Pennsylvania Limestone Farmhouse Renovations to an 1863 farmhouse built of limestone

February 24, 2013

Hollows and Rounds

Filed under: Stairs,Stone house restoration — Duane Diefenbach @ 5:39 pm

One of my Christmas gifts was a recently-published book on making mouldings using hand tools, specifically hollows and rounds (H&R). These are wooden planes used until the early 20th century to create moldings.  A half set of H&Rs is 18 planes in matched pairs with increasing radius from 1/8″ to 1-1/8″. Below is a photo of the set I bought recently (but missing the No. 4 pair) and the soles of a matched pair.


I have 1 pair tuned up and ready to use but need to buy some sharpening tools to get the rest in shape (even though they are in quite good condition overall). Plenty to keep me busy!

Below is a photo of the plane irons. You can see one has a concave profile and the other is convex.  The convex is not too difficult to sharpen but the concave is going to require some conical sharpening slips for sharpening and a flexi-shaft grinder to shape the profile.  The set of H&Rs that I bought were made in London probably in the late 19th century so they need some work to recover from neglect.



To make mouldings you also need a rabbet plane to cut rabbets to minimize the amount of wood to be removed by the H&R planes.  I bought an old rabbet plane on ebay that was made by the Sandusky Tool Co. in Ohio that had a 1″ wide sole. Unfortunately, the plane was warped and the sides were worn.  Using the jointer I narrowed the width to about 7/8″, flattened the sole, and ground the iron to fit the new dimensions of the plane body.  It will no longer be a collector’s piece (not that it was at all rare) but it is now a useful woodworking tool. I may eventually have to box the corners with a harder species of wood, but for now it works quite well.



My first attempt with these planes was to make cove mouldings to go against the risers just underneath the stair treads. I started by cutting a dado with the rabbet plane. I used a marking tool to scribe a line indicating the width of the dado, then held the rabbet plane at an angle to track the scribe line as I gradually cut the dado. After a few strokes at an angle you can hold the rabbet plane vertical and cut the dado.


That left a satisfying pile of shavings on the floor.



After the rabbet plane I used a No. 8 round plane to cut the cove.  The sides of the dado guide the round and you keep track of the disappearing rabbet to make sure you are cutting evenly along the moulding. In the photo below you can see the dado has almost disappeared.



And then you’re done. The nice thing with cutting the moulding with a plane is that you don’t have to sand like you do after using a router. Although by hand it took me 10 times longer! I hope to get faster over time…



Below are the results of my first attempt at making mouldings by hand. Not perfect but given that each of these will be underneath the lip of a stair tread I don’t think anyone is ever going to notice.



Now only 8 more stairs to go!

One final note for this week, I found some money (besides pennies from the 1950s)… a Mercury dime that fell out from underneath the rubber mat nailed to the original top step of the stairs. Not that all our investment in the house has now paid off… the dime is worth about $2-$3 mostly because of the price of silver.


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