Toothing Planes for Vises and Bench Tops

Mike and I have been making and installing a few more vises on our Nicholson benches lately. As we’ve been fitting and adjusting them, I’ve been reminded of one the most significant revelations in my exploration of hand-tool woodworking: the power of toothed surfaces.

In my view, one of the most overlooked features of workholding is a grippy surface. Think about it: if you’re trying to hold a board as securely as possible, why would you try to use a silky smooth vise to do so? A rough texture makes a major difference in holding power.

Here’s where the toothing plane comes in. A toothing plane is a scraping plane that has an iron filed with tiny teeth. It’s useful for taming highly figured woods, but since I typically avoid that stuff like the plague, I use mine for roughing my workbenches in a diagonally crosshatched pattern.

If you don’t have a toothing plane, don’t sweat it. I’ve also tried fine-toothed sawplate, a hacksaw blade, and a scraper with teeth filed into it. You know what? They all scuff the bench just fine.

Don’t snicker, though. Just try it. Rough up the inside of your vise (on both sides) and secure a board in it for before-and-after comparison. Now that you’re convinced, tooth your bench top. You won’t regret it. Why would you want to plane a board on a bowling alley? Keep that stuff still!

Some folks use leather or other grippy liner material inside their vises with success, but for me, I’ve always found it best to take a quick swipe with the toothing plane.




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