Drawer and Carcase Holding

by | Nov 26, 2015 | 11 comments

A planing sleeve is a work holding method for things such as assembled drawers and open carcases, so you can plane or work on the outside faces.

These are enormously handy when the carcase is too big for your vice, and knocking one up is as easy as fixing a couple of battens to your bench top, using holdfasts or clamps…or nails. The battens are positioned to overhang the front of the bench and are set apart so your carcase can just slide over them. A small board can also be used if you have one the right size.

This is my go to method whenever I’m planing a large drawer, and is what I used to hold the small carcase of our spoon rack in our video series.
Planing sleeveBut have you ever considered a built in planing sleeve? These would permanently overhang at the tail end of the bench.
For large carcases the French bench is already a natural sleeve (if you haven’t got a cumbersome tail vice) and if you’re building a bench this gives you a good reason to go with one that’s nice and narrow to allow more carcases to slide over it.
Built in planing sleeveA smaller sleeve can be built in to a bench top by simply leaving the front section of the top overhanging the end (as shown in the drawing). This makes a practical solution on an English style bench and would be smashing if you build alot of drawers, it also comes in for other things but we’ll go over those another time.
It’s something I heavily considered on my own English bench but decided against as I opted to maximise the length of the bench instead ( a full 12′ long), and the two batton method works so well anyway that I’d rather have the 12 foot bragging rights.

My next bench will have one though.

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About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. Ken Haygarth

    Sounds very Interesting Richard, I know you have something planned buddy. Looking forward to it, no matter what it is. 😉

    • Richard Maguire

      You should know me by now Ken. I never have a plan… that way I never go wrong 😉

  2. Polly Becton

    OOOH! Something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving!

    Nice to hear from you. It’s been pretty quiet.

  3. Ned

    Wish I’d read this about five days ago, before trying to balance a carcase on top of the bench, wedge it in the vice, and abut it against a block. End result: racked the whole thing horribly, bruised the housing for the sliding dovetail, snapped off part of a pin and loosened everything up nicely!
    As always your Pro Tips are kick-self-with-hindsight; so simple when demonstrated, and so effective!

  4. David Charlesworth


    That carcase side looks thick enough.

    Large thin drawer sides, 5/16″, might spring.

    I prefer to use a flat board or (MDF or ply) to support these.

    best wishes,
    David Charlesworth

  5. Ian M. Stewart

    Yep, obvious (once you’ve seen it). I’ve used a wide board this way in the past, but before I got holdfasts, so clamping the board to the bench becomes an adventure, and the clamps are _always_ in the way.
    BTW Richard, how is the workbench Premium Video coming on?

  6. Kermit

    Richard, I’ve been using this method for over 40 years. It’s been so long that I can’t recall which old craftsman showed me this method. It really works well, especially for drawers and small cases.

  7. mike murray

    What about fixing a portion of the top of the bench at one end that slides out when needed and can be pushed back in place when not being used? Something on dovetailed track possibly.

  8. Jonathan Board

    It seems Nicholson describes exactly this in The Mechanic’s Companion:
    “Benches are of various heights, to accommodate the height of the workman, but the medium is about two feet eight inches. They are ten or twelve feet in length and about two feet six inches in width. Sometimes the top boards upon the farther side are made only about ten feet long, and that next the workman twelve feet, projecting two feet at the hinder part.

  9. Toolwale

    This is such wonderful information provided by you. I hope you will provide us more such information.
    We are so thanks full to you for this.

  10. Julian Saxty

    Bill Goble had this arrangement on his Polishers bench, so as a apprentice I had to make one for mine; worked well then in 1962 and still in 2016, works as then.


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