I have been cutting some moldings lately for a chest with drawers I’m building. The moldings surround the panels, and the drawer fronts. While I was cutting these, I was thinking about this blog. I started it in 2008, and never thought it would keep going this long. Because I didn’t know what I was doing, I never really organized it well. So there’s lots of photos spread out all over the blog that are useful…but sometimes hard to find. Today, I thought I could just post some photos of period moldings found on New England joined works. So here’s pictures.
a chest from Salem, Massachusetts: Tearout, anyone?
a chest with drawers, Plymouth Colony. This large molding (2″ tall) is integral to the rail, not applied.
Inside one of the Plymouth Colony chests, moldings on the rails and muntins:
Here’s a panel detail from Plymouth Colony. This is a common profile for the period, technically an ogee with a fillet, I think:
This one’s from Chipstone’s website – a Boston chest panel:
This is a muntin from a chest made in Braintree, Massachusetts. I used to make this molding with a scratch stock. I think that cutter is gone now…
This Connecticut (Wethersfield? Windsor? I can never get it straight) chest with drawers was the model we copied last time at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. These moldings are oak:
A lousy photo, but if you squint at the ruler’s shadow, you can see the profile of this molding. Dedham Massachusetts chest.
Also Dedham, different chest:
Back to Connecticut, more Wethersfield, Windsor, etc.
a drawer from a Woburn, Massachusetts cupboard:
An ogee on the bottom edge of a table’s apron. Maybe this square table is Boston?
OK – so about scratch stocks in the 17th century. How did they make moldings on joined works? We know they had molding planes, there are a few from the 16th-century shipwreck the Mary Rose. And they appear in many probate inventories too; the following are some examples of molding planes found in New England inventories:
2 revolving plains
4 round plains
3 rabet plains
3 holou plains
9 Cresing plains
Joseph Moxon & Randle Holme both call them by classical names too; ogees, bolection, and so on.
But look at the molding above the center panel in this detail shot of a joined chest from New Haven, CT. (I clipped this photo out of Victor Chinnery’s book Oak Furniture: the British Tradition. If you don’t have that book & you like this blog, get it)
The molding fades in & out at the juncture between the horizontal rails and the vertical muntins flanking the panel. This amounts to a run of about 9” or so. Not more than 10”.
In that length, the molding reaches its full profile in the middle, but is shallower and not fully defined at each end. I think you can’t do that with a molding plane – the length of the plane’s sole would prevent you from reaching that full-depth in such a short run, while still fading out before the muntins. Says me. One of mine:
To do this in my shop, I use a scratch stock. But I don’t know the history of this tool. I do know I have never seen it by that name in any 17th-century records. There is one reference I know of that describes using a scraping action to define moldings – in Moxon, but on Turning, not Joinery.
“Of laying Moldings either upon Mettal, or Wood, without fitting the Work in a Lathe.
I Had, soon after the Fire of London, occasion to lay Moldings upon the Verges of several round and weighty flat pieces of BrassL And being at that time, by reason of the said Fire, unaccomodated of a Lathe of my own, I intended to put them out to be Turned: But then Turners were all full of Employment, which made them so unreasonable in their Prizes, that I was forc’d to contrive this following way to lay Moldings on their Verges.
I provided a strong Iron Bar for the Beam of a Sweep: (For the whole Tool marked in Plate 16, is by Mathematical Instrument-Makers called a Sweep) To this Tool is filed a Tooth of Steel with such Roundings and Hollows in the bottom of it, as I intended to have Hollows and Roundings upon my Work: For an Hollow on the Tooth, makes a Round upon the Work; and a Round upon the Tooth, makes an Hollow on the Work, even as they do in the Molding-Plains Joyners use…”
He goes on in great detail, talks about using this sweep to shape moldings in brass, then having success at that, took on wood too. (it’s pp. 217-219 in the section on turning). Here is the tool Moxon’s engraving of the tool he claims to have invented; probably adapted would be a better term.
Here’s one Bob Trent & I had made by Tom Latane back in 2001 when we did an exhibition at Chipstone’s installation in the Milwaukee Art Museum. Latane does some of the nicest blacksmith work I know.
I know the sweep is a rather specific tool, but for me the idea is that with it, the workman scrapes moldings, rather than shave them as you would with a plane. that’s the driving point in the search for scratch stocks…
Here is an 18th-century engraving, from Roubo, about a tool like our modern scratch stock. I got it from Greber’s History of the Woodworking Plane. I didn’t look up the translation.
Here is a funny old tool I bought one day, because it almost is a scratch stock. It’s probably a coach-maker’s molding cutter. It’s sort of like a spokeshave, its blade is not perpendicular like a scratch stock, but more pitched like a true plane. But clearly a home-made job. Screwed together. The sole of this tool is quite short, maybe an inch long. Curved too.
In this last view, you can see that it’s one piece of wood that’s been sawn in half, then screwed back together. I would look in Salaman’s Dictionary of Woodworking Tools, but it’s in the shop – and I’ll probably forget once I get there.
I’m sure there’s more, but that’s enough for today. I have a book to finish up.
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.
Until then, you can cut them with a plow plane and a scratch stock. That’s how I do most of them.
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:
Then, re-set the scratch stock, and run the other molded edge.
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.
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.
Here’s another look at a period example:
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.
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.