2 Reviews of ‘Mouldings in Practice’

We do not solicit reviews of our books. We do not send out free “review” copies in hopes of snagging a kind word, which is standard practice at most publishing companies.

So when people review a Lost Art Press book – for better or Lumberjockey – it’s because they bought the book with their own money. I completely respect those reviews. I read them. I take their ideas seriously.

This morning, two reviews of “Mouldings in Practice” by Matt Bickford came over the wire on my RSS feed. One is from George Walker, a columnist for Popular Woodworking Magazine and the author of a forthcoming book with Lost Art Press. You can discount his opinion if you like, but I wouldn’t. George is one of the more thoughtful woodworking writers working today.

Here’s the link to his entry.

The second review is from Brian Eve, an American woodworker in Munich, Germany. Brian has taken a couple classes with me, but I wouldn’t call him a fanboy. He’s always busting my chops about something I’ve done and is more passionate about the craft than most American woodworkers – the dude works out of a tiny storage closet.

In any case, here is Brian’s review.

Sales of this book have been quite strong, which is surprising. “Mouldings in Practice” covers a niche inside a niche, but it’s about a part of the craft that hasn’t been fully explored, such as dovetails, ultimate router tables or things built in a weekend.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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30 Responses to 2 Reviews of ‘Mouldings in Practice’

  1. abtuser says:

    It’s a very enjoyable read (like the others I’ve purchased here on LAP). I find it easy to read and understand what Matt’s trying to explain. I’m also glad there’s a publisher around like Lost Art Press that prints books like this.

  2. David Pickett says:

    It’s an impressive book, and given that so little literature is available on the subject, a very welcome one. Matt’s techniques of using a relatively small kit of planes to produce a great variety of mouldings are clearly and comprehensively explained, with (generally) excellent diagrams illustrating the steps to lay out and cut each profile. Plane sharpening and maintenance are covered in welcome detail.

    I think the book has four (minor) shortcomings. The setting up and use of complex moulding planes is not covered (though they are redundant if you follow Matt’s techniques of using the simpler planes!), the working of curved mouldings is not covered, the techniques required to cope with harder woods or cross-grain mouldings are not discussed, and the reasons for and merits of different bedding angles of the iron is not explored. (Please don’t take this as carping – it’s intended as constructive criticism of a very good book.)

    Nonetheless, the information it contains is rare, well presented, and should enable any reasonably competent woodworker to set up and use the simpler moulding planes successfully to cut a great variety of moulding profiles on straight stock. The book itself is beautifully put together, in common with all the other LAP titles I’ve bought, and a credit to all involved

    Despite the minor omissions, this is a very fine book indeed, and should go a long way to improving the skills and capabilities of many hand-tool users. I’m very glad I bought a copy.

    • William Duffield says:

      Why would you want to do cross grain mouldings? (That’s a rhetorical question, with some valid responses.) One of the major purposes of mouldings is to cover up end grain, to provide a uniform texture, color, figure, etc., where you want a continuous visual treatment around a corner.

      The “coping with harder woods” and “different bedding angles” are basically the same issue, and not unique to molding planes.

      One could consider lack of coverage of curved mouldings a major omission, especially considering the outline of the broken ogee pediment used on the front cover. I think it would be better if LAP just stated clearly in their descriptions of the book and in the preface to the book itself that these are “beyond the scope of this book.”

      I think complex moulding planes (and router bits, for that matter) are completely covered in Chapter Two. At least, everything you need to know, especially their confining limitations, is right there.

      I bought my hollows and rounds several years ago. This book is finally enabling me to make effective use of them for my original purposes in buying them. It has also been immensely helpful in keeping me from making expensive and frustrating mistakes in completing my toolkit of essential moulding planes.

      • David Pickett says:

        Cross-grain mouldings are not common, I agree; but they do occur. They were sometimes cut in european walnut and used on longcase clocks, amongst other furniture. Not all woods respond well, I gather, but the results can be very attractive with those that do.

      • John Cashman says:

        Matt has talked about working cross grain some on his blog, and there are many 18th century pieces that have molded end grain. I think the top on the dressing table Matt chronicled had a moulded end grain top.

  3. billlattpa says:

    I have to say something a hair off topic. I haven’t read Mouldings in Practice..yet (maybe I should get on that) But I do have the Anarchists Toolchest and The Joiner and Cabinet Maker. I enjoyed both, but really have to compliment you on the actual physical books themselves. These books not only look nice, they have a quality feel to them. They remind me somewhat of the older books you might find in the library or in the attic of some one who was well read. I hope you take this as a compliment; I don’t kiss butt too often.

    • Brian Eve says:

      I agree. After waiting what seemed like forever for the USPS to deliver mine, I bought the eBook. I thoroughly enjoyed the ebook, but the paper copy showed up today and I couldn’t believe the difference. The color photos really make a big difference, the feel of the heavy paper, and the smell… fantastic!

      And Chris, thanks for the nice words. But it won’t stop me from busting your chops!

  4. bearlimvere says:

    I have a number of complex moulders which I love. But found them limited in variety. My wife gave me a set of hollows & rounds for Christmas, but I wasn’t sure how to use them. This book has opened up a whole world of mouldings and possibilities. It is easy to read and follow Matt’s text and drawings. I am thankful to Lost Art Press for publishing books like this, and Chris for the “Schwarz-effect!”

    • Graham Burbank says:

      nice gift, given that a half set seems to run north of $3500. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I figured that left me with either confining myself to the flea market/used tool route(probably picked clean by now), fumbling through making my own set, or the williams and hussey, which really is besides the whole point. But I still pulled out the half dozen I have picked up over the years and enjoyed screwing around with them. Maybe next year she can get you a Ferrari!

      • Graham Burbank says:

        OH, yeah, it’s a great read, no b.s. about it. Every time I read another L.A.P. book it provokes me to set aside the assumption that I know it all. Apparently, chris has a knack for finding authors whom are able to not only discuss in minute detail some other aspect of woodworking, but are able to make it an enjoyable read, too.

  5. “My review: It was awesome. You should read it.”

    It’s like… one of those tall flappy things waving at you outside the $29.95 oil change place. I don’t NEED an oil change, yet I feel compelled t…


    (Oops. Alright… sorry.)

    Brian, I believe what you found in the sole of your plane was a penny nail. Of course, since the plane is from the UK, they’d call it a “pence” na…


    (Oh, come on. That was a good joke!)



    Brian, great review. You couldn’t even tell it was written inside a tiny storage closet.





  6. Scribe says:

    I looks like it would be fun to make mouldings this way. The book is reasonably priced, but purchasing a minimum set of hollows and rounds leans towards being expensive. Any suggestions for a good retailer of reasonably affordable moulding planes?

    • (Ok, serious response this time)

      Matt sells one pair (hollow and round) for $425. Phil Edwards (www.phillyplanes.co.uk) sells one pair for £199 (that is roughly $325 US) and commonly has #6 and #12 pairs available. Old Street Tools only sells them in half sets ($ooof).

      Those are the three places I can think of off the top of my head that sell them new. There are several reputable places where you can find used pairs, but it sounds like you’d rather start off with new.


    • (oops… re-reading your post, maybe you aren’t just limiting yourself to new planes.)

      For used tools, check out the list in the back of The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.

  7. Alex Moseley says:

    Agreed, MIP is impressive in its utility and scope. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to state that Bickford liberates us from the cattle chute of woodworking consumerism and helps us get the most from a limited number of tools. His volume is very much in harmony with ATC.

    The topics David calls out above are interesting and certainly worth pursuing, but I don’t see their absence as a shortcoming of MIP. Rather, I see them as opportunities for further investigation.

    From that angle, I think there are other opportunities for further investigation, as well. What if I want to use antique tools? I picked up a harlequin half set for much less than I’d pay for a pair of new hollows and rounds. Yeah, I’ll spend many hours sharpening and straightening these tools, and a few of them might not be worth the effort, but I think it’s a topic worth addressing in a future volume for those woodworkers with more time than money.

    Another opportunity is the topic of making these planes for myself. I appreciated how Bickford cites the DVD from Larry Williams as his starting point. These citations provide avenues for my own investigation, and place Bickford’s work in a larger context. It could be that Williams’ DVD will tell me everything I want to know, and I will definitely seek it out, but I can’t help but wish for a book on the topic as well.

    All in all, Mouldings in Practice is a solid contribution to our body of knowledge, well worth the purchase price.

  8. Pete van der Lugt says:

    First I should say that I am a huge fan of the topics of the LAP books and the quality of the books themselves. But I have to agree, I was hoping for at least a crack in the door to producing radius mouldings. And I come from the subject from the architectural millwork side, radius window casing and such. I’ve talked to both Matt and Larry Williams on the topic, and both leaned towards the answer that once a radius begins, the carving tools come out. I might agree on this, when it comes to furniture, but did they actually carve all the curved casings used in the older churches and the White House? Something in me wants to imagine curved planes, made to the radius required. But I have nothing to back up that idea.

    Does anybody know of any info written on this subject? Machines don’t count, I have the machines.

    • Chuck N says:


      I have seen (but do not own) curved moulding planes; they’re often labeled “coachmaker’s planes”. They’re not large enough for the architectural work, but the concept is the same. Curved features with a steady radius could easily be done with a similar tool. On the other hand, professional carvers are suprisingly quick.

      • Pete,
        I’ll comment to your question about whether curved mouldings like the swan neck depicted in the jacket design in Matt’s book were carved. I haven’t seen any written material about the tools but have spent a good deal of time investigating those forms with dividers. The most stunning executions typically were laid out with asymmetrical cyma curves, meaning one curve is a minor and one a major. Also they often contrast faster versus slower curves. Not always readily apparent but these subtleties set a great execution apart. That said, it makes the case for carving. Hard to imagine the number of specialty planes required to deal with all these variables tossed in, yet a skilled carver could simply follow the layout. I have an article coming up in the upcoming issue of the SAPFM journal concerning the geometry behind a Swans neck pediment or what was known in the period as a scrolled head.

      • John Cashman says:

        The problem with curved moulding planes is they will only cut a single radius. The consensus on making curved mouldings seems to be using carving tools for most of the work, and scratch-stocks to finish. There really just is no way to use moulding planes.

      • John Cashman says:

        That sounds like a great article George, and I eagerly look forward to it — and your forthcoming book. If anyone reading this has enjoyed Matt’s and the other LAP books, but is not a member of SAPFM– well, what the heck are you waiting for? It’s worth it for the journal alone.

      • William Duffield says:

        Could you define major and minor, faster and slower in this context for us? I could guess, but I’d rather be sure.

        Beyond being only able to follow a single radius, if you try to follow the convex part of a cyma curve, when the nose of the plane reaches the inflection point, it pushes the iron away from the curve you’re trying to follow.

  9. Pete van der Lugt says:

    I just imagined that a workman, and again I have no real evidence to back this train of thought up, but a workman tasked with making 40 radius casings for a building, could take the irons from the straight planes he used for the profile, and pop them into planes made to the radius required? In my mind (and there is lot’s of vacant space up there to come up with these ideas), this would seem so much easier than carving. No surprise here, I don’t currently do much carving so am not proficient at it. But I look at the massive windows in these buildings and wonder, did some poor guy(s) really have to carve all those casings?

    I’ve never seen a complex moulder that had a radius stock. But like Chuck said, there are curved coachmaker planes that verify the premise. And imagine, the coachmakers radius work was no where near the volume of those building windows, and HE found it worthwhile to plane rather than carve, so wouldn’t it seem a guy with a high volume do the same.

    I’m standing on thin air here though. I’ve got no evidence to support my premise.

  10. Graham Burbank says:

    Sidney poitier should have had this under his arm before filming “the simple life of noah dearborn”, still one of the best movies ever made, in which he has to reproduce a complex crown made 50 years earlier, by his own hands… he grabs a carving gouge and a block of 16/4 pine. Check it out.

  11. Pete van der Lugt says:

    Is that movie non fiction or fiction? I mean, is it a “how to video”? Or just a movie that happens to touch on the subject? I didn’t see a link, I’ll try and find the movie in question.

    Thanks to all.

    • Graham Burbank says:

      Fiction, definately NOT a how to, as he grabs the wrong tool for the job. This minor detail is totally irrelevant to the heart of the movie, which is about staying young by doing what you love for a living. Sidney is a woodworker of indeterminate age who has stayed young by continuing to do woodworking using hand tools , the way he learned 60 years earlier.. Intrigued? Completely goes to the heart of this blog, and the notions of why we do what we do.

      • Graham Burbank says:

        There is a distinct possibility that this movie was what inspired chris to leave his job in the corporate(magazine) world and jump full-time to focus on L.A.P…CAUTION! It might inspire you to do the same…..

  12. If you watch Jim Kingshott’s video on special planes, he goes into the mechanics of doing things like sash mouldings. He also goes into how most mouldings can be made with hollows and rounds and that the complex moulding planes were more trouble than they were worth.

  13. David says:

    Regarding Curved moldings: It’s true that most complex curved moldings that would be incorporated into early american furniture were carved. If one is at a tolerant museum, they may let you run your fingers along the molding’s face with the appropriate white cotton photographer’s gloves. You can feel (but not easily see) the undulations in the height of the surface that would be expected from a carved and scraped molding, but would not be expected from the use of a curved complex molder or sash shave.

    However, it is also true that curved complex molders do exist. They are quite rare, and fetch very high prices on the antique market. Some of these have been found among sash maker’s tools, and one would expect that given the specialization of crafts in society before the machine age, one would buy all of the vaulted windows in a church from a sash maker. Some period advertisements support this idea.

    Given, however, that curved and/or vaulted windows were not common compared to straight sashes, and that producing a curved molding by machine, even the really primitive early machines of the 1840’s, would be far more efficient than any carver or sash-maker using hand tools, it’s not too surprising that curved complex molding planes are not easy to find.

    There is, however, a type of curved molder that is far easier to find that illustrates the principal that using a dedicated plane is far faster than carving or even using a sash shave: a cooper’s croze. One could argue that a cooper’s croze is a joinery plane, not a molding plane, but the principle remains the same. Here’s a page that has several listed for sale (I don’t have any connection to the seller):


  14. Pete van der Lugt says:

    Thanks, this is all good information. I guess methods used were job specific. I mean, if there were a hundred windows to make, of the same radius perhaps a plane was made. But I can see how they would be very rare, given the straight moulding to curved moulding ratio.

    Thanks everyone

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