Bead Planes – The Gateway Moulding Drug

Side Beads – The Gateway Moulding Plane

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

openerFrom today on, expect to see a side bead on just about everything I build; I’ve recently received the 3/16″ beading plane I ordered from Phil Edwards of Philly Planes. And she’s a beaut – quartersawn English beech fully boxed with English boxwood and an 01 iron (at I believe a 50° pitch…I can’t find my protractor), all made by Phil in his Dorset, England, shop, using traditional methods.

beadSo what does this plane do? It’s a dedicated profile with an integral fence and depth stop that cuts a bead (a semi-circular shape that ends in a quirk) on the edge of a board. And it cuts it fast – much faster than I can set up a router table (and a lot more fun, too) – just a few passes with a sharp blade and Bob’s your uncle.

Why would I want a bead on everything? Again, it’s a fun plane to use. Plus, beads are an excellent way to hide a seam where, say, the nailed-on bottom of a tool-chest till meets the front, or where shiplapped backboards meet. A bead at a top edge softens corners and adds visual interest. And did I mention it’s irresistibly fun?

Now I’d best review my copy of Larry Williams’ “Sharpening Profiled Hand Tools” DVD so I don’t muck up the iron. And I’d best start saving for another beader or two in different sizes.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

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Showing 18 comments
  • mmyjak

    Gesh.. “Just because you got a new hammer, doesn’t make everything a nail!” or so I tell my 7 yr old. Oh wait.. wrong forum. (Or is it? )

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      What?! Does too!!

  • woodwork27

    Although a well tuned moulding plane can be a pleasure to use, I prefer to make them from scratch, particularly the more unusual types. I recently completed a set of eight airtight case planes & last year a set of six planemaker’s boxing planes.

  • MStone

    “Gateway Moulding plane” indeed! Someone get her a snipes bills set, and a couple of rounds! Or is is hollows? I can never remember, are they labeled for what they make, or are they labeled for what they are? A Hollow plane make a round, and a round plane makes a hollow, or a hollow plane make a hollow and a round plane makes a round? Where’s Matt Bickford when you need him?!

    Seriously though, do you really need ANOTHER slippery slope to slide down? OTOH, what else are you going to put against the back wall at the bottom of your ATC?

    (Owner of an enhanced half set of Mr Bickford’s work, so I know whereof I speak, the slippery part I mean.)
    M Stone

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      Oh, it’s already begun. I’ve a set of No. 2s from my grandfather and a set of contemporary No. 4s…saving up to complete a half set, and yes, I want snipes bills (along with a nice wooden rabbet, a Philly moving fillister…)

      • amoscalie

        Why save up for to complete a half set, just make your own. I am currently working on making a half set and it isn’t that difficult. The most difficult part is making the mortise, but wait, that is about the only part! I have invested $144 for quarter sawn beech and finding old irons, so do the math and see how much each of the 18 H&Rs cost in materials plus about 4 to 5 hours of labor each.

        • Megan Fitzpatrick
          Megan Fitzpatrick

          It’s the 4-5 hours each that’s the problem! But who needs sleep?

          • amoscalie

            Just look at as therapy, and it is like many other woodworking projects, it is really satisfying.

  • AstraGal

    Nice plane, congrats! Side beads are very handy planes to have. One tip, though: When you use a molding plane, you should start at the farthest part of the board from you and work back toward yourself in short strokes. This allows the plane to ride in the profile it has already cut, plus helps keep the plane from clogging up, as the mouth should necessarily be set fairly tightly. You will be able to pretty easily tell when you have fully cut your profile – you will smell it! The plane will actually burnish the wood. Then feel the molding after you’re done: no sanding necessary! it will be as smooth as the proverbial baby’s bottom.

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      AstraGal, I’ve been taught a different method (the one I showed) by several people who know their way around a shop — but of course, there is more than one approach to just about everything In woodworking.

  • gumpbelly

    Megan said

    “just a few passes with a sharp blade and Bob’s your uncle.”

    Never knew your were an Aussie

    • gumpbelly

      What was all that other stuff the guy said about an all over tan? Is that math humor?? Clueless here too

  • Shawn Nichols

    Megan, can you provide some examples of what this looks like on furniture (or toolchests)?


  • andrae

    I get an inverse tan from months of rainy northwest winter

    • andrae

      oh, thought this was going to nest under pmcgee’s comment. oh well.

  • planepassion

    Megan, I wholeheartedly agree. My first molding plane was a 3/8″ beading plane by Greenslade of Bristol, England. Like you say, it’s a blast to use, but it being vintage, I had to spend some time tuning it up. I’ve heard good things about Phil Edwards so I think you’ll have a lifetime of use out of your new treasure.

    And you’re right, I find myself using it all the time. I use it to visually ease boring joints and to add visual interest by way of a decorative element. An example would be the wall-mounted wine-glass rack I built (

  • pmcgee

    You can save the protractor by measuring the rise and run of the iron … I’m sure you have a ruler handy … then calc the inverse tan 🙂

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      um…no I can’t.

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