Moulding Glossary: Fillet

Dang. I had no idea that “facial angle” would evoke such an impassioned response. I’m still sorting out the online and off-line comments and will post a follow-up. In the meantime, let’s do an easy one (famous last words).

fillet (fil’it) A small flat area that separates individual mouldings. A narrow flat band used for the separation of one moulding from another; a fascia.

— Christopher Schwarz

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21 Responses to Moulding Glossary: Fillet

  1. Sean Wisniewski says:

    this could be confused with a fillet in mechanics which is the concave easing of two pieces that meet at an interior corner. If the same curvature is applied to an outside corner, it is then called a round. Basically,in woodworking and moulding planes for sure, these would be called hollows and rounds.

    • lostartpress says:

      For those who are unaware of the mechanic’s version of fillet:

      They are both structures used in transitions, but the wooden one is usually squared.

      • David Cockey says:

        Clarification – the Wikipedia entry is using “mechanics” as the branch of applied phyics concerned with forces and objects, not “mechanic” as a person who repairs equipment. For fillets ‘mechanical design” would be a better description of the field which the Wikipedia entry describes.

  2. robert says:

    I like your initial definition, but would change it to read:

    fillet (fil’it): A transitional form of moulding found between two other disparate types of moulding that where traditionally created using two different types of moulding plane. For example, a small flat area or a narrow flat band between a hollow and a round. This structure provides relief to the eye and to the tool.

  3. Kent Tittle says:

    I think the definition needs some refinement. A fillet can also be used alone without using it to separate two moldings. It might help to also differentiate between a raised fillet and a sunken fillet.

  4. John Cashman says:

    “fillet (fil’it) A small flat area that separates individual mouldings. A narrow flat band used for the separation of one moulding from another; a fascia.”

    I like the second part, “A narrow flat band used for the separation of one moulding from another; a fascia” very much. The first part cofuses. Could the “small flat area” be a vertical element in a horizontal molding? This implies that it could.

    Or is it just “the narrow flat band used for the separation and transition of one molding from another, or between elements withing a complex molding. In addition to visually separating the elements of a molding, fillets add aesthetic interest by creating additional shadow lines.”

  5. BruceL says:

    These terms have always baffled me – so I will try to provide the “numbskull” feedback on whether your definitions really clarify them to me (and hopefully I’l learn something along the way). I did learn yesterday that reading the other comments too soon spoils this process (folks may clarify the term) – so forgive me if I provide redundant info.

    My only comment today is the statement “one moulding from another”. Perhaps this would be clearer with some other definitions but I tend to think of the whole “thing” as a moulding. Would “one moulding or moulding element from another” be clearer? Or am I off base?

    I also see you are going with the UK spelling of moulding/molding. I prefer that one (I really dislike the thought of having ‘molding planes’) – but I was surprised that almost everyone adopted it in their replies yesterday (without any comment) as I think molding is the norm in the US (search Ebay sometime for Molding Planes and again for Moulding Planes and see the geographic differences).

    All this talk of fillets is making me hungry for steak…

    • Chris K says:

      I am with you here, Instead of “one molding from another”

      one “feauture” or “element” of another molding feature.

  6. David Cockey says:

    I’ve always thought of a fillet as the narrow transition in an interior edge between two adjacent surfaces. Frequently fillets are concave though sometimes they are flat.

  7. badger says:

    I have nothing useful to add, but it made me immediately made me hungry for fish and chips.


    Fillet of Fish… Tasty Chips…

  8. Trevor Walsh says:

    I also come from a world where fillet can mean a small 1/4 round to ease the edge, perhaps defining the fillet as a rabbet (rebate) that separates elements of a molding (moulding) would be more direct?

  9. Federico Mena Quintero says:

    Is anyone else familiar with generative grammars from computer science? Something tells me that one could almost codify the proper sequences of mouldings using a grammar.

  10. ‘fillet (fil’it) A small flat area that separates individual mouldings. A narrow flat band used for the separation of one moulding from another; a fascia.’ Is that from the Oxford Universal Dictionary?
    Here is the definition from 1828 American Dictionary of the English language:
    ‘4. In architecture, a little square member or ornament used in divers places, but generally as a corona over a greater molding; called also lister.’

    • lostartpress says:


      It’s from the Oxford English Dictionary.

      Also, I just added a second image to the post above that shows how fillets can be raised or sunk. Some people seem to be wondering about that.

  11. Tim Henriksen says:

    For a guy interested in moldings but completely new to the art I find this exercise the past few days perfect to pick up a new tidbit each day. Please keep it up. Such a collection will help make a great book I am sure … I’d like to order my leather bound version now since I missed out on ATC.

  12. R. Carriou says:

    I like it as it is. Nice and simple.

  13. Shannon says:

    I think any talk of fillets has to include the term “punctuation” to indicate that the fillet is used to break up other decorative elements around it.

    Also as a side note to a comment above. I doing keyword research for my company’s millwork web page and discovered that the term “moulding” is used in the US but primarily in the professional architectural millwork arena, whereas “molding” was used by a more of the DIY set. Not sure what the catalyst was for that, but the spelling now is a key indicator for me of the type of customer we have when visitors are driven to our site from search

  14. Rick Yochim says:

    Two thoughts.

    1) A fillet does transition one form to another be they mouldings, groups of mouldings or other segments of the design. But they can also terminate a profile. As in “ogee with fillet”. So I would add the word “terminate” in there somewhere. Whelan has a definition for fillet on p.199 that addresses this.

    2) Use of the word “Fascia” (though correct as far I know) may confuse some readers who come from a carpentry background and who may not have a deep understanding of proper furniture or architecture terminology. They know fascia as the flat horizontal boards added to rafter ends to complete a soffit. For sure there is much improper usage of traditional terms in modern day construction practices so I’m just suggesting a thoughtful nod to that state of affairs.

  15. Dean says:

    My definition based on Chris’ and other sources:

    Fillet (fil’it): A narrow, flat elongated area usually set adjacent and parallel to or interposed between surfaces within the moulding profile.

    Fillet (fil’it): A narrow, flat elongated area usually set adjacent to or interposed between surfaces within the moulding profile.

    I created the following sentences while trying to come up with a definition for fillet but didn’t use them. I put them here as additional information for whatever they’re worth. They are in no particular order.

    They can be raised or lowered above a common plane to form a ridge or depression whose sides are at right angles to the flat surface. From a French word meaning “thread” or “ribbon”. The flat area can be raised and positioned between two adjacent profiles. Can be used to separate (two surfaces) or areas and border these areas to make them stand out or form visual relief. It can be a right angled channel let into an area, or raised above the common plane forming a ridge, adjacent and parallel to the accompanying shape. It can also be simply a flat surface between two curved surfaces. A small, flat band separating two surfaces. As an example, a fillet can border a half-round surface surrounded by two flat planes (fillets) to form an astragal.

  16. Dave from IN says:

    Nothing particularly helpful to add, just that in all of the instances in which I have encountered the term filet, it has implied a 90 inset step. The context of the post seems to imply that a filet can be rounded, a use of the term that I have never encountered. I’m not saying my experience represents the “correct” answer, just that I have never seen anything but a “90 degree filet.”

    I’m quite excited about this series of posts!

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