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American Period Furniture 2006

Kerry Pierce's Tips for
Buying Molding Planes

1.  Hollows and rounds are the most common molding planes on the antique market and the most useful. A modest collection of these planes can be used to create complicated shapes if you don’t have the specific complex molder you need. They can also be used to remove the waste before finishing up with a complex molder that you do have. This was common practice in the 19th century for craftsmen sticking wide moldings.
 
2. Side beads and center beads are also quite common, and they’re also quite useful. I use side beads around the openings on glass doors and on the corners of country-style cabinets.
 
3. Complex molders are those that include two or more elements. Narrower complex profiles will likely be of more use to furniture makers than the wider complex profiles, which were intended to create more massive architectural moldings.
 
4. A molding plane must have a reasonably straight sole. I have straightened the soles of a couple of bowed molders with a bench plane and some hollows and rounds, but it’s hard work, and the process alters the original profile, requiring that the iron be re-shaped.
 
5. The profile of the sole and the profile of the iron’s cutting edge should match. It is possible to reshape a mismatched iron, but it’s fussy work.
 
6. Boxing—the inlaid strips of boxwood on the sole’s wear points—should be present, although loose boxing isn’t much of a problem because it’s easy to re-glue the boxing into place.
 
7. When the back edge of the iron is tight against the back side of the throat, the iron and sole profiles should match. Sometimes on molders that have seen hard use, the back edge of the throat is so worn that the iron must be shimmed to keep it in its side-to-side position.
 
8. When you buy molding planes, don’t buy what you need. But what you like. You’ll learn to need the ones you have if they spend enough time in your shop.

-Kerry Pierce