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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.

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Showing 24 comments
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Steve_OH

    Can we see the curly birdseye maple version of that same video?


  • Jonathan Szczepanski

    How do you sharpen a blade like that? It seems like it would be a very tedious and time consuming operation. It’s a big reason why I haven’t tried moulding planes.


  • renaissanceww

    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!

  • BarryO

    Maybe it’s faster, but I gotta think that a router bit is lots cheaper than that fancy molding plane.

  • Peter

    Is that a home made, antique or contemporary moulding plane you’re using?

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