Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tie Your Shoes...

We're taking a few steps forward this time.

The holidays are coming up. I'm conveniently (for you) making a few picture frames as presents. The presents are technically what's inside the frame, but that's not the point. 

I'm often asked what pair of hollows and rounds a woodworker should start with. The answer, like everything else, is that it depends. I imagine that the 6s, 8s and 10s will have their place in everybody's shop (radii of 6/16, 8/16 and 10/16, respectively), probably the 4s too. This, of course doesn't help somebody that's looking for one pair.

My recommendation is as follows: if you want one pair pick an ogee you like and I'll help you pick a pair to make that. If, however, you can swing it, get two pairs. Once you have two pairs you'll be able to introduce ovular shapes. It's at this stage that you're truly able to recognize the versatility of these planes. I also encourage people to get two pairs that are not too close. Get the 4s and 8s or the 6s and 10s. You'll be able to make scores of very different profiles with just those two pairs.

I'm introducing ovular shapes here. These planes are still being steered by the rabbets and chamfers. It's not freehand, but at times it may feel like it's approaching that. 

Dimensions from top right corner
Red rabbet: 27/64w x 18/64h
Purple: 42/64w x 8/64h 
Green: 19/64 x 22/64
Black: 2/64 x 28/64

from to left corner
(you'll need either a sash fillister, extremely straight grain, a very steady hand or a table saw for this one.)
Orange: 28/64 x 8/64

#6 round followed by #10 round  
Chamfer with Rabbet
#6 hollow followed by #10 hollow
Rabbet followed by #2 hollow

And the results

These picture frame profiles often look a little off. Once it's together they're pretty nice.

  Ovular shapes are more difficult to lay out at first because it's not alway obvious where the rabbets go. It is not straight forward. Try a couple picture frames like this. You'll know your error(s) about 20% of the way through. You don't need perfect results.

Note: a profile like this is worked from both edges. You'll need straight grain or a scraper.

PS It may feel like we're jumping all over the place. By seeing more complex profiles you'll start to piece it together on your own. We'll get back to the basics in the coming days. 

How do the rabbets act as depth gauges? How do the planes, themselves, act as depth gauges?



  1. "How do the rabbets act as depth gauges? How do the planes, themselves, act as depth gauges?"

    I know! I know! :). I'll let everybody else try to figure it out though. More fun that way ;).

    Great work on the blog Matt! It's good to see more of this stuff being put out there, especially in video form. Sometimes, it's just so much easier to show a 30 second video than it is to spend 30 minutes writing about something.

    BTW, one of these days I need to pick your brain about square rabbet planes. I've found more skews than I'll ever need, but the square rabbets don't seem to be too common. At least not where I normally shop. My guess is that they were mostly used up, being much more useful than the skews. So I'm considering making a few of my own, since I can't find them in the wild. I'm not clear on the excapement geometry though having never really examined one too carefully up close. Got plenty of examples of the skew mouth conical escapement, but the square mouth escapement...ahem...escapes me (sorry).

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Excellent post Matt. I can't think of a place where I have seen the ovular profiles discussed. Thanks so much, you blog is quickly becoming a favorite. I had a chance to play with Chuck Bender's selection of your tools and you have been on my wishlist ever since. I hope to be able to see you at the Acanthus Workshop in May. Keep up the great work and keep posting.

  3. Bob,

    Give me a call and we'll talk. I'll probably make a post regarding making a rabbet in the coming days or weeks. It will be more of a supplement to Larry's DVD than anything else. Just detailing a few of the differences.

    In the mean time, the silhouette of the conical escapement on my website ( is pretty much what I use. It's think it's exact.


  4. Shannon,

    I hope to see you there too. If you have any suggestions just ask.