Hand Carved Decorative Molding




Introduction: Hand Carved Decorative Molding

About: I'm a software engineer with a passion for building things. I mostly work in wood but I'm starting to do some metalwork and electronics as well.

A decorative molding is great way improve the look of a finished piece and in this case it serves the dual purpose of making the finished piece stronger as well. The molding I'll be making here is called a horn and it's found on the stile (vertical piece) of sash windows. Horns started to be added to sash windows around the 1830's as the glazing in the sash became heavier and ultimately too heavy for the meeting rail joint.

While I'm cutting this molding on a sash window there is nothing particular about the technique that means it can only be used for this. This technique would be equally useful on, for example, the bottom of a table or chair leg.

This project along with loads of others is also available at Wobblycogs Workshop.


  • 50mm x 50mm knot free straight grained timber, 60mm for the carved section. I'm working in Meranti.


  • Fine toothed saw. I use a Japanese saw but any fine toothed back saw will do.
  • Small straight chisel. I used a 10mm chisel but as long as it's sharp it'll work.
  • Flat rasp
  • Round rasp
  • Sandpaper
  • Cabinet scraper. Anything thin and stiff will do.
  • A short length of rod or bar

Step 1: Design and Layout the Molding

Hand cutting a molding essentially is a matter of joining two lines together and for a good finish those two lines have to be identical so I suggest starting by using your favourite CAD program to design the shape. Alternately you could just draw curves on a piece of paper until you have one that you like.

Once you have the shape designed get a full size printout of it and stick it to a piece of ply then cut the ply to the shape of the moulding.

Use the temple you've just made to first mark on one side of the stile and then on the other side. Take care to make sure you align it correctly when marking out the back as it's easy to draw the mirror image.

On the front of the stile join the two two layout lines together to give a layout line for the top shoulder of the molding.

Step 2: Cut the Top Shoulder

Clamp the piece in a vice and using your fine toothed saw cut along the just drawn top shoulder line. This establishes the top of the molding.

Now reorient the piece in the vice and join the bottom of the molding lines across the bottom of the stile. This gives you a line for the bottom shoulder of the molding.

Step 3: Cut Off the Waster

Establish a cut along the bottom of the site and then orient the saw so that the waste can be cut off. It can be a little tricky to get the angle exactly right, I suggest erring on the side of caution as that just means a little more work with the rasp. Cut off a wedge of waste material.

Step 4: Start Defining the Shape

Use a sharp chisel to carve down to the layout line on the far side of the piece. This will help to prevent breakout in a moment when the rasp is used.

Using a flat rasp first establish a shoulder at the bottom of the molding and then take down the convex area.

Now, using the flat rasp clean up the concave area as much as you can before switching to the round rasp to finish it off.

Step 5: Carve the Top of the Molding

The top of this molding is too tight to shape with the rasps but it's easy to do with a straight chisel. First carve down to the line on each side and then pare away the waste between the two carved areas. A small amount will be left at the very top which can be taken out with the chisel.

Step 6: Final Clean Up

Fold a piece of sandpaper in half and clean up the V at the top of the molding. Then fold the sandpaper over something thin and stiff like a cabinet scraper and clean up the convex area of the molding and the top shoulder.

Now wrap the sandpaper around a thin rod, a piece of dowel would be good, and clean up the concave area. Use forward and backward strokes along the grain for the best results. Take a couple of strokes along the corners if you are painting the finished piece in order to break them.

Finally vacuum off the dust and inspect your work.

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    7 years ago

    lovely and piece of beauty created by hand


    Reply 7 years ago

    Thanks, glad you liked it.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, I agree it feels good to work wood by hand occasionally. I find it's often faster (and cheaper) if you're only making a small number of pieces.


    7 years ago

    Beautiful !!


    Reply 7 years ago

    Very kind of you to say, thanks.