In Shop Blog, Techniques, Tools

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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!

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 8 comments
  • Greg Humphrey

    Nice picture frame, Chris. The arch at the top and bottom look similar to the arch that Harvey Ellis added to several pieces of furniture that he designed for Gustav Stickly. Be sure to show us the finished product.

  • Wayne Anderson

    I often use fingerless anti-vibration gloves when I am doing plane sole lapping for extneded periods of time. They’re leather, and the palms are padded. I like the hook and loop closures as well. -Wayne

  • Christopher Schwarz

    We’ve also used the gel-filled bicycle gloves when using power sanders, which can reduce tingling in the digits. I think that gloves get a bad rap in the shop because of the safety concerns about using them around machinery.

    I have a pair of technical gloves that see constant use in the shop. I will have to try the bicycle gloves with planing now. Thanks for the tip.


  • Ron Banks

    I’d like to second Robert Weber’s comment about using bicycle gloves while hand-planing – they offer good protection against bruising and pressure/nerve related problems. I started using them for hand-planing back in 1998, when I had to plane about 300 linear feet of moulding for a retail shop I was redoing. After I’d done about 200 feet of baseboards, I noticed my hands were tingling just like they used to do after a really long bike ride. The bike gloves really saved the day for me, and made it possible for me to finish the job on time. I’ve never used them for hand-sawing before, but will definitely give it a try.

  • Robert Weber

    I’ve been grabbing an old pair of bicycle gloves for years for extended planing and rip-sawing sessions. This is especially useful for combination planes like the Stanley 45 where there’s no truely comfortable place to put your left hand.

  • Mike Wenzloff

    I don’t know about for Chris, but for me if I am sticking 6′ of molding using a small side bead like shown, doesn’t really matter to me. But anything cushoning/protecting the palm makes a difference after a little bit of time.

    With larger, more complex molders where there is a wider cut or even a larger side bead, it makes a definite difference quickly. And it isn’t like one is using a molding plane all day building a cabinet even with more complex molding planes, though for certain styles of furniture one could. I elect to make moldings as I build, as portions of the assembly require, so it spreads the work out.

    But I will echo Ethan’s sentiments–because you and I have briefly wrote about this topic, Chris–we need Adam or Larry to do some articles on molding planes. After I pick up some more profiles I have been hankering for, of course :p

    Take care, Mike

  • Martin Hart

    That mitt looks very much like a sailmaker’s palm, if my memory serves me and if I have the name right.I wonder how much planing you need to do before one of those comes in handy – half a day straight?

  • Ethan


    So can we look forward to an article in PW or WM regarding the sharpening of moulding plane irons?

    I must admit – hand planing in general is a bit intimidating to me, though my desire to learn grows weekly. I’ve passed up many moulding planes that were probably excellent buys (clean planes, no checks or breaks, full irons and no missing wedges) because those profiled irons scare me even more.

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