Planing Cams

I enjoy hand planing a great deal.  There is something very relaxing about it.  Though every once in a while I have a piece of wood that is too small or oddly shaped and holding it still while planing becomes a bit of a hassle.  It takes the fun out of planing, replacing it with frustration.  I have bench dogs and planing stops and a vice, but sometimes these fall short for a variety of reasons.

I recently saw a post on Lumberjocks showing a nice planing board.  The board had a fence and dog holes for driving a wedge, but the most clever thing was a kidney shaped cam that functioned both as a clamp and a stop.  This got me to thinking about using a pair of similar kidneys with ordinary 3/4″ dog pegs for pivots as planing cams.

plane stop cam

The oposing cams fit into ordinary dog holes. The more the plane pushes the wood forward, the harder the cams clamp.

I have a few rows of dog holes on my bench and combined with these planing cams it gives me a new set of ways to hold work for planing.  They are very helpful with planing small stock, but can be used on larger pieces too.  The flexibility seems to be primarily limited by dog hole spacing.

planing clamps

The planing cams are made from 7/16" plywood and 3/4" dowel.

The two cams are mirror images of each other.  They can be used together or just used up against an ordinary planing stop or bench dogs.

planing stop dogs

Paired up with a couple of bench dogs, this would is held securely, yet can be removed, flipped and put back in place with one hand.

There is probably an ideal shape for creating a cam like this, but I just sort of sketched it out with a couple of requirements.

  1. The two stopping wings put together had to be only as wide as the gap between my two rows of dog holes
  2. The peg has to be offset toward the stopping wing so that the a small movement of the stopping wing yields a larger movement of the clamping wing.
  3. The height of the cam had to be less than 1/2″ so that I can plane down to 1/2″ stock.  (in the future I may make a set out of thinner plywood or maybe even hardboard)
planing cam pattern

The stopping wing is on the right, and the clamping wing is on the left.

I had a feeling I was going to have to build a few of these planing cams before getting a usable set.  I built this pair in under 45 minutes and they worked pretty well, so it was time well spent.  After using them for a while in different situations, I am sure I will find some adjustments that will need to be made on my next set.