Monday, February 7, 2011

Tail Vise vs. Planing Stop Redux

A few weeks ago I was building a couple small totes for our dining room table. I picked up some really nice vertical grain Douglas fir and thought it would be a nice change from the typical hardwoods I use. As usual I prepped the boards with machinery, then refined them with hand planes. I find this to be the most efficient and accurate way of working.

The wood was planing nicely, so I didn't bother with holding the work in the tail vise. I just used a planing stop for speed and efficiency. Here's another reason you should plane faces of, especially smaller boards using a tail vise and not just a planing stop. As I reached dead flat on the board face, the flatness of my plane's sole, along with the flatness of the wood surface created a vacuum. When I picked up the plane for the return stroke, the workpiece stuck to the plane's sole, held on for a moment, then fell off with the pull of gravity. It bounced off the edge of the bench and onto the floor, making a nice dent in the face of the relatively soft fir.

Score one for the tail vise.


  1. You know, if you'd just use a plane whose sole wasn't so darn flat, you wouldn't have these problems!

    (I initially intended that comment completely facetiously, but as I was typing, I got thinking - would a corrugated sole have prevented this minor accident?)

  2. A corrugated sole might help, but the potential is still there with a super-flat corrugated sole.

  3. Awww, nuts, and here I was, just about ready to skip on the tail vise, given that a sizable minority of folks consider it "unnecessary." Their arguments were modestly compelling, although in truth I've never had much luck using just a planing stop.

    So I guess my question would be this: what are the advantages of a true tail vise versus a Veritas Wonder Dog?

  4. It's not an apples to apples comparison. The Wonder Dog was developed as a way to get between dog clamping capability very quickly and easily, drill a row of holes in a surface--done. Your question suggests you've never logged much time using a traditional workbench with a tail or wagon vise. Before you purchase anything, I would recommend you do some reading (Chris Schwarz's two bench books are at the top of the list) and spend an hour or so working on a traditional bench. That will be extremely helpful.


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