Channel moldings

Channel moldings are commonly seen on seventeenth and early eighteenth century furniture.  They are very simple to do, yet add a nice shadow line that helps to break up an otherwise plain surface, which in this case is the four side rails for my poly chrome bevel molded dresser.

The channel molding is made up of a groove with molded features flanking either side of the groove. Ovolos, cavettos, ogees, and simple roundovers are seen.  These are usually done with a scratch stock and can be done after assembly if so desired. On my piece, the channel molding is a very simple roundover.  It doesn't require a custom scratch stock to make, only a few basic hand tools. I have considered making it just a bit fancier, which can still be done later with a scratch stock should I decide it is required.

Shown here are my Gabriel plow, a Gabriel #5 hollow, a chisel which will be used as a scraper, a mortising gauge, and my work holding setup for this piece.

These Gabriels are genuine 18th century. Very cool!
First I defined the location of the molding with the mortising gauge. In this instance, the channel will be 1/2" wide, 1/4" deep, and 1 1/2" in from the inside edge of the side rail. Take your time and make several light passes with the gauge. Do not try to make a deep line with one pass; you will most likely make a pair of ugly, twisty lines that will not serve their purpose.

With the groove laid out, I then set up my plow plane to make the appropriate cut. For more information on plow planes and how to use them, see my article The Care and Feeding of the Wooden Plow Plane.

Given that a plow is a joinery plane that isn't expected to make attractive surfaces, the bottom of the groove needed a little dressing up. To do this, I grabbed a 1/2" chisel and, using it bevel up at a high angle by dragging it backwards, I scraped the bottoms of the grooves smooth. This has the added benefit of helping to clean up any stray wood fibers from the sides and bottom corners of the grooves. You can see a little chipout in the very end of the groove caused by a marking gauge line that wasn't deep enough. It will not be a problem as this area is exactly what will be molded later on.

Using a chisel as a scraper is a great technique. They dull quickly this way especially in white oak.

Once you have the groove plowed and cleaned up, simply round over the top corners of the groove with an appropriately-sized hollow plane. I used my #5. You could use a chisel if you don't have hollows and rounds.

How it looks against the stiles.

This extremely simple technique adds a nice look to the piece. All four moldings were done in less than 30 minutes. A scratch stock molding wouldn't take much more (if any) time at all, outside of making the tool. I hope you can find a use for this easy technique in your own work.

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