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    Tyler Walters

    Fellow Workers Of Wood,
    I’ve been a hand tool enthusiast for a while now and have followed along with Paul and crew for a few years. I’ve got the original laminated doug fir 2×4 bench that most of you likely have as well… which leads me to my question. I have a 4 foot rough cut piece of oak (about 5 inch wide, 3/4″ thick) that is cupped that I am going to use for a table apron. Curious how you fine folks would hold this piece to your bench in order to plane out the cupping. The old “clamp in the vise” trick is great but at 4 feet long, it isn’t as stable as I would like (and yes, I have plywood inserts in my clamps). I ended up taking it out of the clamp and placing it in the vise to plane it flat in sections – basically planning the section in my vise then moving the board down to plane the next 9 inches. There must be a better way of holding this piece that is just not coming to mind. Any ideas welcome.

    Kurt Schultz

    Hi Tylor,
    Are you supporting the far end of the piece using a bench hook that the edge of your board can wedge against? See this for reference:Stock prep
    Another option is to clamp from each end of your bench lengthwise a 1/2” thick x 2 or 3” wide baton along the length of bench with another baton clamped perpendicular to it at the front and place your board inside to the corner of the batons. Sort of like a sticking board used for making Mouldings.

    Rhode Island


    I made my bench of solid Beech about 25 years ago – it has a 2 inch thick top, a shoulder vice and a tail vice, both wooden, with a long row of recessed wooden dogs along the front beam which is 4 inches square. It can accommodate a board 6 foot 6 inches long in the tail vice and dogs before I have to think of other solutions.

    It has never occurred to me to use anything else for surface planing a board. Stuff is tight and dogged in place while I’d still be looking for a suitable clamp.

    All due respects to Paul Sellers, but I recall that his previous bench at Penryn Castle had an additional metal vice at his right hand end with a top-dog to clamp large pieces to a bench-hook that would not fit in a clamp assembly.


    Tyler Walters

    I was avoiding making a bench hook to accommodate such a long piece… but now that you mention it, I’m not sure why I was really avoiding that. Time to dig around in the scrap plywood stack I suppose.

    I am in full recognition that bench dogs and a tail vise would be the “proper” solution to the issue I described. I – unfortunately – have neither tail vise nor dog holes and was hoping to hear any creative holding solutions others have used to good effect. As the saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat… Though I concede that some ways are better than others 😉


    Nail a cleat to the bench top to plane against

    Doug Finch

    You say it is cupped. Could you take an “F” clamp – one at each end of the board and clamp that to your bench top? If you used a hold fast, you’d have a “clamp” somewhere on the body of wood you’re planing. Other than going to the expense of modifying your bench with holes or adding a bench stop – you may want to try clamping a thin piece of wood perpendicular to your work piece – at each end – and plane against it. That has worked for me in the past.

    Incidentally, Paul does reference how to use/install bench stop:



    Well, without any means of fastening the piece to the bench top you’ll have your work cut out.
    At the very least, you need a means of:

    1 – Holding the piece to the bench without anything interfering with the top surface which you need to plane
    2 – Stopping it twisting as you plane at a diagonal or at right angles (essential to remove cupping and get it flat across).

    Even without a vice, you can still use dogs if you install dog-holes at strategic intervals.

    Hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago carpenters had benches. The benches had dog holes…. an essential piece of kit.

    In this video, Richard Maguire begins with your problem, a cupped plank, and outlines a solution that was probably in use in the middle ages, if not before. As you, they did not have shoulder vices – they came much later, but they did have basic holding devices: in this case bench-hooks, wedges and dogs.

    Now, when you have the board planed to a state that you consider flat, the next thing you need is a pair of Winding Sticks…. these you can make yourself, and will show you if the board is indeed flat, rather than just looking flat………

    Good luck

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