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