Question/invention idea about moulding planes


I've been reading a lot about moulding planes lately. It's mainly because I've been wondering about replacing the moulding in my house and, after some recent work with a regular hand plane, I'm wondering if maybe the power tools kick up too much dust and noise, and I'd be better off doing hand-work for my imagined projects.
So, I started browsing. And I noticed two things. The first thing is that, with the classic wooden-body moulding planes, one needs to create both the knife _and_ the negative-image contour of the moulding for the sole. It's tough work, well beyond my abilities.
The second thing I noticed came from examining photos of the Stanley 55 plane, which enabled the woodworker to arrange different cutters into complex moulding shapes. It gave great variety... but it didn't seem to enable the creation of a contoured sole, which'd reduce tearout.
So here's what I'm wondering. Imagine if one had a small variety of metal moulding planes-- say, around the size of rabbet planes, or smaller-- with dedicated knives and sole profiles. And one could assemble a sequence of these units side-by-side, to create custom moulding profiles. Thus, one would have the customizability of the Stanley 55, but the sole would be contoured like a classic wood-body plane. It'd be _heavy_, of course.
Now, I don't have the metalworking skills or resources to create anything like this. And I doubt there's much of a market, given the prevalence of power-driven moulding machines. But, any opinions? Ideas? Simple reasons why this is better relegated to an unrealized fantasy called "Siano's Folly" than actual creation in the real world?
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Brian Siano wrote:

I'm guessing it's been tried before, and they found out that it was awfully _heavy_ and _expensive_. :-)
One thing you might want to explore first is making moldings with wooden hollows and rounds. When used in conjunction with a rabbet plane, many different moldings can be made. Also, you can use a scratch stock (or simple scrapers) to refine custom shapes. They are easy to make, and the variety of shapes is only limited by your imagination.
If you do a little exploring over on the Oldtools list (I assume they still have FMM or Flea Market Monday where they advertise tools for sale), you can probably find some hollows and rounds for sale cheap. Then either use your #78 (you do have one, right? ;-) or a wooden rabbet plane to define the basic shapes, and the hollows or rounds to refine them.
There are articles on the web about this very thing, but I'm too lazy to look them up right now. :-) Try Googling on "molding plane" (as a phrase), "complex" and "profile" or "hollows", "rounds" and "molding". Or just check out the Oldtools list archives.
Chuck Vance
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It has been done - '20s UK.
It was a commercial failure. Partly because it was launched at a time when complex mouldings were going out of fashion, partly because it used the new diecast-zinc alloys. At the time (before Zamak / Mazak) these only had a service life of a few years before warping out of shape.
It was slightly different from your idea. The sole was made from stacked units on pins, but the irons were one-piece.
One other benefit / drawback of this design was in "springing" the plane. Most complex moulders aren't used square-on to the timber, they're tilted over or "sprung". The ideal spring angle is a factor of the overall moulding, not the components, and so a component-based plane would be at a disadvantage because it would be built around a single standardised spring angle.
There is however the possibility of such a plane, with separate irons, being made to have ideal spring for each section of moulding. If you could make it workable with so many narrow closed mouths, then this might be a useful advantage.
It's also not unknown to see a #55 (or usually one of the simpler models like a #50 or a Record #43) that has been custom-fitted with a closed mouth block and used to make a particular moulding for all of its life. I've got a pair of these from a coffin-maker, the case moulding and the lid moulding.
Incidentally, " the negative-image contour of the moulding" is known as the "mother plane". These were valuable individually-made planes, made either by hand-carving the first example of the moulding (the first mother) with scratch stocks and chisels, or later replaced by one worked by its own offspring. There are tales of 18th century plane makers saving them from fires, listing them separately in wills etc. Owning this set of mother planes was pretty much the definition of being in the plane-making business.
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