Pulling out the stops

Hand planing has been a zen-type experience for me in the workshop.  Sure, I could have plunked down some dough to buy a powered jointer, but I do enjoy using a sharp jack, smooth or jointer plane to get a board into shape.

The rhythm… the sound… the whole experience takes my mind to a new place, making me appreciate my shop time that much more.

The only problem I was running into was that I was spending quite a bit of time securing boards to the bench top.  I would clamp the  board between a bench dog and a Wunder Pup or a pair of wedges, plane, then have to reposition the piece.  Surely there is an easier way to do this?

Turns out I had the answer back in my shop.  When I was planning for my bench, I had bought two of these planing stops from Lee Valley.  They were cheap, and I had planned on installing them when I completed my bench this past January.

Well, I never got to installing them.  They just sat in a bag on my side workbench, collecting dust.

Finally, this weekend I was starting to do some planing and thought, “Why not just go ahead and do it?” It was settled, I was moving ahead with it…

As I got started, I discovered that a 1 1/2″ chisel was the perfect width to mortise the stop into the benchtop.  I carefully scribed the outline of the stop top and began chiseling out the cavity.  Once I got the face place fully recessed, I marked the other contours of the stop and chiseled and drilled them to the right depth. Finally, the stop secured to the bench with two screws for extra support.

Believe me, it took some guts to take a chisel to the wooden sides of my bench…

The stop is easy to use and works very effectively.  Turning the dial allows the toothed spring loaded top to pivot up, giving solid support to the board being planed.  With a few minute’s practice, I was able to effectively and quickly plane a thick walnut plank smooth on the face side.  It was easy to reposition the board against the stop as necessary to keep the stop in line with the force of the plane.

The new stop did show I had to improve my technique a little.  For instance, I discovered that I tend to drag the plane backward as I do my return stroke. A minor hitch in my technique which was easily overcome.

Was this a good addition to my bench?  You had better believe it!  This will help make my planing faster and more effective… guiding me further down the path of woodworking enlightenment…

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