Better than a stick in the eye anyway

There’s not been a lot of progress in the last month or so.  I knew it would be bad with travel and other distractions.  It’s difficult to make progress when it’s days between work sessions – you have to remember what you were doing and get back into the mindset.

About a month ago, just before the SAPFM Mid-Year Conference at Lancaster (which was great including a whirlwind tour of Winterthur and a side trip to the National Watch and Clock Museum) I got the lower moulding done for the hood.  I got back, glued that on and started prepping for the top cornice moulding when time allowed.  I didn’t find a lot of time, and when I did I had some bad starts.

The moulding is fairly complex just on the flat, let alone the arched part that follows the clock face.  The first two (or five) attempts will be burned some time this coming winter.  I found some new wood to make the samples with – fairly clear and straight white pine – and I tried again.  I didn’t have any stock that I wanted to sacrifice for the arch sample so I glued up some clear home center 1x stock and that worked OK.  The difference between early and late wood made the carving tough and the finished project a bit iffy but I learned enough to be comfortable that I have half a chance at success with mahogany.

Nearly everyone I’ve talked to or read suggests that the way to strike a moulding with handplanes is to make a series of properly placed rabbets at transition points on the profile.  Add a few more on the convex and concave curves to guide the planes and cut the profile.  There’s surely more time spent with layout and removing material with the rabbet planes which makes sense -those are easy to sharpen and it provides a good guide.  I was having troubles with the rabbet plane I own and decided to do some of the rough work with the table saw.  I got more consistent results that way and that helped a lot.


(pictures are of two different tests – I forgot to take pictures)

Then you strike the moulding using appropriately sized hollow and round planes.  If you are really interested, read Bickford or watch Don McConnell’s video.


The curved bit was more elusive to me.  I’ve talked to a few people and emailed Don McConnell for guidance.  Talking to another SAPFM member and looking at some period examples I became convinced that at least some of these clocks were made with the front piece (arch and straight parts flanking the arch) as one piece.  Others argued the best way to do it was with a lathe and miter the side pieces.  One even offered a “spare” moulding he had.  I opted for the carve and scrape method because I don’t have a large enough lathe and I thought there was historical precedence – see below.  It wouldn’t be possible to create the profile in this manner with a lathe or router (note the bead at the base of the large cove and then consider the arch – it won’t work).  But very possible if you use hand tools.

From the NAWCC Museum, two views that were clearly made in different ways – look at the transition from curve to straight on the mouldings:

det2 det1


I cut in rabbets to mimic the ones used on the straight parts, carefully laying out the arcs with compass and marking gauges.  Then using a gouge, chisel and router plane I made curved rabbets or steps, neatly as possible.  Those steps guided the carving and scraping of the profile.  It was a little easier than I expected but surely no picnic.  The carving lessons from this spring came in handy.  The pine I was using was difficult (to say the least) but I learned the process.   Everything was cleaned up with several custom profiled scrapers made at the grinder.  Eventually this will go to the burn pile but it’s served it’s purpose.

DSC_1618I had to use a little sandpaper to finish it up but I don’t feel so bad about that – maybe the mahogany will go better.  The good news is I think it worked well enough to try it for real.

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3 Responses to Better than a stick in the eye anyway

  1. Larry says:

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Doug says:


    Enjoying the build and like the moulding. The single bead on the bottom of the cove, do you have a plane for that or did you carve it? Either way, it looks great.


    • psanow says:

      Thanks Doug. On the straight run I’m using hollows & rounds for all the profiling. For the piece with the arch I can’t use the H&R much so almost all is carved. That bead was the part that had me the most spooked – from the top of that bead and up everything is carved and scraped. Started in on the mahogany today – harder wood of course but cleaner cutting too.

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