A toothed iron planing stop is my primary form of workholding on the benchtop. When embedded in a 2-1/2” x 2-1/2” x 12” block of wood that moves up and down, I can plane up most faces and edges of boards without a vise.
The teeth are central to the function of the planing stop. You want it to bite into the end grain of your boards, and usually I smack each board from behind to sink the teeth into the wood. The teeth prevent twisted boards from rocking on the benchtop, allowing you to plane out the wind. Also, when planing wide boards on edge on the benchtop, the teeth prevent the board from tipping over.
I love the teeth.
Whenever I show photos of my stops, I hear cries of “you’ll cut yourself.” Maybe I will cut myself someday, but I haven’t yet. If I do, I’ll bandage my anatomy and get back to work. And I’ll keep the stop.
It’s no more dangerous than having a sharp chisel or awl on the benchtop.
“Oh but you’re pushing your hands toward the sharp object,” I hear. “That’s insane!”
You mean like pushing your work into a spinning sawblade or cutterhead?
Bottom line: You have to be aware of your surroundings when you use sharp tools. There are lots of ways to hold your work – vises, dogs, gravity, buttocks and even the metal planing stop, which Jennie Alexander derided as the “toothy critter.”
If you are unsure about the teeth, another option is to make the movable block but omit the toothy critter. This works fine (I worked this way for a couple years). But I think the teeth are an upgrade.
This particular stop is on my new workbench for the forthcoming “The Anarchist’s Workbench” book. It is made by blacksmith Tom Latane, a talented smith and woodworker in Pepin, Wisc. Tom and I have worked together before. Back in the early 2000s he made some laminated old-school chisels for me, like the ones shown in Moxon.
I first saw this planing stop on Derek Olson’s workbench and it made me insane with envy (you win this round, Derek). It is the prettiest planing stop I’ve ever seen. It works great and is easy to install. Tom even barbs the shaft of the planing stop so it bites hard into its hole.
If you are thinking of building a new workbench, I highly recommend Tom’s work.
— Christopher Schwarz