The Case for Hollows & Rounds

A few simple planes open the doors to a multitude of mouldings.

By Matt Bickford
Pages 30-35

I am not a woodworker who uses only hand tools. I use machinery when it is efficient and when it won’t dictate the look of my final product. I use planes to flatten boards wider than my 6″ jointer. I dimension lumber by hand when it will not fit through my 12″ planer. I cut my dovetails with a handsaw. When I became tired of applying the same moulded edges to my projects of various sizes I started to research my options.

Several years ago I became aware of moulding planes. You have seen these during your meanderings through flea markets and auction houses. These planes can be hundreds of years old, thus, when you use them, you will be creating profiles that are appropriate to period work and do not contradict period style. These planes do not make coves and astragals that are the interpreted design of a present-day machine shop, the corporate choice of what the masses may like or the design insanity of squeezing a 31⁄2″ crown ogee into 3⁄4″-thick material.

I bought several dedicated moulding planes (also called complex moulders) over the course of a couple years. I bought a couple of side-bead planes to, well, make beads. I bought a reverse-ogee plane because I liked that profile for a chest. I got a crown moulder because I thought it was neat.

Like router bits, these dedicated planes make uniform profiles and can be, depending on size, very quick and extremely efficient. With a dedicated moulding plane, a 3⁄16″ lip around a drawer front is executed in the span of minutes. A 1⁄4″ bead along an edge is never more than a few moments away from completion.

The integral fences and depth stops that allow these planes to create a uniform profile also preclude them from making the same profile in a different location relative to a board’s edges. With both methods – routers and dedicated moulding planes – a complex profile can be built up using several pieces, but the tool dictates the process and product.

Unlike routers, dedicated moulding planes often need a significant amount of work to make them function. This work, which is often executed blindly by a person new to the tool who chooses to buy the most complex, makes the plane seem even more limiting and daunting. Even more depressing: When you find that dedicated moulder to create the profile that you like, you find the tool has been sold.

Blog: Read the author’s blog, “Musings From Big Pink.”
In Our Store: Buy the author’s new book “Mouldings in Practice” (Lost Art Press).
Web Site: Visit the author’s web site and learn about the moulding planes he makes.
To Buy: “Moldings in Practice” Matt Bickford’s new DVD from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks.

From the December 2012 issue #201
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