Blacksmith Planing Stop from Tom Latane

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

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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23 Responses to Blacksmith Planing Stop from Tom Latane

  1. Bill Dalton says:

    Any chance of a picture of shaft? Picture before inserted into the wood.

  2. Little Blacksmith on the Prairie?

  3. Bob Easton says:

    My “toothy critter” planing stop was made from a hunk of old saw blade. Yep, it has sharp teeth. Yep, I move my hands toward it every time I use it. Nope, have never cut myself.

    Nope, not nearly as pretty as Tom Latane’s. …and I don’t see a place on Tom’s website to buy one of his 🙁

    • Send him an email. His prices are reasonable!

    • Derek Olson says:

      You gotta email him. I think he told me recently he’s running around $75 a stop but that can change by demand. Still his prices are super reasonable and his work, the best.

    • Russell H says:

      I also made mine from an old saw blade as per Richard Maguire’s English bench. I nailed it on to the wooden part of the stop with three rose head nails. I love it. Three or four years later it is still solid. He cuts a small recess into the bench top so you can bang it completely out of the way when you are doing something else, or if you need to lay something long over the top of it. I’m not really sure how you work without one! I like the fact I made it myself, but blacksmith made toothy critters do look lovely though.

  4. Curt Lavallee says:

    “Whenever I show photos of my stops, I hear cries of “you’ll cut yourself.”

    Yeah, and what else is new? My fingers look like Roy’s most of the time anyhow, cuts and bandages on half of them at any one time. And my current planing stop is merely one of those aluminum ones!

    These are really pretty stops, next time I (attempt to) make one I’m going to keep this in mind. One of these days I’ll get the technique refined enough to make an acceptable one for my home bench. I really like the barbs on the shaft, it’s exactly how my blacksmith buddy did it when I asked him to show me how to make one. But upsetting that corner is a challenge!

    • Kenneth Kilby says:

      I’ve done some blacksmithing. Some things are easier than they look and some are harder. Forging that nice square 90 degree corner is not easy.

      • Curt Lavallee says:

        Indeed. There’s a good reason I call myself “someone who blacksmiths” as opposed to “a blacksmith”. Luckily I have a good half-dozen friends who are incredibly talented and can give me a hand if I need.

  5. Chris O says:

    Looks like it’s back to the classic SYP for the Anarchist’s Workbench. Nice! I’m looking forward to the book.

  6. Derek Olson says:

    I’m not sure what I’ve won but if you say so it must be true! :). Give me a heads up next time so I make myself put a more current article on the ol’ blog first.

    It is really great to see Tom get more exposure. His work is fantastic and he deserves to be more busy than he wants. 🙂

    Thanks Chris.

  7. Sooooo…. This new bench. Is it… “Your” new bench, or a new bench to your shop? Not that you need to replace your existing. Your bench seems to be doing fine.

    • I’m transitioning. My heart has always been with the yellow pine benches. The slab benches are beautiful and look and work like the real thing. But I’ve got redneck roots that are hard to deny.

      • I have to say I’m a big fan of having both a hardwood, and soft wood bench for different tasks, and moods. I’ve also found that dents in a softwood bench steam out pretty easily.

  8. Jesse Griggs says:

    Would you put one of these on a 5 foot long bench?

  9. Mattias Hallin says:

    That is without doubt the prettiest planing stop I’ve yet seen, and I have just sent an e-mail to Mr Latane to inquire about having one made!

    Mattias

  10. Björn says:

    Wow! Very pretty!
    If I would like a local blacksmith forge a planing stop for me, are there any good resources for drawings and measurements I could show him/her? Tom Latanes look great, but I would like to support a local craftsman instead of shipping one across the atlantic.

  11. Daniel Williamson says:

    As an owner of two lump hammers, I’m shocked there’s a claw hammer pictured. Haha! Can hardly live without mine. Love the work and research you all do. All the best to you!

    Cheers,
    Dan

  12. Brian says:

    I’ve always worried about hitting the stop with my plane thus nicking the blade, so I made my plane stop out of aluminum to be softer than the blade. A piece of 1/8″ thick scrap with teeth filed into it and countersunk for a screw to connect to the top of a square piece of wood that fits a dog hole. (countersunk so the screw doesn’t protrude)
    The aluminum bites into the wood just fine. Only hit it with the plane once so far, seems to have protected the blade.

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