Chris Schwarz's Blog

A Basque Planing Support

Planing Support

There are lots of ways to get around not having a sliding deadman – sometimes called a “board jack” – on your workbench. For the last 15 months I have been working on a bench without a deadman or a tail vise, so I am always looking out for novel solutions.

This weekend a woodworker named Adrian from Toronto sent me some photos of a clever bench accessory he spotted while on holiday. Adrian was in the Basque region of France and came upon this bench built by a woodworker named Herve.

Planing Support

The bench is a typical French model with beefy components, the legs are co-planar to the front edge of the benchtop and there is no tail vise.

What caught my eye was the planing support to the left of the face vise. It works like a horizontal planing stop. It is friction-fit and moves in and out. The tongue of the planing support helps support work from below when boards are clamped in the quick-release face vise.

Planing Support

While this might not seem like a big deal, if you have ever tried to clamp a long board to plane its edge without a bench slave or deadman, the board will tend to pivot like a see-saw when you start planing. Even a simple support like this can work wonders in keeping the board in place.

I cannot recall seeing this feature on any workbench before, so cheers to Herve and Adrian for bringing it to my attention.

— Christopher Schwarz

12 thoughts on “A Basque Planing Support

  1. JimAspin2

    Workbench Hangover?
    Or would it be more appropriate to say “Overhang”?
    Reading this blog with its accompanying pictures tickled my brain again as I have felt that tickle so many times before when viewing workbench pictures (especially with all the pictures in your workbench book).
    What determines the practical (Meaningful? Helpful? Useful?) length of workbench top that extends beyond the support legs in any given design, on either end?
    Thanks for all the help you give to so many of us!
    Jim Aspin

  2. Lemonjello

    Just a thought. Could it be, that the marks and height in relation to the vise bars be incidental? Its slot is just screwed to the underside of the bench. It looks to be an odd way to fashion a stop.
    It does look however, to be a way to wedge the planing stop at a certain height (I have driven a board almost off the bench when planing stop slips below surface of benchtop) Sticks out enough to grab and loosen or tap in.

  3. deric

    Are you sure that isn’t a planing stop instead of a planing support? It would be of much more use as a support on the other end of the bench.

      1. deric

        Yep, looks to me like the side of the bar is well worn and I saw that the other end has peg holes. That’s why I said stop, not support. It also
        looks to me like the vise guide bars are lower than the “stop.” My last sentence was just a way of saying it offers little use as a support just a few inches from the vise. What’s the need there? It doesn’t really matter. I’m not trying to argue, merely stating my opinion that it’s a stop. That makes more sense to me. It’s ok if you don’t agree. That’s how I would use it and as a matter of a fact it’s given me the idea to try that out. I never liked the idea of a hook sticking out. This is retractable!

        1. Patrick

          I had a variation of this device on my last workbench, mine was not retractable, but just screwed onto the underside of the bench top. I used it exactly as Chris described and it worked quite well in providing the necessary support for the edge planing of the board.

      2. William Duffield

        The only thing I can see from here that top of the purported stop is coplanar to is the bottom of the bench top. Although it is not clear from the photos, the vise guide bars appear to be much lower. It also appears that the stop is much nore recent than the bench itself, since its support is attached to the top with phillips or pozidrive screws.

        I have an alternate explanation. I think his traditional planing stop has become worn, and the new appliance is just a wedge to keep the stop from dropping back into the bench top when he’s trying to use it.

        Another not-so-novel substitute for a deadman is a chest full of tool drawers under the bench. Sure, I’ve had minor issues with tools getting buried in shavings.

    1. Jennie Alexander

      Jennie here
      I too have qualms about the use of the pullout board. So close to the face vise it seems of little value for long boards. A simple solution works for boards of moderate width. Go back to Moxon’s single bench screw ( called the “crochet.”) No need for a face vise. Drill a row of 1/4″ holes across the front edge of the bench or an apron. Purchase from Sears what it calls “alignment tool” No.42901 with a small underlined 9 in front of the number. This is what used to be called a “machinist’s alignment pin.” It is well made by Craftsman but it only sells it in kits! Sears sells them individually and promptly ships for a bit over $6.00. I didn’t believe they did any more but they do. The pin is 7.00″ long. It tapers from 5/32″ to 3/8″ in 4″. Give it a wooden handle. Jam fit the pin in the 1/4″ hole at any distance from the single bench screw where support is needed. Buy a cou;le more pins. Sharpened and handled they make nifty awls.
      Jennie Alexander

      1. deric

        They also make nice drift pins. A use that Mr. Schwarz has talked about in the past. As for an awl I used a machinist’s center punch and made a birds cage variety. These would work as well. Spade drill bits are great finds too. I’m not one for flea markets and yard sales but these are the kind of tools you can often find at those places for practically nothing. I’m cheap, I love to re-purpose old tools and make them useful to me for next to nothing.

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