Beading tools

Tom King

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We have an order for 6 reproduction 18th Century mantles with about 2-1/2 square feet of reeding on each.  Surface finish is to be by hand tools, so we're making the reeding by hand.  Heart Pine like the originals.  I had kept enough small pieces of the really fine grained Heart Pine that we had left over from a window sash job.


I have made many single beads by hand with multi-planes, but don't remember ever making any multiples, side by side. 


Some years ago I bought a Stanley 66 beading tool that didn't have any cutters or a fence.  Lie Nielsen sells replacement fences for their copy of the 66, so I ordered a fence from them, along with a set of cutters.  The LN fence registration tongue was a little wider than the slot in the Stanley, so a little filing got it right.


I also ordered the wooden beading tool from Lee Valley.


We made some test runs, and the pieces we used as test runs are going to be used in the finished products. I thought surely we'd screw some up to start with, but It's EASY.  It is going to be a bit of time, but that's what we get paid for.  The pattern we are copying has 3/16" beads.  We're using the triple bead cutters to cut three at the time. The cutters from both LN and LV are a perfect match for the originals.


Now for the review of tools:


The LN cutters are thicker than the LV and made from A2.  The points don't go down as far as the LV cutters, but the LV cutters match the originals exactly.  Both brands of cutters needed sharpening to start with.  It's not possible to get the LN A2 cutters as sharp as the LV ones. I don't remember LV stating what their cutters are made from, but I expect O1. The stiffer, thicker cutters are better for bearing down to get the shapes started quickly than the LV cutters.  The LV cutters are better for final finish, and getting the grooves all the way down.  I'm glad I ended up getting both setups.


Both tools allow getting the fence far enough away from the cutter to make 4 or 5 inch wide pieces, so we can get maximum usage of our scraps of wood.  The original mantles have the reeded fields made up of a bunch of small pieces applied to the main part of the mantle, but you can't tell until you take one apart.


The two handles on the Stanley/LN allow you to bear down enough to remove a fair amount of wood quickly.  That along with the thick cutters make it the ideal tool to start with. 


The wooden LV tool is light, and not restricted to going in one direction.  Once you get the feel for it, you can go back and forth, and stand the cutter up straighter to end up with a nice finished piece.  It's not real great for getting the grooves started to begin with.


Lee Valley also makes a metal tool with wooden handles.  The reason I didn't get that one is the fence is limited more in the distance that you can get it from the cutters.  I think we ended up with the ideal combination for this job, but if you have in mind getting one to do beading close to the edge of face frames or door parts, I'm going to recommend getting the metal LV beading tool.  These beads look a lot better to me than the dedicated face frame beading setup that Kreg sells, and they're really easy to do.


This can, of course, be done with hand planes too, but the beading tool is a lot faster.  I tried the tools on other woods, and anything we tried was a lot easier than the Heart Pine, but none of it was actually hard to do.,230,41182,41182,62030

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We haven't really gotten started on them yet.  I'm just getting it organized, and there are other projects ahead of it.  I do everything we do myself with two helpers, so we don't get stuff done in a big hurry.  Some projects are months or over a year away, and some are weather or temperature dependent, so there is no fixed schedule or deadlines.  I just got around to fooling around with the beading tools this morning.

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One problem we ran into was some chatter from the LN cutter once in a while.  Once the chatter marks are there it's too much trouble to get the chatter marks off with the LV finisher, so I just ordered this off of ebay for cleanup of such issues:


It's the right size by measurement, but I realize I may have to fiddle with the molding plane to get it to match exactly.

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Tom, I have the LV wooden one you show in the first link. I have used it a few times and I really like it for what I do. Never really put it through the paces that you have. 


Thanks for the write up and review, now I know what else is out there and how it performs. 

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