The Bench Bites Back

It seems that one of the hurdles folks have to installing a toothed planing stop in their workbench is fear of the teeth marring the plane iron. They worry that as the plane works the stock thinner and thinner all the sudden out of the blue, “BAM!”, your edge is toast. I’ve been using a toothed planing stop regularly for a few years now and never once had an incident like that. I’ve found that woodworking demands so much attention anyway that working the height of the stop into your consciousness is not a big deal. As long as you’re awake and paying attention, you will have no issues.

This morning, I was barely awake and hardly able to pay attention. During an early morning setup at the Jonathan Fisher Antique Show, I was prepping some stock to demonstrate cutting mortise and tenon and dovetail joints. After a terrible night’s sleep and exhaustion from assembling the display, I was hurrying to get the parts planed in time for the gate to open. I remember my mind wandering as I worked. Visions of the cool sheets and a soft pillow filled my head. And then it happened.

As I switched from planing 1 ½” stock to ½” stock, I absent-mindedly neglected to lower the planing stop. As the iron crashed into the teeth, I grimaced. My try plane edge was trashed before the show even started.

Fortunately, I made do without that plane for the day and when I get back in the studio next week, it will be less than ten minutes on the grinder and stones to get it back in working order. So what did I learn from this episode? Nothing new: Pay attention and all is well. If your mind wanders, the bench bites back. C'est la vie.

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