5-minute Cavetto Moulding - Popular Woodworking Magazine

5-minute Cavetto Moulding

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Handplane Techniques, Handplanes, Woodworking Blogs

I made some cavetto moulding for a version of The Schoolbox I’m building. And because a cavetto is one of the easiest mouldings to make with a round plane, I decided to demonstrate the basics of laying out this moulding using a No. 4 plane.

Cavetto, which means “to hollow,” is sometime called a simple cove moulding. Some people also will call it a scotia, though that technically is a different shape. Check out the Wikipedia entry on mouldings to learn more about the names of the basic shapes.

The whole process to make this stick of moulding was less than five minutes. And, best of all, no sanding.

— Christopher Schwarz

Do you have a handplane ‘problem?’
I do. And that’s what drove me to write the book “Handplane Essentials,” a honkin’ big made-in-America volume that is a brain dump on handplanes: selecting, tuning and using them. It’s available in our store, with free domestic shipping.

My moulding planes are from Old Street Tools (formerly Clark & Williams). They are worth the wait.

I also am fond of those made by M.S. Bickford, and have a few fill-in sizes on order from him now.

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Showing 10 comments
  • Ken Schnabel

    Is anyone else having trouble seeing the videos on an iPad now? I have not been able to view them for a while now.

  • Jonathan Szczepanski

    OK… just how much banjo music can one man have?



  • Eric R

    Your videos have encouraged me to lean more & more toward hand work my friend.
    My wife doesn’t appreciate your effort$….but I have !
    Thanks Chris.

  • J. Pierce

    Nice. It’s always helpful to show folks how quickly these things can actually be accomplished.

    I’m a fan of starting to remove the waste with a rabbet plane, which is much easier to steer than the molding plane, giving you two tips on the resulting rabbet to help guide the round plane. M.S. Bickford’s blog has been going into all the cool ways you can do this to help start out some fairly complex moldings.

    It’s probably not really an issue with a molding consisting of one profile.

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz

      I actually find it easier to start a round plane on a flat. That’s how I learned to do it.

      I’ve tried making rabbets for cavettos and other mouldings before; and for some reason, it’s harder for me. I always tend to overshoot.

      Matt’s blog is indeed the cat’s pajamas for moulding plane stuff.


      • rwyoung

        While I can proudly say I can no longer count the number of moldings I’ve done with my meager set of H&Rs on all my phalanges I have been thinking about the starting of rounds more lately.

        I’ve tried both methods and so far have better luck (but luck not always equaling success) fencing with my fingers and starting on a chamfer. Recently I was looking at Matt B.’s blog and I think I noticed something new. It looks to me, in one of his photographs, his rabbets are more shallow than the CAD drawings indicate. The vertex formed where they meet is well above the bottom of the cove. When I tried this method perhaps I sunk the rabbets too deep and that is why I was overshooting the line? Haven’t had the time to test.

        • Matt Bickford

          When the profile being created is 60 degrees of a circle I place the vertex very near the finished profile, nearly on it.

          When the profile being created is 90 degrees as Chris demonstrates hear I leave the vertex well off it.

          The profile being created is a 3/8″R cavetto. I would start with a 3/16″ square rabbet.

          Chris shows another way to successfully go about it.

          • rwyoung

            Ah ha! I think I can see why. With a 60 deg arc, you don’t have to roll the round over, just center it in the “valley” and go, plane pretty much does all the work. >60 degrees and you need to sweep the arc and since there is nearly always a portion of the blade cutting down into the lowest portion having the vertex well above the line reduces the chance of overshooting the line.

            Time to implement the “make one per day” method and investigate these things.

            Thanks Matt!

            • Matt Bickford

              Yes, that’s correct.

              When working a 90 degree arc, if the square rabbet goes down to the finished profile the round will touch both points for the first pass, not the second. When taking that second pass the round will only touch on a single arris, which makes that rabbet completely anti-productive.

              In the haste that goes along with putting blog posts up I have certainly made mistakes. I know I’ve illustrated this exact example incorrectly in the past.

              It’s funny how two very different methods produce the same results. I am terrible with Chris’ method.

  • Mark

    Nice demo. It would have taken me longer just to find the right router bit, much less set it up. I noticed you held the plane at varying angles with each pass, presumably to focus the cut where more material needed to be removed. Don’t know why but I was always under the impression that these planes had to be held at a consistent angle throughout the cut until the final profile was reached but after thinking about it, I guess that really only applies to “sprung” planes. By the way, your recent mention of the Stanley 45 prodded me to order one and I received it in the mail yesterday in excellent shape and with all cutters and parts. My gawd what a piece of engineering. It delights the eye just to look at it but I can’t wait to take it to the bench and put it through its paces. It wasn’t cheap (what decent hand plane is these days) but the price was fair and I have yet to regret buying a tool based on a recommendation of yours. Thanks once again Chris.

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