent answer. Of course for long, tall thin boards is simple - a handscrew or some other stop at the other end. But what I am investigating is just working with the stop alone.
This conversation reminds me of some of the conversations I had years ago about holdfasts - that they were obsolete and didn't work as well as some of the other modern gadgets. This issue turned out to be that good holdfasts work great and make woodworking easier for everyone - beginner and advanced craftsperson. Bad ones don't work and don't. I think we might find the same thing about planing stops.
06/27/2018joel https://toolsforworkingwood.com
Richard,
I still disagree.
The key bit in a planing stop is that it is sharp and digs in. When it does that then planing an edge isn't a big deal. It's dead solid. How wide a board can you plane an edge on, or how long, is still something I am investigating. By the time we start selling this we will have a decent answer. Of course for long, tall thin boards if there is an issue the solution is simple - a handscrew or some other stop at the other end. But what I am investigating is just working with the stop alone.
This conversation reminds me of some of the conversations I had years ago about holdfasts - that they were obsolete and didn't work as well as some of the other modern gadgets. This issue turned out to be that good holdfasts work great and make woodworking easier for everyone - beginner and advanced craftsperson. Bad ones don't work and don't. I think we might find the same thing about planing stops.
06/27/2018Matt Robinette 
For you folks if your near Toledo Ohio I have a Nicholson style workbench in my garage shop that is a copy from Lost,Art Press and Mike Siemensen it has no vise.It works just fine with the crochet as the stop and Gra mercy hold fasts
It suprised the shit out of me how well it works. I have a split top Roubo with Bench works face chop and wagon vise in storage until the new shop is complete but don't really miss it.I have used a Moxon bench top for joinery and wouldn't need it except I,am more comfortable with the work closer to me.
06/27/2018David Pederson 
Richard, I do primarily hand-tool work and I don't have a vice of any sort installed on my bench. I do use a homemade planing stop, and the front of the bench has a crochet that works nicely in conjunction with a series of dog holes. I built the bench from plans found in Popular Woodworking (picture here): https://www.popularwoodworking.com/woodworking-blogs/chris-schwarz-blog/revising-first-book-workbenches

It does everything I need it to do, and the money I saved by not having to buy vices was able to be put into hand tools and project material.
06/27/2018Christopher J. Thomas 
Joel:

I have two push up stops in my bench, one @ 30 1/2” and one @ 61 1/2” taken from the right side tail vise.
They are 1/2” x 2 1/2”. On them I sawed a “living spring” so they will remain in their slots when engaged.

I was inspired by the Frank Kluz bench when in 2004 I built my “Reform Sloyd Bench”
I employed an English quick opening Record tail vise and the traditional Continental screw shoulder vise as well as four holdfast bores- used all the time!
Also, there’s a full compliment of twelve dog holes, 6 1/2” on center.

Thanks Joel, as usual…Christopher J. Thomas

PS, I love your sash saw!
06/27/2018David 
Looks very interesting. I wish it came out before I bought another one. Mortising that big planning stop didn't go as planned. I was just thinking how I need to tune it up. The planning stop works so well and makes things so much quicker.
06/27/2018John Rea 
Thank you and would like to see more. John Rea
06/27/2018Joseph Janutka 
If your new planing stop is saw-plate thin so I can plane a 1/4" thick piece of wood in addition to thicker pieces laid flat or on edge, I will definitely buy it. Otherwise, I will make my own.
06/27/2018Another RICHARD 
Who is Paul Sellers?
Is he qualified to comment?
06/27/2018Joe Jewman 
I made a planing stop about the same dimensions and it works ok if the wood is vertical but when I plane the faces the wood wobbles when I’m off center of the planing stop. Did you figure out how to solve this?
06/27/2018Joel http://www.toolsforworkingwood.com
The planing stop is 1/8” thick. We use three screws because we find we get a much more stable hold than two screws in any direction.
06/27/2018Wayne bower 
“Different strokes for different folks” will never change, and there’s a lot more between an unplanned board and a masterful finished product than the method used to secure the wood while planing. I learned hardworking in the school Paul Sellers started in texas, and still use many of the techniques taught there. But I read and watch many others like Rousseau, Pekovich, Becksvoort, Hack, Schwarz, Gochnour, Latta, Fortune, Stowe, Adams, Van Dyke, Klaus, Lowe, and many more, each of whom imparts a slightly different technique. Having now tried many of them I can see how all could be attractive depending on individual need and preferences. Some require vices, some don’t. Your call.

I’ve been wanting a traditional toothed stop and like the Benchcrafted plan better than others except for cutting a big hole in the bench that probably won’t happen. My bench has square dog holes, and I have cut a pattern and drilled out the middle to make dogs that use Joel’s hold-downs. They work extremely well, especially when using Becksvoort method of cleaning out tails and pins. I’d love to have a simple toothed planing stop that I could screw to the top of a square bench dog. Eh, Joel?
06/28/2018Joel 
Wayne,
The planing stop in the picture is small enough so that it is sxrewed onto the top of a 3/4” square dog. It’s a careful fit on the top of the stop, but it but works great.
06/28/2018Wayne Bower 
Joel, that’s great news. A perfect answer for my need. Just send one this way when you’re ready for a review ;)
06/28/2018Adrian 
If I tried to use this on a bench with 3/4" round dog holes it seems like it wouldn't be great. I've been pondering a planing stop lately and thinking that one huge advantage would be that it could hold work that didn't have perfectly square ends because the teeth will dig in and it can't swivel.
06/28/2018Joel http://toolsforworkingwood.com
Adrian,
3/4” holefast holes are pretty common., We have a solution coming.
Joel
06/28/2018Jim 
Another RICHARD; Paul Sellers has a YouTube channel and a school in England teaching hand tool woodworking. One power tool he suggests using is a band saw. Oh yes also I've seen him use an electric bench grinder. Once.
06/28/2018Mike 
I routinely plane boards on edge on nothing but a bench hook. Works great. A stop would be an improvement and I will probably buy one. Yes, I do a lot of hand work and no, I don’t own a bench with any vices. I have been building furniture for nearly 10 years and never got around to building a proper bench, mostly because my time is limited and shop projects bore me to tears.
06/29/2018TIM Wild 
I'm looking forward to seeing this on the market. I currently do my work on a viceless bench and find the. Current planning stops wanting for my application this looks right.
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