Short And Curlies...Shavings That Is...

I don't own a set of M.S. Bickford molding planes...yet.  Fortunately, for those of us molding-less neanderthals out there, other options for simple molding profiles exist.  Scratch stock is a perfectly cost effective way to produce beautiful, well defined profiles in all manners of hand made trim.  This method for applying decorative treatments to moldings has been around for a long, long time and making a scratch stock tool is incredibly simple.

Any spring or thin cast steel (think handsaw blades) can be cut to size, filed to any custom profile and inserted into a piece of scrap lumber to make a molding tool.  From start to finish (including cutting a bead on a test piece), this process took me about twenty minutes.

First, I went to my local hardware retailer and bought the cheapest handsaw I could find...it's ugly too.  I brought it into my shop and proceeded to cut it up with a set of hand shears.

Then, I mounted the cutoff in my vise and filed a profile into the steel.  I just "freehand filed" a profile I liked, however, I could have used a shape template and a scratch awl to draw a profile into the steel and then filed to the markings.  A profile copier can also be used to trace a shape onto the steel if you need to use the scratch stock to match a piece of existing molding (for a repair or addition).  

These Small Files By General Tools Are Cheap
And Perfect For This Type Of Work

Once I got a profile I was happy with, I lapped each side flat with a sharpening stone so that the scratch stock works on the push and pull stroke.  Then I used a saw with a more narrow saw plate (my dovetail saw) than the scratch stock to saw a slot into some scrap plywood.  I like the plywood because it is less likely to split when I hammer the scratch stock into the kerf.  It is certainly possible to make a universal handle which is also much less ugly, but this way is super cheap and just as effective.  This one is adjustable with a small hammer.

Just Pound The Stock Into The Kerf With A Hammer
Don't Be An Idiot, Cut Off The Teeth Before You Use
The Scratch Stock

I tested the tool on this scrap piece of old pine.  Scratch stock works better in harder woods, but with a little practice it works just as well in soft fibrous ones too.  I used this tool to cut a bead into some old douglas fir that I am using as trim on the entertainment center I am building.  Even though douglas fir is very fibrous and brittle, this tool cut a nice sharp bead into the molding.

Just like using a plane or a hand scraper there is a right direction and a wrong direction to plane depending upon the grain in the wood.  With a little practice this is easy to determine, if the tool is sharp this often won't really matter for small profiles anyway.  

Grip I Use For Cutting Toward Myself
Cutting On The Pull Stroke
Cutting On The Push Stroke Is Just Like Using A Scraper

I made several profiles out of one small piece of saw, the entire saw cost me $10, and I have enough steel to make many, many more profiles.

The Small One Was Used To Bead Some Small Trim For
Shelf Fronts

Once You Cut The Teeth Off Of The Saw
You Get A Saw That Cuts Around Corners!!


  1. This is brilliant! Do you file a single bevel or double bevel into the tool & if single which way does the bevel face in use?

    1. The scratch stock gets filed and honed at a 90 deg angle on all faces. It should work like a card scraper or rip style teeth on a saw. This tool excels at long grain work (most trim runs long grain anyway) but if it is nice and sharp, and with a little practice, it should make very small cross grain profiles without much difficulty. I honed each face flat on an extra fine diamond plate and then used a burnisher (scrap hardened steel, a screwdriver shaft will even work) on the profile to "hone" it flat so that it met each face at a 90 deg angle. This allows the tool to be used in both directions along the grain of the wood. Hopefully, that answered your question. Thanks!