Chris Schwarz's Blog

Mouldings in Real Time

There is a lot of nutty, stupid boasting in our craft. Examples: I can build that highboy in a weekend. I can rip faster than a table saw. I can eat more pies than you.

But one of the boasts that gets the most eye-rolling is this: I can cut mouldings faster than you can set up your router.

This one I actually believe.

There are some mouldings that I make all the time. I use a 3/16” bead between my backboards. I have a 1/4” ovolo for small casework where a plinth transitions to the main carcase. And now I have a 1/2” square ovolo for larger details.

While complex moulding planes have lots of limitations, they are great when you need to run a lot of moulding really fast.

Today I was moulding the aprons for a table I’m building and took some video of how long it takes to form the edge, from the time I picked up the jack plane until the time I put down the moulding plane.

And there is no sanding. This moulding is crisp and ready to finish.

— Christopher Schwarz

Like handplanes? Want to learn a lot more about them? Pick up a copy of “Handplane Essentials,” which is an enormous U.S.-made compilation of my writings on the tool. It’s a nice book. I wouldn’t lie to you.

P.S. The music in the video can be downloaded here.

24 thoughts on “Mouldings in Real Time

  1. cbf123

    I’d love to find some old molding planes. Unfortunately I live smack in the middle of the Canadian prairies and I think they all got burned for firewood or something. I’ve seen one box of molding planes in several years of casual looking and they were all junk.

    1. Bill

      Get ahold of Patrick Leach. leach@supertool.com He sells some really good used wooden planes and his prices are reasonable.

      I bought a half set of hollows and rounds and a set of ovolos and some odds and ends, over 30 planes total for about $700 plus about $50 in shipping. I couldn’t be happier.

      I e-mailed Patrick, told him what I wanted, and asked him to to keep an eye out for me. He told me he’d look for what I wanted. It took him a couple of months but he got ahold of me after returning from England. There were more planes in this than I had been looking for, but with the price of about $25 per plane, we made the deal. Patrick is honest and up-front about all his sales.

      You MAY find a better deal shopping the flea markets, but Patrick does all the work for you, and that was well worth the price to me. I live in New Mexico and most of the wooden planes for sale here are firewood. And my entire set was from one woodworker, had always been together, and were well cared for. As I said, I couldn’t be happier.

  2. Gary Roberts

    First off, I’m a hand tool guy through and through. I don’t even own a powered router at this point. Even my stationary tools are about to be sold. Second off, let’s look at this scenario:

    On one hand, you have a router and a brand new ovolo bit.
    On the other hand you have a wooden plane, an ovolo and a new blade, profiled and needing to be sharpened.

    Now, I need 12 feet of clear, straight grained walnut, edge molded, for some built-in casework I’m installing.

    It’s about the project, the wood and the tool, not about the competition. Give me a piece of clear pine or poplar and I can have most anyone shooting moldings in short order. Switch to walnut, maple, oak, birch, etc. and the story changes a bit. Require more footage and it changes again. At some point, machinery is the better choice, even in 1870.

    Sure, I get that this is a plug for a book, plug for a planemaker and a bit of fun at showing just how great hand tools can be. Unfortunately, it also continues the unfortunate trend towards polarizing Us and Them instead of attempting to show how woodworking is just working wood.

    1. Bill Lattanzio

      When I was nineteen I somewhat foolishly enlisted in the army. Got to see a good deal of the country. I lived under the notion that it was somehow romantic to have all of my possesions on my back and that’s all I would need. It was a great feeling….
      Two months ago we had a hurricane that left us without power for roughly a day or so. I brought a lantern to my little garage workshop, whipped out my chisels and planes and saws and did some woodworking. I didn’t make anything significant, just a small planter box for my little girl. But it was a great feeling, maybe the best I’ve ever had in my brief time as a woodworker.I have nothing against power tools. In fact I would go as far to say that the table saw is one of the great power tool inventions in any field, and when it comes down to it maybe the one truly indespensible woodworking power tool, hand tool geek or no. But the pioneer in me loves the idea that I can take some sharp chisels, a couple of planes, and a few saws out of my dinged up wooden toolbox and make just about anything out of wood is a pretty great feeling.

    2. GregM

      I don’t see this as a hand-tool-vs-power-tool debate … Chis has always advocated using the best tool for the job. I may be wrong, but that tenon looks suspiciously like it was cut with a stacked dado set.

      1. Bill Lattanzio

        I agree. I cut my power tool use dramatically at first because I have a little girl who likes to wander into the garage when I woodwork. Soon enough I discovered that at least for me the woodworking was alot more fun when I focused on the hand tools. For me I think it was easier because I’ve only been woodworking a couple of years so power tools in the woodworking sense were just as new to me as hand tools. Still, I would never get rid of my table saw at the very least for the ripping. Ripping in my opinion isn’t so much a woodworking skill, more like a workout. When I want to workout I’ll lift weights, when I want to woodwork I don’t want to spend the day ripping boards by hand. I think there are a million arguements for each side and the answer, as usual, is somewhere in the middle

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      The first rule of hand tool use: Pick your wood to suit your work.

      I let Glen Huey have all the curly bird’s-eye maple. I prefer straight grain. Always.

      You can still use hand tools on nutty wood. But – just like when you use power tools with wacky wood – you are going to have some scraping or sanding ahead.

    1. griffithpark

      Jonathan,

      There’s a great DVD by Larry Williams of Old Street Tools. Well worth the $25. Its title is something like “Sharpening Profiled Irons”. It’s available from Old Street Tools or Lie-Nielsen.

    2. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      It’s mostly stropping to keep the edge keen. When stropping won’t take care of it, you use some slips.

      It is really, honestly and truly not a big deal if you just keep up with the maintenance.

        1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

          You change the depth depending on the wood and the job. I usually start with an aggressive setting and then lighten up for the final passes.

          1. Shawn Nichols

            How do you adjust the depth? Is it like a straight-bladed wooden plane (i.e. tap the iron to increase projection and tap the back to decrease projection)? You can thank me later for your next video idea…

  3. renaissancewwrenaissanceww

    Very nice Chris. I have thought about picking up a complex profile plane for a bit and even went so far as to buy a few “dogmeat” planes that I have yet to attend to. My 1/8 and 1/4 bead planes do get a lot of work and they are fast. I can still eat a pie faster than it took for you to stick this moulding!

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      Most vintage moulding planes I buy are about $10 and don’t need much (if any) work. Also, interestingly, the dogmeat moulding planes that I don’t buy are also $10.

      Buying a new moulding plane, such as the Old Street plane, helps support woodworkers I like and want to thrive.

      And don’t get me started on how many routers I’ve burned up!

        1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

          Joe,

          It’s actually a quick process. Next time I’m at Ed Lebetkin’s shop (above Roy Underhill’s school) I’ll shoot a video. He has HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of these for sale.

          1. Is the wooden stock bowed? Check the sole and side with a ruler.

          2. Is the iron toast? It should be clean of rust and match the profile of the plane.

          3. Does the wedge hold the iron tightly?

          If it passes these three quick tests, it’s probably going to be a good user.

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