Book review – Mouldings in Practice by Matt Bickford

Impressive. Eighteen months ago I stood in front of a table full of Matt Bickford’s moulding planes at a Lie-Nielsen tool event. He handed me an off cut from a moulding sample and asked if it looked familiar. I ran my hand over the intricate shape and tried to recall if I’d ever seen it on a piece of furniture. Matt cracked a grin and reminded me that it was from a drawing I pulled together for an article in Popular Woodworking based on a pattern book by James Gibbs circa 1732. Holding that wonderful profile told me two things – Here is a man who is passionate about exploring this craft, and a glimmer at the amazing potential packed inside a small handful of hollows and rounds. Matt commented how he could have made it 1/3 smaller or larger with the same tool kit. This fluid composition was miles away from anything cobbled together with commercial router bits.

Thomas Lie-Nielsen founder of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, commented in an article on hand planes, “A plane is just a jig for a chisel”.

Apply that to moulding planes and you might conclude – A moulding plane is a jig for a carving gouge. There in lies the rub. Venturing into the world of curved cutting profiles and complex shapes can be intimidating even if you are proficient with bench planes. My own experience with moulding planes has been just enough success to make me want to learn more, but also plenty of inconsistent results. I’m never quite sure if my struggles are the result of poor tool set up, bench technique, or both. Thankfully Mouldings in Practice has brought a great deal of clarity and answered many of my questions about these tools. I have a better handle on the finer points of setting the tools up properly along with a carefully thought out approach to take the mystery out of execution.

Much of the book is devoted to shooting complex profiles with hollows and rounds. It’s detailed, clear, and broken down into steps easily grasped. Even though I’m still climbing up the learning curve I’m confident that with Matt’s guidance and a little practice, the complex will eventually become intuitive. He guides you through the basics on a number of profiles and then as an added bonus, goes through a series mouldings from actual period furniture examples. No better way to train the hand and eye than learn from the artisans who used these tools like paintbrushes. Regardless of your taste for period work, this gives you a solid foundation in the classics to build upon. At last this knowledge is once again within practical reach to a new generation of artisans.

This book breaths life into an important part of our craft that too easily could have faded from our tradition. Kudos to Matthew Sheldon Bickford and Lost Art Press for making this available to all.

You can get your copy at Lost Art Press.

Note: I have a business relationship with Lost Art Press. This review is unsolicited and reflects my own appreciation for this excellent book.

George R. Walker

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3 Responses to Book review – Mouldings in Practice by Matt Bickford

  1. Ditto all of George’s comments! This is a very nicely done book. I’m still working my way through it, but I’ve already been able to make some mouldings for our back porch (a work in progress) that I couldn’t possibly have made with standard router bits or shaper cutters. I also had the privilege of taking Matt’s class at Lie-Nielsen last summer. It was well worth the time and effort – Matt is a great teacher, and the bonus was having my pre-ordered copy of the book arrive at home awaiting my return after the class. A highly recommended book, and I’m anticipating all the possibilities this opens up for making mouldings!

  2. Kurt says:

    Was aware of your relationship with LAP, but wanted to acknowledge my appreciation for your integrity.

  3. Marshal says:

    Appreciate the review! I have held off on the book due to time of learning a new skill set. However, you make some good points on why I should get started!

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