Tuning Molding Planes

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Oldtool posted 03-03-2022 08:24 PM 556 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’m between projects & needing something to do I decided to start back into tuning up some molding planes. I’ve collected a few molding & old wooden planes, which I put into working condition – in the hopes of using them to make my projects. I do as little as possible in this process, keeping as much of the original condition as I can, but still making them useful.

I started with a Sash Plane that came missing one iron of two. Fortunately, the missing iron has a straight edge and was easy to create, as opposed to the front iron with the complex profile. I purchased a tapered molding plane blank from Lie Nielsen, the 2” wide flag type. I made a cardboard mockup iron prior to cutting the blank iron for practice. Then cut & filed & sharpened the iron, stuck it in the plane and it works fine.

Second was a Panel Raising Plane, which also came to me through Ebay with no iron but purchased anyway due to its very good condition. I purchased some oil hardening tool steel bar stock from MSC Direct, then as above used Dykem to mark, cut, grind & sharpen the iron to fit. This works very well, takes wide shavings with ease I produces a nice raised panel.

On these two previous planes, the irons have NOT been hardened & tempered – yet, but I plane to do so shortly.

Next up, a dual iron Tongue & Groove plane. This only required a sharpening of the two irons, then was ready to make T & G panels from 1/2” stock. It can be used on thicker stock, but as the Tongue iron is half inch wide, other thicknesses will yield an off-center T & G, so care must be taken to always reference the same (up or down) sides of boards.

My last plane is possibly a table edge profile plane or could be used to make a window sash profile if used on both sides of an edge. Actually, other than being called a “elliptical ogee” by John Whelan in his book: The Wooden Plane – It’s History, Form. and Function, I have no idea what to use it for.
It is difficult to use as is, doesn’t reference on a board edge very well, so I made an auxiliary fence to help keep this plane in place when in use. The fence I made works well, but I won’t use any form of attachment to the plane other than a spring clamp. This works well enough, and I don’t need to alter the plane body in any manner – be it glue, screw or nails.

Lastly, my tool of choice for complex iron profiles is a WEN high speed rotary tool, which I use with grinding and sanding wheels, prior to using slip stones for final sharpening.

Thanks for viewing.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

4 comments so far

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

10500 posts in 2076 days

#1 posted 03-03-2022 09:07 PM

Nice, Tom! If you ever get a chance to take a class with Matt Bickford he can tell you all you need to know and more about sprucing up old moulding planes. He’s also pretty good about answering questions via email if he has the time.

His blog has a ton of information, and the current most-recent post has one of the most important things I learned from him, which is that most older moulding planes have a high spot just behind the mouth, and until you deal with that, they can be pretty tough to use. Fix that, and everything else gets easier.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View Eric's profile (online now)


5765 posts in 1367 days

#2 posted 03-04-2022 02:30 AM

Nice write up, and the planes look neat. I have a couple of planes to restore.

-- Eric, building the dream. the "Loft"

View MikeB_UK's profile


1075 posts in 2529 days

#3 posted 03-04-2022 10:15 AM

Nice rehabs Tom, didn’t know you could buy new moulding planes iron blanks (Of course, I’d still need some way to heat treat them :)

-- Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

View jonoseph's profile


82 posts in 2389 days

#4 posted 03-04-2022 12:09 PM

MikeB..UK That`s exactly what I thought . I was given a box full of moulding planes and the cutting edges can be roughly filed to shape before proper sharpening . Before I got these I had not realised a file is always harder than a blade . Lots of these planes had the blades and wedges incredibly tight ,partly due to rust . One thing I noticed with several was the wedges were jammed because the wedge sides were too tight. The wedges need to grip on the tapered , narrow edges . I learned how the tapered edges were slanted to increase the grip against the sides when in use , but should not be tight when the wedge is half way down into it`s right position . Am I overthinking that ? I also learned the wood being planed needs to be very straight grained. I wish I had known that at the beginning . Some of the planes had been adapted with strips of mahogany added along the sides (with tiny nails ,Ughhh). This box of planes were collected by the father of the contributor ,so they come from various people and places . It`s a good cross section of how the planes were used and abused in different ways . Maybe some knew as little as me . If I replace any boxwood insert strips I always use Fish Glue . No need for hot glue . Some planes have developed a curve which is not good for renovation. For paint splashes I rub over with linseed oil and fine wire wool . Leave some original dirt on the surface once the paint is gone . . Or is the paint regarded as patina now ? No Boiled Linseed on the soles .I think raw linseed is OK for soles .

-- John ,in the Wirral .UK

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics