Its my opinion that a side bead plane is much more convenient than the router for a bead profile. Since beads are generally cut at the edge of a board on its broad face, for instance on a table skirt, the router would be balanced on the narrow edge of wood if the bit has a pilot bearing, or a router table setup would be used. The router table isn't too bad for most furniture sized projects but can be a pain for 7 foot lengths of sticking required for a passage door stile lets say. Especially in a small shop where 15 feet of feed space may not be attainable.
Side bead planes are quite common on the used market from both American and English makers. Good usable ones are pretty easy to come across but there are couple of things to look for. Most of these items would apply to just about any moulding plane.
- Is the boxing intact? The boxing is the strip of wood, usually boxwood, that is let into the sole of the plane and comprises the sharp point that forms the quirk on the profile. On smaller planes the boxing might encompass the entire profile. It's important that the boxing isn't loose, although it can be re-glued with hide glue if necessary. It is also important that it be fully seated in the groove and makes a straight line across the bottom of the plane from toe to heel. If is isn't straight the plane may not cut the entire profile.
- Does the bit or iron match the sole profile? Sight down the plane from the toe and tap the iron up until you just see it above the profile. Does it match pretty well? It should be pretty close. The quirk and the bead should be equally above the bed. Also on a side bead the iron fades into the profile on the fence side as it becomes vertical so it doesn't leave step on the edge of the work, so be aware of that. Remodeling an iron to fit the sole can be a bit of work so it might be a good idea to pass up a plane the needs that kind of restoration for your first one.
- Does the wedge fit the plane? The wedge should fit snugly and hold the iron tightly when tapped.
- Is the plane true? The plane should be pretty true along the blind side, the side without the shaving escapement.
Next time I'll have some photos and a bit on usage.