Scratch Stocks for Mouldings
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.
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 7⁄8” 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.
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 1⁄4” to 1⁄2” 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 I’m 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. There’ve 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.
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 pfollansbee.wordpress.com.
This article appeared in the August 2018 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine.
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