Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sticking Board

Well, I squeezed in a little shop time during a lull in the ongoing "War of the Bamboo Floor" – a war in which I am forced to admit defeat. Well, at least defeat of my anticipated schedule. And schedule Plan B. And Plan C. Utter, utter defeat.

But my time in the shop was much more successful and enjoyable. I’ve been trying to create more storage space – particularly for some items I don’t like looking at. So I decided to make a simple chest to hide them. I had it started and rolling along smartly – until the floor project exploded. The next stage of the chest was making some mouldings to spiff-up the base or plinth.

I pulled my long dormant sticking board out of its corner and got to work. My sticking board is very similar to Chris Schwarz’s board – I don’t remember basing it on his, but it is so similar that I probably did after reading his blog (he posted about it around 1 year ago…).

The board is just a 2x6 with a 1x2 screwed to one edge (jointed straight first of course). Two sheet rock screws with sharpened heads are the stops – they can be raised or lowered as needed. The whole board is held in place by trapping it between a bench dog and the vice dog in the end vise.

For this moulding, I needed ¾ by ¾ sticks and I had some likely volunteers in the scrap bin, but they needed to be cleaned up and sized correctly first. I was about to reach for the marking gauge when I realized that I had a perfect jig sitting right in front of me! I just put the oversized stick on the sticking board, grabbed a #5 jack and planed down until the strip was flush with the sticking board fence. Very simple, no layout or extra steps. I just had to remember to rotate the stick before it reached its final size if I wanted to clean up additional faces – once it was sized in one dimension it was too late to work on the opposite face. Doh!

After the sticks were the right size, it was time for the molding plane. This is a 5/8 ovolo made by Brown & Barnard (British) somewhere about 150 – 200 years ago. I love putting old tools like this back to work!

Like a lot of moulding planes, this one is “sprung”, which means it is tilted over at an angle in use (the spring lines on the toe of the plane guide you with this). This spring makes the blade profile much easier to shape and allows for the mouth of the plane to remain tight. (There is a great web page out there somewhere that explains this with pictures – I’ll post a link if I can find it again.)

One of the great things about using old tools, is that they can teach you old ways of working. This old plane was about to teach me another reason for springing a plane. The plane has two stops – one lateral, which I have always thought of as a fence, and one for depth. The problem I have always had with this plane is that the “fence” is very tiny, and I have struggled to keep it aligned while planing. I kept thinking “Why did they make it this way?” and “Wouldn’t a larger fence be better?” The break-through came when I changed my assumptions and thought of the fence as a stop. Rather than starting with the “fence” riding on the wood, I tried starting with the curved section of the blade on the corner, or arris, of the wood (I tried to show the difference in the next two photos - click on them for larger images). Wow! Faster and much, much easier! The plane cuts directly in along the spring angle until both stops engage and that’s it. I didn’t have to mess with both holding the spring angle and also applying pressure vertically – I just sprung the plane and applied pressure at that angle. Very cool.

Once I had enough moulding cut (or stuck), it was time to miter it and apply it to the chest plinth. I was about to put the sticking board away and get out the miter box when inspiration struck again! (Twice in one day? What gives?) Why not just modify the sticking board fence and turn it into a miter box? Five minutes later, success!

(Oops! Uncle Henry has a tree growing out of his head! The thin strip of wood sticking out perpendicular to the fence in the photo above is a planing stop on the bench in the background – it has nothing to do with the sticking board…Funny how the human eye and the camera see things differently…)

Hopefully, this chest will be finished soon – but the floor war awaits…


  1. I've been wanting to make a sticking board for some time and keep forgetting to. Thanks for the reminder!

    That's a sweet moulding plane you have. Cuts a beautiful profile.

  2. Glad I could help with that reminder! There are more complicated designs - or at least more specialized designs (for sticking window muntons etc.)- that you might look into, but I really like the simplicity of the one I have now.

    Yeah, I like that plane too. I kinda have a thing for moulding planes - kinda an addiction thing maybe... :)

  3. Great point on using the spring plane. When I was at WIA this last year Don McConnell spoke about using a rabbet plane (or another flat edge plane) to kill arises for a few reasons. 1. you dull a flat blade which is easier to sharpen. 2. once you have "chamfered" the aris, it is easier to register the molding plane in the cut. The super secret 3rd reason is that you get to plane with more planes! Give it a try, it might make the work go faster too.

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