Chris Schwarz's Blog

M.S. Bickford's British Moulding Planes

The world needs more makers of new wooden handplanes, especially moulding planes. Vintage moulding planes can, in my experience, be testy. The narrow stocks can be twisted or bowed, the irons can be rusted to oblivion and many wedges need to be replaced.

If you read my article on Clark & Williams planemakers in the April 2010 issue, you probably concluded the same thing that I did: There are enough woodworkers out there to support another maker.

So I’m pleased to announce that I’ve gotten my wish. Matthew Bickford of Haddam Neck, Conn., is now a full-time planemaker. He’s taking orders. And the planes look great.

This weekend he was showing off his wares at the Northeastern Woodworkers Association annual Showcase event, and I got a chance to chat with Bickford and shoot a short video of him making an ovolo moulding. I didn’t get a chance to use the planes — the vendors were breaking down all the booths, and we were receiving heavy stink eye from people who needed to get home.

But I did order some planes from Bickford to test for the magazine: a 7/8″ rabbet with a boxed corner and a pair of No. 8 hollows and rounds.

Here are some early details for you early adopters. Bickford is a native of Hyde Park, N.Y., graduated from Yale University with a history degree and (naturally) became an equity and derivatives trader in Philadelphia. After nine years of that, he abandoned high finance, moved to the Connecticut town where his wife is from and started making planes.

His planes are British in form, much like the Clark & Williams planes. But there are some important distinctions. Bickford’s planes are cherry instead of beech. And the way he packages his wares is a bit different.

Take a gander at his site: msbickford.com. In addition to offering the standard sorts of planes, such as a half set of hollows and rounds, Bickford offers smaller sets that get you started in moulding planes.

For example, take a look at his “starter set” of 13 planes for $1,575. For most woodworkers, this probably would take them through to the end of their creative lives. The set includes the even hollows and rounds between Nos. 2 and 10 (10 planes total), plus a pair of snipes bills and a 7/8″ rabbet plane. That’s a great starter set.

Additionally, Bickford offers individual pairs or hollow and round planes, plus side rounds.

Bickford has been at it full-time now for three months. Look for him at some Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool events on the East Coast this year and — I hope — at our Woodworking in America show in Cincinnati, Oct. 1-3.

I’ll post more about the planes as I get my hands on them and get comfortable with them. In the meantime, take a look at this video of Bickford cutting an ovolo. Awesome stuff.

- Christopher Schwarz

4 thoughts on “M.S. Bickford's British Moulding Planes

  1. Tim McEneany

    These planes look really cool and I look forward to your review. Do you know of anyone making new wooden dado planes?

    p.s. History major turned trader is surprisingly not that uncommon…I can think of at least three at my firm!

  2. Lyle

    While I welcome Mathew going pro, I am mystified by his choice of wood. Why Cherry? I thought you wanted to use the hardest wood available for wooden planes so it does not get damaged in use. Beech is harder than cherry; why not hard maple or ash?

  3. Chuck Bender

    Chris,

    I have the second half set of hollows and rounds that Matt made. I can tell you from personal experience that they work as well (or better) than they look. His workmanship is impeccable and the quarter sawn cherry planes are absolutely beautiful. I’m glad to see that Matt decided to go full time pro. The woodworking world is a brighter place. You’re going to love your planes when you get them in the shop.

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