Moulding planes are some of the coolest planes in a toolkit. Each one is like a modern router, but without the dust, the roaring universal motor and a bit spinning at 20,000 rpm.
Like all hand tools, moulding planes require more skill and initial set-up than a power tool. Plus, you need the right accessories , some people call them appliances , to make them shine. And because many moulding planes have irons that have complex shapes, they can be intimidating, even to a veteran sharpener. But once mastered, moulding planes are addictive. Now, I probably wouldn’t want to trim out a house with moulding planes, but when making short runs of mouldings for a cabinet, they’re efficient tools because they are always set up to make their profile. You just grab them and go.
The most useful accessory for moulding planes (and planes that form rabbets) is a sticking board. There are lots of forms of sticking boards. Mine is a long section of stout wood with a low fence along one long edge. It also has some kind of way of stopping the work at the end of it. Examples I’ve seen have a wooden block with a nail jutting out. Mine has four screws that I can adjust up and down (or remove) to match the profile of the moulding and keep out of the way of the tool.
First secure your sticking board to the bench (there are many ways to go about this). The example in Robert Wearing’s classic “Making Woodwork Aids & Devices” has a spine that runs on the underside of the sticking board. The spine hooks over the front edge of the benchtop and is secured in the face vise. My sticking board is immobilized by other accessories on my bench. At the end of the sticking board, my planing stop holds it, and the bench’s dogs brace the sticking board from the side.
I don’t get to see many designs of sticking boards, so if anyone would like to share theirs, send it on and I’ll gladly post it.
With a moulding plane you plane a little differently than with a bench plane. Begin with short strokes up by the stop. Gradually increase the length of your strokes. This process creates a track for your plane to ride in and makes cleaner profiles. Note that my left hand is pushing the tool against the fence. My right is pushing forward. Each hand has but one job.
Speaking of hands, the leather thing on my right hand was given to me to try last weekend by Charles Murray, the hand-tool guru for the Woodworkers of Central Ohio (WOCO). I went up to their meeting in Westerville, Ohio, to give a short talk on scaling mortise-and-tenon joints, and Charles presented me with this mitt in the parking lot as I loaded up my junk.
One of the other members had found a reference to it in an old book where it was called a bodger’s mitt. So, of course, they made some of them to try out using scraps of leather from Tandy Leather and some snap closures.
The bodger’s mitt is supposed to protect the right hand when using planes, particularly moulding planes. So last week I gave it a try. I did half a run of moulding without the mitt. Then the rest of the run with the mitt. I like the mitt!
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