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    Secure Your Work for Easier Handplaning

    Eventually, every budding woodworker will begin to wonder about handplanes. For some reason, these age-old tools hold a place of reverence in most woodworker’s tool collections. Watching a thin shaving lift from a board is therapeutic, but more importantly, it leaves workpieces with a glass-smooth finish that’s second-to-none. But try and run a poorly-tuned plane along a board and you’ll be left frustrated and angry. The problem becomes even more acute if your workpieces aren’t effectively secured to your benchtop. Here are three simple techniques that will keep your furniture components stationary as you bring the blade to the wood. 

    The Plane Stop

    The humble plane stop is nothing more than a T-square that gives your workpiece a surface to “stop” against as you thrust the handplane along the wood. The plane applies pressure in a direction outward from the user. This force is transferred to the workpiece and in turn, the plane stop. Plane stops are easy to make, consisting of a T-assembly that’s just screwed together.

    One end gets secured into your bench vise, and the opposite end can be attached to your bench using a small clamp, or even better, a bench dog which the stop simply butts up against. With your stop secured, you just set the workpiece against it and start planing.

    The Bench Hook

    A bench hook uses the same principal as a plane stop, but is generally used for smaller workpieces (think box parts). To make one, start with a piece of MDF or smooth plywood—mine measures about 11-in. x 13-in. —and attach a cleat along one of the bottom edges. This cleat will rest against the edge of your workbench and keep the bench hook from moving as you use it to plane. Now just attach a thin stop (mine is about 1/4-in. thick) to the opposite top edge of the hook. In use, the bench hook operates just like a traditional plane stop: the workpiece is set against the hook’s upper stop, and the user simply planes the wood, towards the stop.

    What About Long Parts?

    For long parts like furniture legs or table aprons, you can use your bench vise in tandem with some bench dog holes drilled into your workbench’s front apron. One end of the workpiece gets secured in the bench vise, and the dogs provide support from underneath, all along the piece being planed. It’s a slightly more advanced technique but one well worth considering as your furniture-making skills expand.