Hand Planed Moldings


Hand planing moldings has to be one of the most satisfying parts of a project for me.


10 thoughts on “Hand Planed Moldings

  1. I haven’t yet made the leap to moldings (still teaching myself the basics) but I am curious, do you make your own molding planes or do you hunt down antiques in flea markets or ebay? If you hunt, how do you insure the hollows and rounds match? is that terribly important, or do they only have to be close?

    I was thinking that when I get ready for the more decorative elements like moldings that I was going to get the Lee Valley set of Hollows & Rounds http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=64009&cat=1,41182 I have the Wooden Rabbit plane they sell and it works pretty well (as soon as I figured out that they shipped it with the blade upside down… should be, or at least it works better as, Bevel down instead of bevel up as it was sent) and seems to be of similar quality.

    • Chris,
      I have bought all of my molding planes on the old tools market. It takes a lot of patience to find ones worth tuning up, but it can be done. You really don’t need a whole set. The larger pairs in my set hardly ever get used. I’d say that sizes from 1/4″ up to about 3/4″ (by 1/8ths of an inch) are probably my most used sizes. It’s really not important that hollows and rounds match exactly because you aren’t using them to make mating surfaces. They just have to look close. I do make them match though when I tune them because I prefer to know that the iron is shaped to a true 1/6th circle and that the radius truly matches the iron width. This makes it easy for me to design and make moldings with curves that I can match with my planes.

      It’s not hard to tune up a hollow & round pair if you start with decent bones, even if your planes are from different makers. What’s important is that the stock be free of water damage or dry rot, that it be straight along it’s sides (a concave or convex sole can be fixed), and that the iron is not severely pitted. Pretty mych any other flaw can be fixed. I wrote an article for the Feb. 2011 Popular Woodworking that talked about how to tune up a hollow & round pair. I’ll get a podcast up on the process at some point, but if you can’t wait, you can probably still get the back issue. I may have the PDF burried somewhere on my hard drive as well. I’ll look for it in the next few days.

      As for the Asian H&R, they may work ok, but their sole shape won’t let them do what the English style H&R can do. They can make broad sweeping curves ok, but they can’t reach into a tight corner like English/American style H&R due to their geometry and being center escapement instead of side escapement. If you like classic moldings like those found on old English and American furniture, and want to make molding in that style, you probably won’t be happy with the Asian planes.

      • Bob,
        Thanks for your thoughtful reply and advice. Like I said, I’m not yet to the point of needing molding planes, but I am definitely looking forward to that part of the journey.

  2. I hope this is a lead-in for a new video. I have never used a wooden body plane, but I think molding planes would be a good place to start. Sharpening those cutters must be a real bear! I am still working on sharpening blades (4 years later). I’m almost good now… 🙂

    • Not hard to sharpen at all if you have the right equipment. The irons for the rounds require nothing special above what you use to sharpen your straight irons (other than a little more care). The irons for the hollows require a grinding wheel with a radius to grind the profile and bevel and a slip stone to hone them. Other than that, again, they’re not much harder to sharpen than straight irons.

  3. I have been looking for some good molding planes. I would love to make my own moldings. It seems everytime I find a molding plane in person it is garbage. Still looking online for some good ones. Might have to roll the dice and just buy some.

    Moldings looks great.

    Have fun at Woodworking in America, hope to be there next year.

    • Bill,
      Just look for something with good wood and try to avoid side to side warp. A convex or concave sole can be fixed, but sideways warp really can’t without altering the width of the plane. As long as you have that and a decent iron, you can make a good user out of it. Wedges can be remade, sole profiles can be reshaped and straightened, and irons can be reground…as long as the bones are good.

  4. Bob,

    What’s the angle of that wedge? Does it work OK? I’ve gone thru 5 versions of my plow plane build and think next one I’m dropping wedge angle down to 10 degrees.


    • Shawn,
      I have no idea what the angle of the wedge is. I don’t really have any accurate way of measuring it. It’s probably somewhere around 12 degrees. Most locking angles like these are in the 12 degree range. Windsor chairs use a similar taper for their legs and stretchers. Seems that the 12 degree angle is optimum for this type of thing. I think I remember reading in Wheelan’s book that he found 12 degrees to be best for side escapement plane wedges as well.

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