Lee Valley Tools Woodworking Newsletter
Vol. 2, Issue 1
September 2007
Collecting Molding Planes

Antique molding planes.
A trio of antique molding planes

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 is complete.


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