Moravian Workbench #10: The Iron Planing Stop

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Blog entry by Tom posted 10-01-2019 07:40 PM 2973 reads 1 time favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: A Shelf Part 10 of Moravian Workbench series Part 11: Simple Work Holding »

The original Moravian workbench has a couple of square holes where planing stops were installed during its lifetime. On Will Myers design, he installed a custom tail vise setup with dog holes along the front of the bench. I like this setup very much and I may install something similar someday, but for now I just want a traditional iron planing stop in keeping with the historical workbench. I think that will work fine as I plan to use the workbench for breaking down and planing bigger stock for a project. And also for larger carpentry projects. As you can see in my profile, I have a joinery bench and it already has an end vise and dogging system. So I am not in great need for that right now. If I ever move, the Moravian workbench is the one that will move with me and then I may want to add the dogging system to further increase the usability of the workbench.

I decided to use an iron planing stop from a blacksmith. During the visit to the Woodwright’s school, the class made a visit to Peter Ross’s workshop and he demonstrated making the iron planing stop. It was really awesome. Peter is a historian and I am not sure that he really wants to be in the tool business at this stage of his career. I would have loved to get a planing stop from Peter, but I guess I wasn’t comfortable to pester him about it. So I found another blacksmith on Etsy and he made a custom planing stop for me to my specs. He now offers it on his Etsy site as a standard item. It was made by Eric Dennis at Roundhouse Blacksmith. Here is a link to the listing if you want to buy one. Eric is quite a craftsman and he is quite friendly. He will also customize if needed. This is just a friendly recommendation, I am not on Eric’s payroll.

These iron stops are usually installed into a block of wood that is tightly fit into the square hole in the bench top. The block of wood can be knocked up and down with a mallet to adjust the height of the planing stop. I split out a billet from a piece of oak firewood.

Then I planed the piece as square and true as possible, checking it for any twist with the winding sticks.

Then I cut the ends to length which is about 12” and chamfered the corners.

Next I mortised out the hole in the top of the workbench. It was a bit nerve racking to cut into that beautiful thick oak top, but it had to be done. I laid out the location and marked off the size from the block of wood which is about 2-1/4” square. The block is located about 3” left of the vise and 3” from the front of the top. I bored out the waste with an auger but only from the top. I was not confident that the top was square enough to locate the hole on the bottom of the bench. I angled the corner holes ever so slightly toward the center and figured I would need to do significantly more chisel work from the bottom to clear out the waste. It worked out fine. It was a lot of chiseling and testing to get a tight fit that was reasonably plumb to the workbench top. You can actually use the block of wood as a planing stop if you are so inclined. It works pretty well.

Now came the hard part, creating the tapered mortise for the stem of the planing stop in the block of oak. The stem on the stop has a modest taper from about 5/8” square at the top down to about 1/2” square at the bottom. I laid out the location of the mortise and I very carefully bored a 1/2” hole to the depth of the stem, about 4” deep. Then I pared out the mortise with a long bevel edged chisel. The one I used was an old Stanley socket chisel, which was sturdy enough for the mallet but thin enough for paring down inside the deep mortise. I simply worked it down with a lot of testing until the stem was fitting snugly, but not enough to split the oak block. It was a bit tedious and took about 45 minutes.

Then I chiseled out to recess the blade into the block somewhat. The iron stop is hand made and there is some variance to the dimensions, so it is a matter of again working down the recess and testing with the iron stop. I left the top of the iron a little bit proud of the block surface. Then I set the block and iron into the work bench and chiseled out a corresponding recess into the bench top for the blade so that it can be set completely flush to bench when not in use.

I have noticed a little bit of shrinkage in my wood block, it doesn’t fit as tightly as before. If it loosens too much, I can add a thin veneer to tighten it up, or create a new block. Time will tell. It’s fine for now.

Next I will finish up with some work holding details and examples.

-- Tom

1 comment so far

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3659 posts in 4924 days

#1 posted 10-02-2019 04:13 PM


Nice addition to the workbench and a terrific explanation of the steps to complete it. Thanks for sharing.


-- “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin -- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

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