Moulding plane advice

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steve355

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Hi

i’m determined to learn to make moulding planes. I’ve got quite a few of them, but they’re all at least 100 years old, and generally knackered, can’t get matching ones, broken bits etc. so I’ve been reading and watching everything I can get my hands on, most recently Larry Williams’ video on making them. Generally speaking it seems very good.

I’ve managed to get a grip on most of it, but there is one aspect I don’t understand, perhaps Larry has left it out because it introduces complications.

All of the wedges on my moulding planes have a skew profile. Likewise the mortises seem to have a skew on them as well. It’s very difficult to tell if the moulding planes have skew irons. I didn’t think they have, but it is so slight that perhaps they do have, just the mouths are all in imperfect condition and it is difficult to tell.

She below some pictures of a Varvill number three that I own, and you can see what I mean.

Is this skewed irons that Larry had left out to reduce complexity for beginners trying to make their own planes? Or is it a feature to help the wedges to push the tang of the blade into the face side of the mortise? Whatever it is, it is very slight.

Any advice would be much appreciated, and if anybody has any reference that takes making these planes to the next stage beyond what Larry explains in his video, that would be really useful.

Cheers
Steve

wedge

D9226141-F2D6-46A9-8B01-551BC0B8E7B1.jpeg
7F9D3B89-E26D-4610-9C98-44AC1ACBE18C.jpeg
 

heimlaga

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Most old profile planes aren't skewed. The ones I have made aren't. Except for the panel fielder which is used on end grain and must be skewed for that purpose.

I generally like Nordic style profile planes better than English style. The body being full width all the way to the top allows a wider tang on the blade. Significantly smaller risk for blade chatter.
English planes were usually made by professional plane makers using all sorts of speciality tools to get a perfect fit. Nordic profile planes were usually made by the user and without proper floats and proper training the fit that could be achieved with chisel alone wasn't quite up to English planemaker standards. With the wider tang this didn't matter.
I have also found it very difficult to plane resinous pine and totally impossible to plane spruce with English style profile planes. The shavings clog in the eascapement. Nordic planes usually had a large rounded escapement with plenty of room for the shaving to curl and find it's way out. Theese work way better on softwood.
 

steve355

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Interesting. I actually made a few floats in preparation for doing this (see pic showing off my lovely floats) but no skewed ones yet. Or indeed pull floats. I’m not averse to making whatever is needed to make it work.

Perhaps a straightforward one is the best place to start with a 90 deg iron.

image.jpg
 

steve355

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see pic, what the wedge skew actually does is push the tang against the side of the mortice, thus holding it in place and reducing chatter. That’s my theory anyway. It’s not a skewed iron.

image.jpg
 

johnnyb

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skewed irons are subtle but obvious. they were a bit more expensive. the difference is very minor tbh. they wered eliberately skewed as they come in sets where they are all skewed. the cutting angles can be 45 upto 55 degrees. often stamped cabinet.
 

D_W

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if the wedge is skewed, the iron is skewed. Larry makes straight planes and tries to make a case for people having a straight rabbet plane instead of skewed (possibly because he's selling planes to beginners and with his setup - mostly machines doing all but the finish bits- he doesn't make the planes the way they're made in the video based on contraptions he's shown on his page in the past - the hand finishing work is done that way and I"m sure there's other hand work done that way, but there's a lot of milling (which can be set up skewed, too).

Before i start guessing too much, Don McConnell may be around from time to time to say more, but there's also the issue that beginners think skew planes are harder to sharpen than square planes (they're not, but they will be if you try to use guides).

...if you want to make skew planes of the standard types or really any types, you should have an edge float that will work into the tight corners of the planes (this is something you can make = 1/8th wide is plenty and if you can only harden the first inch or two of teeth, you'll be fine. You may find your own hand cut floats are far less susceptible to resonance on the end grain of planes, too).

So, what's the reason for a skew? it cuts end grain well - to a finish cut. Is it worth having? I think so.
 

D_W

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(the larry video is excellent, by the way - not mentioning the stuff above to imply that it isn't, just guessing at reasons why he suggests a square rebate plane instead of skew.

If you can do what larry does in the video, you can figure out pretty easily how you'll need to lay a plane out askew It doesn't add much of anything in terms of complexity for rounds and hollows - you still put the iron blank in the plane, trace the profile and cut and grind.
 

Adam W.

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So I have. It’s the same when the wedge is reversed (I.e. the right way around)


Both sets of hollow and rounds that I have are skewed, but I do have some straight rebate planes which are good for planing in both directions when rebating out for a molding. The boxwood radius and compassed planes I made are straight so that I can plane either way, although you can use a skew rebate plane in both directions too, but it only ejects the shavings properly to one side.
 

IWW

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Steve, I can't figure out what you are showing in that pic - either the wedge is in back-to-front or you've got the blade in the front of the mouth?

In any case, my experience is the same as @heimlaga's, I've seen plenty of dado & rabbet planes with skewed beds, but not moulding planes. When a bed is deliberately skewed, you should be in no doubt that it was intentional - if it just looks a bit off-square I reckon that's more likely due to damage. You will also find planes with beaten-up wedges that are no longer straight, & planes with wedges from some other plane that don't even fit well enough to hold the blade - you may be experiencing something like this?

I can't see any real advantage in skewing a moulding plane blade, tbh. Certainly, skewing will throw the shavings out better, but skewing is probably more bother than it's worth unless you are already an inexperienced planemaker. It is definitely desirable on a panel-raising plane where you're going to be doing a significant amount of cross-grain cutting. As long as the mouth is adequate, choking shouldn't be a major issue. These things were meant for churning out miles of mouldings and need to be able to take healthy shavings to do that efficiently. The folks who had to do that sort of work by hand didn't waste their time trying to plane wild-grained stuff, they sensibly selected the cleanest, straightest material they could.

If you are restoring an old house or something like that, it's probably worth coming to grips with moulding planes, but they are not the easiest of tools to master. Making/sharpening complex blades is a higher hurdle than sharpening straight blades, for starters! For an amateur building furniture or other small stuff there are easier, albeit slower, ways to make mouldings. I don't think of hollows & rounds as "moulding" planes, but I suppose they are a sub-type, and they can certainly be very handy for making complex mouldings, & also quite a bit easier to come to grips with when you start out.

Mind you, I'm no dab-hand with moulding planes, I've got a few planes which I used to make skirting boards etc. for an old house I was renovating at the time. That was more than 30 years ago & I don't think they've seen the light of day since..... :)

Cheers,
Ian
 
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Adam W.

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I knocked these sprung mouldings up to prove to someone that they were a viable option for making short sections of mouldings for repair.



IMG_3623.JPG



And I made this little frame to prove to my workshop companion, who works as a framer in Piccadilly, that for picture frames they are superb tools to learn to use.

IMG_3625.JPG
 

steve355

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if the wedge is skewed, the iron is skewed. Larry makes straight planes and tries to make a case for people having a straight rabbet plane instead of skewed (possibly because he's selling planes to beginners and with his setup - mostly machines doing all but the finish bits- he doesn't make the planes the way they're made in the video based on contraptions he's shown on his page in the past - the hand finishing work is done that way and I"m sure there's other hand work done that way, but there's a lot of milling (which can be set up skewed, too).




...if you want to make skew planes of the standard types or really any types, you should have an edge float that will work into the tight corners of the planes (this is something you can make = 1/8th wide is plenty and if you can only harden the first inch or two of teeth, you'll be fine. You may find your own hand cut floats are far less susceptible to resonance on the end grain of planes, too).

So, what's the reason for a skew? it cuts end grain well - to a finish cut. Is it worth having? I think so.

Steve, I can't figure out what you are showing in that pic - either the wedge is in back-to-front or you've got the blade in the front of the mouth?

In any case, my experience is the same as @heimlaga's, I've seen plenty of dado & rabbet planes with skewed beds, but not moulding planes. When a bed is deliberately skewed, you should be in no doubt that it was intentional - if it just looks a bit off-square I reckon that's more likely due to damage. You will also find planes with beaten-up wedges that are no longer straight, & planes with wedges from some other plane that don't even fit well enough to hold the blade - you may be experiencing something like this?

I can't see any real advantage in skewing a moulding plane blade, tbh. Certainly, skewing will throw the shavings out better, but skewing is probably more bother than it's worth unless you are already an inexperienced planemaker. It is definitely desirable on a panel-raising plane where you're going to be doing a significant amount of cross-grain cutting. As long as the mouth is adequate, choking shouldn't be a major issue. These things were meant for churning out miles of mouldings and need to be able to take healthy shavings to do that efficiently. The folks who had to do that sort of work by hand didn't waste their time trying to plane wild-grained stuff, they sensibly selected the cleanest, straightest material they could.

If you are restoring an old house or something like that, it's probably worth coming to grips with moulding planes, but they are not the easiest of tools to master. Making/sharpening complex blades is a higher hurdle than sharpening straight blades, for starters! For an amateur building furniture or other small stuff there are easier, albeit slower, ways to make mouldings. I don't think of hollows & rounds as "moulding" planes, but I suppose they are a sub-type, and they can certainly be very handy for making complex mouldings, & also quite a bit easier to come to grips with when you start out.

Mind you, I'm no dab-hand with moulding planes, I've got a few planes which I used to make skirting boards etc. for an old house I was renovating at the time. That was more than 30 years ago & I don't think they've seen the light of day since..... :)

Cheers,
Ian

Ian

I have a small amount of experience with moulding planes, having made a few picture frames and no end of window bits. I have about 50 perhaps that I’ve collected, and I have sharpened and “tuned” quite a few of them.

The back story is that I have a Victorian house which had awful plastic windows (which apparently last longer than wooden windows). A couple of years back I got them replaced in wood by a local joinery firm - cost me an arm and a leg. All part of a project to re-Victorianize the house. They are pretty good, much better than plastic, but not the same as proper old windows. There is one window they didn’t do - the rear balcony that they wanted 10 grand for.

So having taken up woodwork I thought I’d try to learn to do it myself. I got a router table which scared the rubbish out of me, and I soon realised it wasn’t authentic anyway, and I got into hand tools. Hence the moulding planes.

Then I started to realise how interesting the old crafts are, how skilled the workers were, and how efficient and effective their tools were.

So I’d like to make my own planes and then use them to make the balcony window, possibly a greenhouse that my wife wants, and there is no end of joinery that can be done or repaired around the house. Starting with a few hollows and rounds, then mouldings for the windows etc…

Steve
 

steve355

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Here’s some more pics, this time of a Nurse sash ovolo.

1) Parallelogram shape of the mortise.
2) Skew of the wedge shown on a flat surface
3) wedge the other way up
4) tang being held to the face side of the mortise by the skew
5) mouth which doesn’t look skewed to me!

C074FC1A-3B90-4F42-AF2A-0CB815CC640A.jpeg
F1C61739-9AFA-4691-A57F-07F4419F1F68.jpeg
4487D3BC-8C3C-4476-8575-362A8BB81AB2.jpeg
582CDACB-2E3C-483F-BCB4-EAAF44FD4A58.jpeg
D180588D-A6CF-406E-89C0-2245F3F0BB2B.jpeg
 

IWW

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OK Steve - you have any number of good reasons for getting to grips with your moulding planes! :)

Now I realise what you are wanting to do, yep, moulding planes are definitely the way to go. As usual, I jumped to conclusions & imagined you wanting to make stuff for furniture ('cos that's all I do these days, I supose). Actually, I think you are well ahead of me in the game already, a picture frame that meets perfectly in all 4 corners is a very good indication you've got your planing technique sorted!

So I'll just retire back into my corner where I belong on this one....
:oops:
 

Devmeister

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If the bulk of mouldings are straight, wouldn’t most planes including hollows and rounds have straight cutters? Skew is more money to make so skew on a panel raiser makes sense. Skew on a hollow or round does not but certainly some were made
 

Adam W.

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Most of the H&R planes I've seen here in London are skew and the majority of the complex planes are straight. Rebate planes vary between the two, but skew is more common.

The skew makes it easier to plane wood which contains defects, like scots pine, which is the most common timber you'll find that architraves are made of in London houses. It's also pretty much the same throughout Southern England, until you start dealing with fitted oak interiors in the higher end of historic interior joinery in the large buildings in the city, which were built after the great fire.
 
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D_W

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If the bulk of mouldings are straight, wouldn’t most planes including hollows and rounds have straight cutters? Skew is more money to make so skew on a panel raiser makes sense. Skew on a hollow or round does not but certainly some were made

For an experienced planemaker who is probably getting parts of the planes marked or roughed in a fast process, the skew is little extra cost. I've never seen old lists ,but would be surprised if it was more than about 10% more.

The benefit of a skewed plane is that it introduces its cutter in a full profile a little at a time and is easier to start on ends, and without doing anything unusual, it will take a clean cut on end grain material, which isn't something you expect to see much of, but if you're making a cove raised panel or something, it's appreciated.

Same with a skew rabbet - moving fillister planes need to be able to cut a rebate on the end grain and they do it wonderfully. The complexity most people think of is in our minds - these planes are used, sharpened, made and marked off of references. If the maker has a float to work into the corner of the mortise, it would hardly different, and who knows how the wedges were cut, but they could very well have been cut a machine in a long piece of flat stock and then resawn out of the stock and touched up.
 

D_W

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I should follow up on why sharpening a skew plane is easy. You have the sole of the plane to look at. you grind shy of the edge and when you're going to sharpen the plane, you see whether or not the iron is tending toward the left or right limit on lateral movement. The irons are generally thinner in the tang than the mortise so you do get a little bit of lateral adjustment. Once the plane is set up, you just don't let it go outside of that range and you correct it if it's needed when sharpening (which is just look and do, not really think - you bias your honing to the high side and that's it. If it's still a little out next time - as in getting close - you do the same bias on the same spot).

It's a good lesson in making the iron match the plane because there are a lot of square planes with iron sides that aren't parallel and it seems to drive beginners nuts - it's something to get past as soon as possible.
 

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