Jointer Plane Fence

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This article is from Issue 17 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Get rough-sawn lumber project-ready with a shop-made fence for your jointer plane. 

By John English 

BEING NATURALLY VERY CHEAP, I buy rough-sawn hardwoods directly from the mill. It’s about one-third the cost of buying pretty boards from the big box stores, and it makes dozens of species and specialty cuts available that are not offered by the chains.

Usually, the lumber hasn’t been straight-lined. That is, neither edge is straight enough to run safely against the table saw fence. To fix the problem, I use a jointer plane. It’s quick, easy and very accurate. It also removes a minimum amount of waste and this, because I am so horribly cheap, is quite important. 

I’ve been doing this for a couple of decades now. Even with all of those years of practice, it’s difficult to hold a plane so the newly jointed edge is at a perfect 90° to the wide face of the board. Adding a fence to the jointer plane really helps. My fence has a hardwood base for narrow boards, and an optional add-on aluminum fence for wide boards (Fig. 1). 

And it works like a dream.


Construction

The first step is to mill a piece of stock for the fence so the edges are at exactly 90° to the faces. For this, something like plain-sawn red oak with nice, straight grain is ideal. Cut it to size, joint one face and run it through the thickness planer with the jointed face down. Joint one edge and cut it to a width of about 21/2" on your table saw. It should be about 6" longer than your jointing plane, to accommodate any snipe. Trim it to length, cut a clearance notch for the blade and attach it, on edge, to the sole (bottom) of the plane with four pan-head screws driven into predrilled holes. The steel in most planes is quite soft and will readily yield to a standard twist bit. Make the holes in the steel a mite larger than those in the hardwood, and test a screw to make sure it fits easily through the holes in the steel. If you’re right-handed, you’ll want to attach the fence to the left side of the plane (as shown in the photos), and vice versa.

The fence needs a stabilizer that will help it resist the pressure applied by a woodworker during normal use. This is a second piece of wood that is wider than the fence and rides along the side of the plane (Fig. 2). To create a pattern for the stabilizer, simply trace the outline of the plane on some red oak stock, and then bandsaw it to shape. Attach the stabilizer to the fence with glue and clamps, noting the patterns in the endgrain. The assembly will be more stable if the grains work against each other (Fig. 3). 

For the extension fence (which is very helpful on boards more than a couple of inches wide), I used aluminum. Were I to do this again, I would use steel angle iron, as the aluminum tends to leave black marks on the boards being jointed. The fence is attached with two knobs with 1/2" 10-24 studs (Fig. 4), which are available at most hardware stores. These screw into threaded inserts that you install in the bottom of the stabilizer. Rather than drill a hole in the metal extension fence, I opted to drill several holes and file them into slots (Fig. 5), so that the extension fence can be moved left or right. This means that the plane can be used on edges other than rough boards (for example, on raised panel doors, or even wide base moldings).

If the fence ever needs to be removed, it’s just a matter of unscrewing it from the jointer plane. I’m still waiting for such an occasion to arise.

—John English has written or co-authored four woodworking and how-to books, and publishes Woodezine, an online woodworking magazine.

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