In a previous post, I blogged about crafting a 4′ x 8′ raised vegetable bed. One of the challenges of that project was getting the side boards to mate tightly enough to prevent soil from spilling out between them. That involved a lot of edge planing on 8′ boards. Putting one end in a vice and resting the other end on a peg fit into my workbench worked ok. But it was as awkward as my first junior high-school dance. The tail of the board fishtailed and I didn’t feel secure in my footwork along the length of the board.
And while that wasn’t the first project that’s left me wanting for a better way to joint longer boards, I suffered through. Suffered that is, until I picked up a copy of Jim Tolpin’s The New Traditional Woodworker, a tomb dedicated to working wood with hand tools.
Pages 135-140 conveniently included well-photographed instructions on how to build an edge planing stop.
Building my latest appliance
On my next visit to a local specialty wood store, I picked up a hefty chunk of 6/4 poplar. This is what it became after a couple of hours work.
Yes hours. The process was more complicated for me than I originally thought and some of that time was spent fashioning a drawing bow (p. 167) to lay out the decorative curve.
I began by sizing the stock to 14 3/4″ wide by 16″ long taking care to orient the grain perpendicular to the vice which will hold the ledger strip. That will help the appliance handle the force and shear of edge planing.
After that, I six-squared the stock according to the handy instructions outlined in the book. From there I cut the dado and rabbet on my router table.
Don’t judge me.
I love my hand tools in a deep and meaningful way. But I’m not a purist. Still, I would gladly have made these cuts by hand if I owned a router plane…and a backsaw with a depth stop…and a crank-necked chisel…and a shoulder plane—all tools Tolpin uses to cut and tune dados and rabbets.
With the dado done, I laid out the decorative arc using a freshly-finished drawing bow. I cut as much waste as I could with my rehabbed #4 Disston backsaw. Then I got a chance to use my dad’s hand-me-down drawknife to shave off more waste. That operation was followed by a block plane, then a sanding block.
Truthfully, this part of the project took the longest for me. Do any of you have a better process for cutting arcs?
Then came the fun part. To reinforce the open wedge area, I drilled ½” holes on each side with a hand brace. (see above photo) I enjoyed the challenge of drilling straight holes 6″ deep. These I filled with ½” oak dowels, leaving them a bit proud so I could plane them flush later.
Next, I laid out and cut the straight edge to the wedge. Then I laid out and cut the compound cut on the angled length of the wedge. You see, to prevent the wedge from riding up the side of the appliance, I had to saw a small undercut angle of about 3 degrees. That was tricky. Frankly, I didn’t do a very good job, but a few minutes with a block plane helped make the angled cut somewhat consistent along its length.
This was followed by fashioning a wedge to fit into the newly formed notch. Apparently you can’t use the waste freshly cut from the notch because the grain runs in the same direction as the face of the edge stop. For that reason, it won’t stand up to vigorous planing.
So I cut a wedge from a 2 x 4 with its grain running perpendicular to the grain of the appliance. From there I chiseled a recess into the wedge so my mallet can catch it to secure the workpiece. I did my best with a block plane to mate the undercut surfaces of the wedge and notch, but you can see by the picture that there’s still a bit of a gap.
Tolpin says to bevel all the edges and I think this makes the piece look nicer. It’s so big and beefy that even a small bevel gives it a more refined look.
Three coats of BLO and my shiny new edge plane stop was ready for a test.
Set up and testing
One end is supported by the ledger clamped in the bench vise while the opposite end rests against a bench dog.
A scrap left over from my saw bench project offered to help test its plane stop cousin. I fit it in and secured it by tapping the wedge into place. It held firm. No jiggle…no movement at all.
From the first stroke with a #7, the stop performed flawlessly. No fishtailing, no rocking, no nothing.
My engineer’s square rendered the final verdict, ruling that the planing stop was worth the time and effort. It now sits under my bench next to my shooting board and bench hook. A useful, merry band of three they all make.