For many years I’ve used the following trick to plane irregular-shaped objects: Screw a square block to the underside of the piece and then clamp that block in my face vise.
It’s a trick that I showed in my 2007 book “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use.” (Psst, the second edition is coming out later this year.)
I find it especially useful for planing up the seats of Windsor chairs. The little block trick allows you to sidestep all manner of silly tail-vise set-ups and wack-a-doodle cauls.
So today I am planing up a seat blank and fetched my little block of wood and two drywall screws. I tossed the block on the underside of the seat blank. The block landed near the front of the seat and I froze for a second.
Usually I screw the block to the dead center of the seat. But I just then realized there’s a better way. Screw the block to the front edge (or back edge) and you can get most of the seat supported by the benchtop.
Chair seats don’t flex much when you plane them. But the extra support is noticeable.
It’s a small detail. But it helps.
— Christopher Schwarz