Scratch Stocks for Mouldings - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Scratch Stocks for Mouldings

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

By Peter Follansbee

Short runs of moulding call for custom scrapers.

Scratch stocks are simple, shop-made scrapers used to shape mouldings. I’ve never found a period reference to this tool; I don’t know its name, what it looked like nor how it was made. But I’m certain it existed. How? By studying surviving chests and other case furniture that have short runs of mouldings surrounding panels. In many cases, these mouldings fade in and out just before the junction of the mortise and tenon joints in the frame. Most of these short lengths of moulding are around 10″ to 15″ long. A moulding plane couldn’t create the full profile in such a short run.

chest with scratch moulding

A carving companion. This is one of my reproduction chests that shows the molding above the carved panel as it fades out near the muntin.

scratch moldings detail

Scratch moldings detail.

I make two kinds of scratch stocks. The first is to cut mouldings along the edge of a board’s face.The tool consists of a wooden stock, a blade made from an old scraper or saw blade and one screw (the modern concession).

I shape the stock something like a cartoon pistol. I choose a dense hardwood; the body of the tool acts like a fence running along the board’s edge. I made one recently from riven maple scraps. It’s about 3″ x 8″ x 78” thick. I saw out the shape, then mark a centerline down the narrow portion, which I call the beam. Choose a saw whose kerf will accommodate the blade.

scratch stock

A scratch stock. This profile is more detailed than some scratch stocks, but with clear, straight-grained wood it’s well within reason.

You want a nice snug fit – if the kerf is too big for the blade it’s hard to keep things steady. I saw down the beam and beyond. I want the kerf to run about 14” to 12” into the handle to help keep the blade in position.

After sawing, I shave a bevel along both edges of the beam’s underside. This helps keep the shavings from getting choked under the beam. I saw the shoulder then pare down the length with a long paring chisel. It doesn’t need to be a perfectly even bevel, just relieve the wood underneath.

Even though Im not a toolmaker, I can worry my way through filing a moulding profile on some scrap metal. The blade material I use is cut for me by a blacksmith friend. You can use old scraper blades, or pieces of saw steel from forsaken blades. I work the faces on a medium diamond stone to clean up the surfaces, then I use a felt marker to color the faces and scribe the shape I want. Remember to leave part of the blade for sinking into the handle.

Position the blade, then bore a pilot hole out near the end of the beam and put a short screw in to pinch it shut. This should secure the blade. Thereve been times I’ve shimmed loose blades with a shaving as I tighten the beam.

The other scratch stock I make is like a marking gauge. It features a beam fitted through a mortise in a fence. The fence is tightened by a wedge. I use one like this for making mouldings that run down the middle of a rail’s face.

After planing the beam and the fence, I chop the mortise in the fence. Then test the beam in the fence. It should be snug but not too tight.

The wedge mortise is the critical part. Its angle is pretty slight, and the bottom of this mortise needs to break into the fence’s mortise so the wedge can bear upon the beam.

Kerf the beam, prepare the blade and pinch the beam shut just like before. Then it’s ready to go. For the edge mouldings, I chamfer the edge first to remove the bulk of the stock. Then the scratch stock is just to finish the profile. I push the tool. Tilt the blade forward as you’re working the shape.

kerf the beam

Kerf the beam. If you use a backsaw, it has to have a deep blade or you won’t reach far enough down the beam.

bevel the edges

Bevel the edges. This long-bladed paring chisel makes easy work of the bevels, but you can use a shorter chisel, too. Just skew the blade so the handle doesn’t get in the way.

shape the blade

Shape the blade. I file the shape with tapered round and triangular files. You can sharpen the blade with slip stones or a burnisher, but I go right from the file to molding, so I apply light touches at the end.

scratch stock with a fence

Scratch stock with a fence. This finished scratch stock has a wedged fence, alongside one underway. I’ve left the fence blank longer than its final size making it easier to handle for mortising.

refine the mortise

Refine the mortise. Check that the ends of this mortise have no protruding bumps in them that might prevent the wedge from pressing on the beam.

chop the mortise

Chop the mortise. I bore a hole then chop out the mortise. This one’s about 5⁄8″ x 3⁄4″.

For the other version, some mouldings benefit from a groove first plowed down the board’s face, much like the chamfering. Touch-up each blade with the files from time to time. PWM

Peter Follansbee has been involved in traditional craft since 1980. Read more from him on spoon carving, period tools and more at

This article appeared in the August 2018 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine.

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  • CharlesBr

    The resulting moulding is very crisp! Is that tool sharpened like a scraper, with a burnisher?

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