How to Make a Molding Plane

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Molding planes are simple woodworking tools dating back to the 18th century that generally are superior to modern router bits. Molding planes assist carpenters and woodworkers to make furniture such as cabinets and chairs. They act as a wedge to hold an iron blade that you press against the wood you are working on to slowly shave the wood into the desired shape. They are basically a square block with a blade sticking out the top at an angle. Molding planes offer a manual alternative to using electric tools. Today, they are almost exclusively made from beech, but you also can use birch or maple.

Things You'll Need

  • Table saw
  • Smith-made iron blade
  • Olive oil
  • Propane torch
  • Pencil
  • Wedge pattern
  • Protractor
  • Birch block
  • Hollow chisel mortiser
  • Small hammer
  • Determine the angle at which to set the blade. Most molding planes use a 45-degree angle, but the British blades are angled at 50 degrees or higher. Use a higher angle if you want the molding plane to perform more of a scraping than shearing action.

  • Draw the lines where the blade goes on the body. The body is the main part of the molding plane. It is a square block about 12 to 18 inches long and six to 10 inches high. The front is called the toe and the rear is the heel. The bottom is the sole. Draw a line starting about 2 to 6 inches from the heel on the sole heading upward at the angle your blade is going to go -- which is probably 45 degrees. This is called the bed angle. You are drawing an outline of where you will cut out room for the blade.

  • Draw a second line for the breast angle about 12 degrees higher than the bed angle. Both lines originate from the same spot on the sole of the body. The lines create a triangle shape where the blade will go.

  • Cut out the triangular shape you just drew from the body using a table saw. This makes the mortise where the blade and the escapement cavity go. The escapement cavity is a slot for the wood shavings to travel down and away from you. Use a hollow chisel mortiser to clean out any waste in the escapement cavity.

  • Use a chisel to create a sloped ramp leading to the escapement cavity, starting about 3/8 inches above the top of the cavity.

  • Make a wooden wedge using a pattern. The wedge has a circular end and a long point, like a wooden knife with a round handle. Draw the wedge on your wood using a pattern and then cut it out with a saw.

  • Heat the blade with a propane torch. Dunk it in olive oil to treat it. Wait for the blade to cool. Heat the blade again until it turns a light straw color. Place the blade in the olive oil again to cool it. This tempers and treats the blade to make it strong.

  • Draw a round line on the edge of the heel. This is the back edge of the sole. Use a chisel to round the heel following the line you drew. This makes the molding plane more comfortable to use.

  • Insert the blade and wedge into the mortise. It should fit snugly. Tap the top of the blade gently with a hammer and then the wedge to adjust it deeper into the mortise. Your blade sticks out the top of the body at your desired angle. It resembles a toy fire engine with a ladder coming out the top at an angle, except the truck is a rectangular block of wood and the ladder is a blade.

Tips & Warnings

  • Take the blade out of the molding plane when not in use and store the parts separately if you use it infrequently. If you live in a place with significant climate changes, store the blade separately as well, even when you use it often.

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References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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