A square-end plane Guide

I plane 99% of my end grain freehand, accurately working to my knifewalls on four sides I can’t remember the last time I used a full shooting board. I use that more for mitring. Wide boards of six inches and more end-grain planing is of course the easiest to do. You have a long runway to land and run your plane on. Create your knifewalls, sharpen your bench plane and plane down to the knifewalls on the four faces with a few corrective strokes as you go. It’s the narrow and thin strips that are the hardest to get dead on because the surface is too small, short and narrow to land a plane on with any degree of registration for squareness and such. My guide here solves the problem straight off as would a shooting board and probably a bench hook. But I wanted something more rock solid for some of my work. I’m offering this as an alternative because it is quick and easy to use once you have it and perhaps, even more, a must-have for guaranteed effortless end-grain squareness without pulling out its larger shooting board cousin. Shooting boards often take up too much of your available and valuable benchtop space and hog the vise more. Making this vise guide might just better meet your needs. It’s the fastest and most secure I know of for both one-off trims and batch repeats of quality cuts using ordinary planes. Once you’ve used it you will doubtless pull it to task for every stick that’s a hair too long or indeed for a multiple series of boxes and box parts, drawer dividers and many component parts associated with the furniture maker.

So why this and not just stay with the shooting board? Using the shooting board usually relies on both the vise and the benchtop beyond and around the benchtop. You have to clear the decks to use it. That’s one good reason and especially if you just have one end to trim. The other is that whereas a shooting board takes over almost all control once set up my vise held version requires your input for aligning and keeping the plane relatively aligned and square and this is key to muscle memory and training your whole upper body to plane square and level according to felt direction. This is training!

You can use scraps and make it any size you want but after my scrap pine one, I went to beech for greater permanence.

I have two design types that solve all my issues for me but you will likely have a product you make that you can adapt the design to suit your needs: one is dedicated to specific sizes and the other is one that planes just about any size you anchor into it. For making something like my Shaker-style dovetailed candle box, I’d make a customised and dedicated guide to accommodate the half-inch material three and a half inches wide. The guide carriage, stop and wood are all clamped together in the vise for total security and safe holding until the last trimming stroke is done. It gives you the same precision cut and trimming you might get from using a chop saw but probably better in that instead of a thousand saw teeth kissing the surface successively, a single plane pass swipes through in a smoothing last pass. There is of course no mess, no noise, no dust and no danger or safety issues to speak of. John used his last week to plane up all the pieces for his five-person hands-on class.

It’s worth noting here that though this is custom-sized, you can simply change the tightening wedge size and add another for other widths in the same carriage.

This is a fully wedged version. The first end grain section you see far left is the recessed stop that lies perfectly flush with the carriage having driven the stop hard into its recess and then trimming and planing dead flush. The second end grain is the wood you are trimming. Next comes the wedge tightening the wood against the stop and the last is the recessed wedge stop that counters tightening wedge. It looks complicated. It’s not!

I used mine recently on my last project to plane up the ends of the slatted shelves, which totalled 44 end-grain trims on 1/2″ by 1 3/4″ beech wood. The idea is to get the wood as close as possible to the line leaving a small fraction of a mil’ on and then stroking the end with two or three plane strokes to perfect the end. Of course, there is a moderate risk that you will end up planing the carriage part a shaving’s thickness out of square as you take plane strokes but this is somewhat sacrificial and correcting out-of-squareness is a quick and simple stroke to do too.

You can change the thickness of your wedge to take thicker pieces. This stop takes up to 1/2″ but making additional wedges could go up to an inch and a half and more easily.

My general-use version takes any thickness of stock up to an inch thick but you can go thicker with the stop for even thicker material. Thick material is easy to freehand though so I wouldn’t feel this to be of much value. Mostly, we will rarely go to this thickness so making a stop that protrudes 1″ past the carriage face is enough. With this you can end-grain plane anything from as thin as 1/8″ on up to 1″. Using this version, we clamp only the material to be planed along with the carriage in the vise, not the stop as well although if all components are level then you can do but usually that depends on the size and type of your vise.

It is important to work accurately to get everything aligning well and gap-free. To do this, sharpen up your edge tools and saw before you begin. This will give you the crispness you need. First, cut your stop to the measurements given. Remember that the edges of the stop must all be as square as possible which is dead square.

Stop made from 10″ by 2 1/2″ by 1 1/2″ hardwood. Drawing is showing a 1″ piece which I use for half-inch stock. Increasing to 1 1/2″ gives greater versatility for material thickness. Taper goes from 2 1/2″ to 1 1/2″ on a 10″ length of stop.

The carriage can be made any size you want but this can be made to match the plane you plan to use if you favour using just one. Use either bevel-up or bevel-down versions. Wider #4 1/2s and #5 1/2s work well for a little extra width and weight if you have them but #4s and #5s work great too.

Now to make the main carriage.

True up the first large face. I used winding sticks to guarantee no twist and sighted for straightness as standard.

Square up the edges to the main face and check by sighting for straightness — very important to be square on the top edge of the carriage as this is the registration face for the plane sole. Depending on how heavy your plane cuts are and how heavy-handed you are, this surface will need correction for squareness from time to time.

It’s best to use the actual stop to get the exact angle for the recess rather than rely on measurements so we make the stop now. (`See stop details above)

True up your stop blank first squaring one edge.

Layout out for the taper . . .

. . . .and saw down the line and plane square and straight.

Square a knifewall 5″ from one end of the carriage piece and without removing the square align your stop with the square as shown and with the stop 1/2″ past the top edge of your carriage piece. Now mark the second, angled knifewall with the knife.

Set a sliding bevel to the angled knifewall.

Use the knife to establish the second knifewall.

Square pencil lines across the edges top and bottom.

Use a marking gauge set to 1/2″ between the lines on the edges.

Chisel into the knifewalls to further define the knifewalls.

Cut down the knifewall to the gauge lines with a fine-toothed saw.

Chisel out the waste wood working at an angle first on one side . . .

. . . and then the other.

Now remove the mid-section with a wide chisel.

A router plane will further refine the bottom of the recess if you have one. if not use the flat face of the chisel to establish the bottom of the recess.

Clean up the recess walls by pare-cutting the end grain and working to the knifewalls

Check your stop in the recess. If it fits well it will need no refining. If both then refine the knifewalls but remember the square wall must ideally be square and not undercut as this is the wall that will guarantee the guide to give square and retentive results.

Drive the stop into the recess firmly with sound hammer blows to consolidate the ends of the recesses in the carriage piece and then check the perpendicular face for square.

Saw off the excess but leave a 1/32″ (1mm) or so of wood to plane flush with the carriage.

Back bevel the out-cut of the stop as shown to stop breakout when using the guide.

The extra length of the angled wedged stop is for accuracy in aligning longer pieces so leave it full length below.

Okay, now that we have a basic guide made, you can make different stops for specific or standard sizes subsequent to this so that all of the components can be clamped in the vise when you have many pieces all the same size to be made. I mean, having stops at the ready for 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″, 5/8″ and 3/4″ and any size in between these. But for one-offs, my general guide works just fine with the stop not being clamped in the vise. By vise, I speak of course, of my favourite vise the quick-release vise. It’s the one type I really use and have relied on for almost six decades. These are the most powerful vises and apply amazing pressure to the work consistently across the jaws from left to right and then vertically too. You will see also that I use leather on the free jaw wrapped over the top and glued to the inside face; it’s also good to wrap it over the top and bring it down in between the metal jaw and the liner. This too is my addition to the vise to add both cushion and a non-slip hold which in turn means I can rely on a lot less pressure from the free jaw when I clamp or I can indeed apply a mass of pressure as needed.

Just a note: Correcting out of squareness to the guide means checking the carriage the plane rides on and then checking the carriage to the stop. As I said, checking periodically and especially if you see shavings coming from the carriage as well as your wood is a necessity to keep things accurate. That said, you should be able to trim a couple of hundred end-grain pieces using this one guide. Remember, this guide is an aid for taking off final trimmings to a saw cut and not really for hogging off lots with a heavy set although you can indeed do that too.

Mitres on moulded stock are best done on a regular shooting board but square-edged material works well on my vise guide. Superglue two dots of superglue with a 45º spacer up against the stop and you’re good to go for a one-off. I have no need to make a special guide but I would if I had a lot of mitres to cut.


  1. any chance on doing a video on making a this? I hate to ask this because of the explicit detail you went through in the tutorial article complete with photos…….but I definitely learn. better from watching versus reading, as much as I try.

    thanks anyways Paul, I’m sure many will use and implement this.

    I have not made your shooting board yet, been procrastinating it for a few years now and still need to do it.

    but as you said this will take up much less, valuable space on the bench top.

    1. Yes, this definitely needs a video of the jig in use. I couldn’t get my head around how to use the jig from the text + pictures above.

        1. Sorry Paul but you are not correct with that statement. I seriously do not understand anything about that jig. Please remember you have been doing this for 55 years so what seems simple and obvious to you may not be for others. I have read this blog 4 times now and I am still none the wiser about how to use it let alone make it.

          1. Okay, the piece of wood and the guide are clamped together in the vise. The plane sits on top as shown in the first five pictures and the drawings and the plane is slid across the end grain of the piece being squared until the plane sole is level with the guide.

  2. Thank you once more for an excellent solution to planing thick end grain. I will adopt your design.
    I hope you don’t mind me mentioning that there are a lot of reversed images in this article? cheers Alan

      1. It looks like all the reversed pictures are when you are facing the camera – which leads me to postulate that you are using the front-side camera for the shot (“selfie mode”). If this is the case, there is a setting in that mode that mirrors the image. The intent of the setting is that most people use the camera for selfies, and expect it to behave like looking into a mirror…

        1. LOL! Ain’t helpful technology great? It seems some of the “Pinheads in the Pinstripe Suits” at Apple used to work for the government: “The nine most dangerous words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’ ” – Ronald Reagan
          Speech to Future Farmers of America.
           July 28, 1988

    1. I thought Paul was showing off a bit, doing it mostly left handed just for laughs 😋
      (This is not a dare!)

  3. Part of me wishes I hadn’t just remade my shooting board last week.

    Since this is essentially a vertical shooting board, would it be sensible to place an additional stop at the back edge of the carriage? If done such that say 1/2 the blade is left overhanging it would still provide the 1″ or so of capacity with a #4. Then, like in a shooting board, once the carriage edge has been taken down to the blade depth, you wouldn’t expect any more to be removed?

    The only downside I see to this is that there is less reference edge for the plane bottom to sit on. This may be mitigated by using a stop large enough to register the plane side on, much like happens at the running surface of a standard shooting board. Except you still operate in “vertical mode”.

    I’m probably missing something here without having handled this at the bench top. Perhaps a weekend experiment for me.

    1. Personally, I think it works so well I am advising people in my sphere and audience here to take half an hour out and make one from any scraps, try it, and if they feel good about it they can continue using it and also make a better one with some better wood. My work on it took several days and then several hours to write it up so that there is very little to work out for themselves. Your criticism would have greater value if you had indeed taken a little time to pull one together. As I said, probably half an hour for the basic one.

      1. Not at all a criticism. I think this is a great idea and appreciate you bringing it forward. I do plan to make it.

        My comment was merely a thought/question on a simple adaptation of the design. I like to talk about my passions and think through designs with people more knowledgeable than I am. With no one to do this with in person I’m left to comment threads such as this. I’ll not do so in the future.

        1. I was simply pointing out that it is so easy to make what could be considered critical comment in lieu of even taking a couple of screws to a piece of wood and screw it to the carriage to see how it works for you. That’s all. I don’t mind criticism per see, just thought it was worth trying out first.

          1. With all respect Paul, SMH appears to me to have asked a simple and valid question on a practical point, not criticising. Your response was unnecessarily rude.

            You often reference the limited time that many of your viewers/readers have. Being one of those myself, I often like to think things through and try to get it right first time, rather than work through prototypes and iterative improvements. I imagine SMH may simply have been in a similar scenario.

          2. So I think you are saying you think I should have tried the suggestion on his behalf and then tell him if it worked so he could then add it to the one he hasn’t yet made or tried?
            I often think rude should usually be translated as forthright, really.

        2. I did say in the article that this worked well and that it can be customised more to suit the individual needs of users to suit their projects. I really didn’t mean to be offensive in any way, just more matter-of-fact. I just expected people to give it a go, see how it worked and improve on it where necessary. Without trying your idea I am no wiser. Also, no point fixing what isn’t broken. It worked great for John last week when he had 50 pieces to trim for his class.

          1. No I wasn’t suggesting you should do the work on behalf of SMH, and I don’t think they were either. They were just asking for your thoughts on their point.

            It’s always easy for comments to not sound as intended without when written rather than spoken.

          2. having live in the North and South of England, I often found that ‘rude’ to a southerner was ‘forthright and obvious’ to a northerner. 🙂

            anyways, back to the wood

          3. Yup, two regions divided by a common language. I once heard a southern mother-in-law and grandmother correct her granddaughter for pronouncing ‘glass‘ and bath with contracted ‘a’ instead of the extended southern ‘aar‘. When the northern mother returned, the granddaughter told her mother of the remonstrating southern mother’s pronunciations. The diplomatic mother said nothing as the granddaughter pointed out that both versions were correct and could be used interchangeably anywhere you were.

          4. My goodness, Mr. Sellers, this entire exchange seems to bear out my favorite Scot’s Praise: “I am strong-minded and you are stubborn, however, ‘They’ are pigheaded”. Which, of course, are three ways of saying the same thing. My thanks to you and everyone involved for the affirmation, for I too have been accused of being “Direct” before.

  4. Paul, great idea. Thanks for taking the time and effort to bring this great design to us.

  5. Dear Paul, to avoid misunderstandings, some people (SMH?) might not have guessed how it must be used.
    There are pictures about how to clamp a piece in the guide, a picture about flushing the stop but no picture/clear text explaining how to use the guide.

    I guess it must be used the same way as in the picture showing flushing the stop:
    the plane pushed askew with the blade above the piece and the back part of the plane sole on the carriage. Correct me if I am wrong.

    It is obvious that to obtain good results, one has to ensure the piece is tight against the stop (where no wedge is used).

  6. Neat idea. Just got done squaring up some 10” wide 1/2” thick boards and it was a little tricky without any jig. Once you’re close to your knife wall it doesn’t take much to accidentally go over in a spot.

    Question for you paul. If you go past the knife wall at all, even just barely in one spot, do you allow it or do you just shorten the entire piece to a new line?

    If you have 4 boards and three are done dead square and you mess up the last one by half a mm it is so frustrating

    1. I am not so much the perfectionist people think I am but that does not mean I can’t be. My perspective in perfectionism is that it is mostly rooted in a deep pride that rarely leads to any kind of true satisfaction. I feel I have come to a place of living in my humanity with acceptance. I am no longer trying to prove anything to anyone least of all myself. I plane stroke too many rarely means much more than missing the mark by a thousandth of an inch and rarely does anything result in marring an end result. I enjoy seeing those marks of humanness rather than the work of an obsessive-compulsive always trying to prove something but proving nothing. It’s difficult to rest in their presence but I am not talking about a medical condition so much as someone who takes three days to make a dovetailed drawer because they have the luxury of disposable time, disposable income and so on. I am far from jealous or envious of such a person, I just prefer to set realistic goals for the completion of tasks otherwise I feel I never really achieve anything and I have never had the luxury of disposable time or disposable income.

  7. Made one of these this morning with some maple scrap (6/4 carriage and 8/4 wedge), love it. When freehand planing end grain I often end up (pardon the pun) a hair out of square to the face (i.e. along the narrow axis), but having the wedge as a “landing platform” takes care of that entirely, and of course allows through cuts, which simplifies everything. Great time saver. Thanks very much!

  8. The simple jig fits my jig philosophy well. Make it serve it’s purpose without a lot of bells and whistles. No super jigs which try to be universal but end up not doing anything well. Besides if I don’t want to store it I can put it in the scrap bin and the next time I have a similar need I make another. I really don’t have room for clutter in my shop.

  9. It took me a few minutes to understand what was going on from the pictures, but then I remembered that I’m left handed, so I was looking at it the wrong way round! I found the text under the pictures was more than adequate to get it. I have a massive shooting board that I dread taking out because of the amount of space it takes up. It works well, although I’ve never really been that enamoured with shooting boards in general and prefer to plane end grain in the vice, so this should make that easier. I do occasionally (last week for instance!) plane long stock, so I’ll retain the shooting board for that. Great idea Paul

  10. Thank you for this idea, Paul. And for your generosity. Your blog content is free, yet this post (like many others) goes beyond musings to practical content, content that took significant time to develop and document. You noticed a challenge commonly faced by woodworkers. You thought of a solution, tested it, wrote it up, and then offered it for readers to try for themselves without a having to spend a lot of time. Very generous. Thank you.

  11. Very interesting. What I like about it is that you can easily get a shearing action with the blade by holding plane slightly skewed to the board. I have wondered if it is worth finding a shooting plane with the skew built in. I think I’ll try this first! thanks

  12. Hi Paul , I grasp about 90% of the Guide and I’m pretty sure all will be revealed when I make it, Thank you for sharing
    Kind Regards

  13. Excellent idea as an alternative to a shooting board. As someone who has never posted ideas or work on the Internet I truly value people like Paul posting his mind/ experience/work/ for all to read. it has helped me no end in self taught woodworking.
    It’s frustrating to read so many negative comments. Stay forthright Paul.

  14. Something else interesting which ‘came out of the woodworks’ here:

    I find it fascinating, and very puzzling how we sometimes seem to respond with entitlement, where only appreciation should be.

    I do not mean this in any way as an attack on previous commenters here. I see this at my corporate job too – the company goes beyond their obligations giving more leave than legally required, as a way of perks, and next thing there’s someone demanding they have paid time off to accommodate for their kids pickup/delivery. I myself feel it’s an option for me to buy into it, but I keep an eye on it and am careful not to.

    We are all woodworkers, I think. Be it an amateur woodworker, professional woodworker, professional amateur woodworker… perhaps even (me?) niggly woodworker, stubborn woodworker.
    As such, I dare say with enough willingness (there’s a way), photo number 4 alone, perhaps with number 2 (and NO explanation) would probably suffice.
    As a woodworker (even a trainee/would-be woodworker) you could probably figure it out by DOING, and reverse-engineer it until you get it.
    How can we feel we’re entitled to demand more, when something is offered freely (quite literally) to us?!

    My ask is this: spare a moment to think about the above, and if you see value in it:
    Be an anything woodworker, except for an entitled one.

    Ngā mihi nui (with much regards),

  15. Excellent Paul.
    I’ll be making one tonight.
    I’d been using my shooting board vertically in the vice and it worked but involved too much faffing around (or cutting out a large portion of board body).
    This will just get the job done – no fuss.

  16. This is not only a fantastic idea and solution, the extent of detail in description of the process and photographs(of whatever orientation) are highly appreciated. Unlike some readers, I far prefer this method of instruction as opposed to video. Also, like another reader had commented though, I don’t have any type of mentor or person of such knowledge to directly learn from. Hence this is priceless instructional information in my book. Thank you for the time you’ve taken to share your craft and talent.

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