Editor's Note: The following is the first article in
a series of two. Look for the second instalment in an
upcoming woodworking newsletter.
Despite the predominance of the router, molding planes
remain useful for restoration work, reproductions, or
for those who simply enjoy working with hand tools.
They are often quite affordable and, when used skillfully,
leave a burnished surface that is ready for finishing.
Because of their cutting action, they can create profiles
that simply can't be duplicated by machine. Router bits
derived from traditional molding profiles can lack
the fine detail and elegant curves of the original.
Molding Plane Anatomy
Though they consist of only three parts—a body, a blade,
and a wedge—molding planes are actually complex precision
tools. The sole is shaped to the reverse of the molding
and the bedding angle of the blade (its pitch) is directly
related to the material it is intended to cut: 45º
for softwoods, 50º for general use and 55º to 60º for
hardwoods. Some planes have strips of a dense wood (usually
boxwood, though lignum vitae was occasionally used in
early planes) inserted where the sole receives the greatest
wear. Known as boxing, these strips extend the life
of the tool. In the photos on the next page, notice
how the plane is tilted—or sprung—with its fence running
along the edge of the work. Springing gives greater
control, but it also allows the mouth to be of a consistent
width to support the shaving and take a smooth cut.
Multiple passes take wider and wider shavings until
the integral depth stop makes contact and the molding