scratch stock moldings

crease molding Dedham chest

The photo above is a detail of a joined chest’s top rail-to-stile joint. There’s a few things to see, but right now I want to draw your attention to the molding run on both framing members. This is what we think a “crease” molding is; one run down the midst of the stock rather than at the edge.

To cut this molding, you can use a dedicated molding plane, or a couple of them. Wait for Matt Bickford’s book to get the hang of that.

Until then,  you can cut them with a plow plane and a scratch stock. That’s how I do most of them.

plowing a groove

Here, rather fundamental stuff – a wooden plow plane set to cut a narrow groove down the middle of a stile for the chest. To hold the stock on the bench, I just pin one stile down with a holdfast, then shove the workpiece against that, and up to the teeth of the bench hook (planing stop).

I measured the stile’s width, marked the center, then set the plow plane so its blade hit the point I had scribed. I eyeball the depth of the groove. I tend to start at the forward end and get the groove running, then lengthen each successive stroke to gradually make the grooves full-length.

Now I use a scratch stock made from an old scraper blade, or saw steel. I filed the shape into the end, then mounted the cutter in a wooden stock that works like a marking gauge.  Set it to cut this ogee shape down one side of the groove:

scratching first half of molding

Then, re-set the scratch stock, and run the other molded edge.

the other half

To check the shape, I just lay a piece of scrap wood on edge across the rail, and look at the shadow made from it. This helps you see the definition of the profile.

finished molding

In the midst of making these moldings, I remembered a new technique I sorta learned from watching Matt Bickford – once I cut the plowed groove  down the length of the stock, I take a round plane & start a bit of a hollow – with the plane riding in the groove. This just gets some of the waste out of the way before scraping the actual profile.

round plane removes waste

Here’s another look at a period example:

molding detail, joined chest Dedham MA 1650-1680

Simple stuff. Notice on this period example how the profile runs out towards the shoulder of the rail; or the upper end of the stile. It’s best to scrape this molding on stock longer than you need, then you more easily hit the entire profile the full length of your finished stock…but if it doesn’t make it …the chest will still hold linen.

molding runout

Here is the carved panel with that molded framing around it, had the camera a bit tilted. This and the previous are from old slides;  so not the best views. Often either the central plowed section or the entire molding is painted black.

carved panel, frame w moldings

7 thoughts on “scratch stock moldings

  1. Peter this post is rather well timed. I run a facebook woodworking group and raised the question about the documentation of scratch stocks.

    Where do we get the notion that they even existed? Ive looked at Moxon and Holme carefully and cant find anything to support it. I will also have to check the text on Holme but I dont recall any mention of them.

    The problem is that we dont (SEEM) to have any extant images of scratch molds which raises the question as to what they might have looked like…right?.

    Im of the mind that they are the evolutionary phase in between chisels and planes. A scratch stock is not technically a dedicated plane because of its high angle, nor it is a chisel either.

    I think s-stocks must have emerged from scraping blades in the late medieval period…but again, we dont have much to work with other than speculation as far as I know.

    Is the 17th century scratch stock a plausible extrapolation or do we have something concrete to base them on?


  2. The use of scratchstocks is I think documented for 18C curved or broken scroll cornice moldings. You hog out most of the waste, then clean it up with scratchstocks. Some of these are informal versions of hollows and rounds, but the kind Peter is discussing must have been used with an L-shape clamp or stock. There are a few Windsor CT chests with wildly traveling moldings that may have been executed with a hand-held blade. They are REALLY crazy.

    • Robert,

      Can you think of any documentation?

      They make total sense to me….but Im a trained historian and drives me nuts unless I can find good documentation or extant pieces to at least extrapolate from. Ive seen a fair number of early dedicated planes and own a few between 1690 and 1720 but they are fully developed by this point so there isnt much latent “genetic” evidence for a scratch stock.

      The only evidence I can think of is seeing the waviness in the “grooves” which would suggest a lack of a fence. I like Peters modified mortise gauge scratch groove at it would seem a logical extrapolation but again it bugs me that we have quite a few tools and next to nothing in the way of original surviving scratch stocks.


  3. Drew, Trent, et al

    Re: scratch stocks. I will write up what I know & think about scratch stocks. yes, they existed. no, we don’t know what they looked like.

    give me a day or so. the book is nearly done…but time is sparse.

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