Three Simple Workholding Solutions for Hand Tools

I still remember the first time I attempted to dimension a board with hand tools. I watched hundreds of videos that all made it look easy. I convinced myself that I would have a four-square board within minutes. I put my Stanley jack plane to the board, and off I went.

Two hours passed, and all I could show for it were a handful of four letter words. My sharpening skills were lacking, but my biggest problem was the inability to properly hold my boards. Should I build a fancy workbench? How would I build a fancy workbench without the ability to properly hold my boards?

This is a problem that many beginners face. Never fear. There are many simple workholding solutions. Most are cheap and easy to build. Today, I will show you three of my favorite jigs for hand tool use.

The planing stop

Who says you need a fancy workbench with an expensive tail vise to hold boards for hand planing? All you really need is a planing stop.

Plane Stop in Use

My planing stop is nothing more than a piece of hardboard with a small rail. The rail is clamped in a vise to secure the planing stop. It is thin enough to plane the thinnest of boards. If I want to plane something thicker, I can tilt the planing stop up in my vise. The best part is that it was made in under a half hour with scraps already laying around in my shop.

Plane stop bottom, showing the rail

A sheet of hardboard can be found at your local hardware store for as little as $6. If you don’t have a workbench with a vise, you can clamp a strip of hardboard to your work area with a couple of inexpensive F-clamps.

The batten

This little guy excels at holding your work-piece when you need to work cross-grain to rapidly remove material. It’s a thin strip of material with a notch cut in one end. The notch holds one corner of your board and works in conjunction with a planing stop. The other end of the batten is held with a clamp or hold-fast. It’s amazing how securely this notched strip of wood can hold your work piece. Mine was made with a piece of scrap in about five minutes.

The notched batten excels at holding work for cross-grain planing. The notched batten in use.

For more information about battens, check out this post on wood battens.

The bench hook

The bench hook is versatile. It is primarily used to secure small pieces of stock for hand sawing operations. However, it can be used for so much more.

The versatile bench hook is primarily used for hand sawing.

At its simplest, it is a board with a fence on the top and a hook on the bottom. Placing pressure on your work piece simultaneously secures the board to the fence and the hook to your workbench. It’s simple. It’s genius. Don’t limit it’s use to cutting stock to length. A bench hook can also be used to shoot end grain and for chiseling operations.

The bench hook in use.

While my bench hook might look fancy, you can make yours from a flat board and two straight pieces of scrap. For more information, see this post on bench hooks.

There are many other great hand tool jigs, but these are my favorites. 

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