A Justification of Hollows & Rounds

(This post was originally posted in December, 2010. Few substantial changes have been made, if any.)

The edges of furniture I made for 5 years were various derivatives of my same 12 router bits. Every time I thought about my next piece, I immediately thought about the various profiles involved and the methods I would choose to replicate them: “How will I get close?” “How will I have to change the profile to fit my tooling?” “How much will a new router bit cost?” Inevitably, “which router bit of the 5000 offered is closest to what I want?”

I hosted a booth at a Lie-Nielsen Handtool Event this past weekend at Phil Lowe’s Furniture Institute of Massachusetts (Note: I will be at another Lie-Nielsen Handtool Event at FIM in early December of this year). I again fielded a question regarding the planes I offer and was faced with a similar question of this recognizable struggle.

I suggested hollows and rounds as an option and was told that a router can do the same thing.

Here is what a router cannot do:

I had an issue of Popular Woodworking on my bench and asked a fellow woodworker to pick out a profile in the pages. We settled on the support profile beneath the chest of drawers’ top in the feature article: a reverse ogee and astragal. I asked the gentleman how he would produce the profile in his shop, he responded about how he would mimic the profile to get something close.

With hollows and rounds, we had the profile complete before the end of our conversation, not a derivative, not something that will work as well, not another swipe of the credit card followed by 3 day delivery. We were done.

I used a rabbet, a #6 hollow and round, a snipes bill and a #2 hollow. Here are the steps I took.

Rabbet Plane


Snipes Bill Plane






#6 Round
Rabbet / #6 Hollow






#2 Hollow




I have a list of reasons why hollows and rounds are appropriate in today’s shop. The reason why they are in mine is because they let me do anything. They end tooling. They end compromises. Hollows and rounds start true creativity and control.