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Months ago I received my iron planing stop that I ordered from Blacksmith Peter Ross. It is very well made and worth the wait. I had planned to install the iron planing stop in a new workbench. Since I opted to build a smaller bench just for fabricating Windsor chair seats based on a design by Drew Langsner http://www.countryworkshops.org/newsletter16/bench.html, I wanted to incorporate the iron planing stop into the new bench. There are a whole lot of ways to make or install a planing stop. I’ve used boards temporarily clamped to the bench top and bench dogs. I’ve seen boards attached to ends of benches or even down the center line of a bench as in a split top Roubo or Nicholson. However, what was appealing about the planing stop made by Peter Ross is that it has teeth meant to be embedded into the end of the stock. Chris Schwarz observed that these toothed iron planing stops were depicted on artwork showing Roubo benches. He also indicated that the teeth on the stop might need some sharpening to grip the stock. See his posts at http://www.popularwoodworking.com/workbenches/schwarz-workbenches/getting-bit-toothed-planing-stop and at http://blog.lostartpress.com/2013/08/13/french-oak-workbench-the-planing-stop/.

Yesterday I got out a sharp chisel and a mallet, and used an extra long 3/8 inch brad point bit in my cordless drill. Before I started drilling holes for the through mortise, I used my chisel to outline the four sides. This led me to excavate down about 3/16 of an inch so that the birch veneer was less damaged on the top. It also helped me to spot the holes in the 3 by 3 inch area. After drilling holes side by side around the edge of the 3 by 3 inch area, I began chopping with a chisel between the holes. Eventually, I removed the block of material from the mortise so I could begin paring the surface of the four sides. The paring is important so that planing stop can be moved up and down with reasonable effort. This means the walls need to be vertical and square to accommodate the fit of block for the stop. The next step will be to glue up the hardwood block, trim it to size and then start fitting it to the through mortise. After that step I’ll fit the iron planing stop to the wooden block. My plan is to take my time by drilling a hole and then paring it to fit the toothed planing stop. Hopefully, I can avoid a force fit that might crack the planing stop block.

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What paring chisel is in your tool chest? Paring chisels aren’t designed for use with a mallet. Instead paring chisels are very sharp and have a lower cutting angle (20 degrees) and are therefore pushed to remove thin shavings. I believe that my paring chisel of choice is a lesser known one. About 16 years ago I bought a couple bent shank (or crank neck) paring chisels from Diefenbacher tools http://www.diefenbacher.com/paring.htm. I bought them to help complete the slant top writing desk I was building for my wife. Back then I obtained the 1/4 and 1/2 inch size chisels. The chisels sold by Diefenbacher are made by Buck Brothers and are no nonsense in appearance and function. The handles are fairly big, even homely, and yet they work well in the hands. I have been thoroughly happy with their performance. They hold an edge period.

In fact, I recently received another two bent shank chisels from Diefenbacher tools as a gift so that I can use them for paring on larger mortises. I can tell you that I’ve used those same bent shank chisels for paring the mortise for my new planing stop.

As many woodworkers point out in blogs it isn’t how many tools you have, but having the best tools for the job at hand that matters most. As a carver I’ll go one further and say it isn’t how many tools you have, but which ones do you keep sharp that matters. Really though, I think most of us would agree that we have been blessed to have more access to wonderful tools for fine woodworking when compared to 50 years ago. There are many reasons for that too. Most importantly, having a very sharp paring chisel is a must for cleaning out a mortise.

My point is that one of these modestly priced bent shank chisels would make a good addition to your tool chest. The shank of the blade is 6 3/4 inches long which gives you a whole bunch of flexibility for paring tasks. Diefenbacher sells this line of chisels for $25.60 for the 3/8 inch up to $37.30 for the 1 1/2 inch one. They also sell straight shank paring chisels. It has been a blessing for me to own these.

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