Making mouldings the old fashioned way
Whether you’re building furniture or doing architectural work, at some point you’ll have to make mouldings. Most folks prefer to make them using various router bit profiles. I must admit that I use this method more often than not. But every once in awhile it becomes necessary to make mouldings using bench and moulding planes. Usually this happens when you’re trying to match an existing moulding or when the profile is such that it can’t be shaped with a rotary milling tool.
There is renewed interest in working with moulding planes. Many craftsmen choose to make their own planes and there are a number of well qualified planemakers who have turned their attention to this type of plane in recent years. Matt Bickford is one of these makers and he has authored an excellent book on the subject, Mouldings in Practice, which is available from Lost Art Press in book or PDF form. But, be advised, that making any mouldings, simple or compound, with planes is a different sort of business. Grain direction must be considered, as with any sheering tool. Gnarly wood is a particular challenge. If your sharpening skills are not “up to snuff”, you will probably find your experience something short of “totally satisfying”. One old trick that I learned from my Grandfather was to wet the wood’s surface prior to planing with either water, kerosene or gasoline. All will add lubricity but water presents the possibility of rust to irons and deformation to the plane body and the workpiece, itself. Kerosene and gasoline are significantly more lubricious and evaporative, but must be treated with care as they are both highly flammable. You’re probably aware that fire and fine wood shavings are not a good mix!
While the texts available on theory and practice are very helpful, I find that pictures are worth thousands of words. My friend Roald Renmaelmo and his associates have put up a wonderful post on hyvelbenk.wordpress.com about making architectural mouldings with hand planes. There are pictures that demonstrate practice and diagrams to provide theory. And the big bonus is that you’ll see some really incredible moulding planes made by the craftsmen themselves. These guys are “the real deal”. If you’re not following their blog, you should be. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t read Norwegian or Swedish, the great photography tells the story. And, every once in a while there’ll be a post in English.
You’ll note that I’ve opted to use the British spelling of moulding. In the U.S., molding still seems to be the standard spelling. But to me that spelling smacks of things that are green or black and slimey or fuzzy.
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