DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional carpenter, woodworker, or crown molding hanger. I’m just a girl with a dremmel, some rotozip bits, and a miter saw.
I’m not even going to pretend like crown molding is my friend. I live in an eighty year old crooked house. Anything that needs to be straight, level, cut at a specific angle, or must be hung in the presence of polite company (aka without swearing) is not welcome here. And that’s why coping crown molding joints and the like has been such a huge part of life on garrison road. Because the only way those little plastic miter boxes where you saw everything a a flat angle work is in a world where houses are perfectly square. And maybe not even then.
I’ve had a lot of people in and out of my house in the last three years that claim to be “carpenters” and I can only assume by that they mean “rough carpenters” because none of the finish-work was done correctly, which, of course, meant taking matters into my own hands. (And I have to give credit to Ricky, who first introduced me to the concept of coping.)
So, for someone who has never had to cope a joint before before, I’ll start with the shoe molding I had to put on in The Purple Bedroom because the concept is easier when you aren’t dealing with all those funky crown molding angles.
Here’s what I use:
Here’s how I do it:
Step 1: The first two pieces of shoe molding (or baseboard) are easy, you just measure the wall, cut the piece of molding to exactly that length, and nail it in. Like this…
No angles, nothing tricky. My personal trick for not beating the brand new floor up with the hammer while nailing this stuff in: Painters tape.
Incidently, the first to pieces of trim/molding etc. will go on opposite walls, which is probably obvious.
Step 2: Measure for pieces 3 and 4. I’m not saying which way is “proper” since propriety isn’t really my thing, but I measure from the furthest point (so the wall, not the molding itself) like this…
Not like this:
Step 3: Cut stuff with the big saw.
For shoe molding or baseboard or anything that sits flat against the wall, you’ll cut it at a 45. One of the reasons that I love this saw so much is that it does the math for me.
Step 4: Coping
The objective is to cut this out so that these two pieces fit together nicely.
That’s where the dremmel comes in. The whole point of cutting that piece at an angle instead of just hacking at it with a saw was to create a line that I can use to know what part of the wood needs to be carved out. People do this by hand with coping saws or with their jig saws set at an angle, but personally I’m more comfortable with my dremmel.
This takes about 1/16″ to 1/8″ of wood away each time I swipe it over (almost like an electric knife) depending on how hard I push. It definitely takes getting the hang of, but this is how I carve my brooms, so I’ve had some practice.
About what it looks like done:
See how it fits:
Then you just pop those babies in, and voila! Finished shoe molding.
Crown molding, on the other hand, is a little more difficult. The nice thing is that the saw pretty much does the angles for you, and it’s not as fragile on the ends as the shoe molding (and that sharp little point).
The saw has markings at 31.62 degrees, and 33.9 degrees, so that’s where I cut. I’ve learned to trust the saw.
This is how it will fit… eventually:
The part that I will need to remove is in the red:
Technically the part of the molding that is on top in that picture will be on the bottom when you actually install it, which makes sense if you try to visualize… it was just easier to hold that way.
Anyway. I use the same technique as I did on the shoe molding, only its a little more difficult design, and I’m trying to get it to fit on an angle, so I make a couple of marks for reference:
And, trying to keep the bit parallel to the line at the top… get to carving:
This is roughly cut out, but you can see how it starts to fit:
I was having a little trouble getting a tight fit, so I added some lines to this picture so you can see where I needed to trim. That ridge in the middle should be parallel with the bottom of the molding.
Takes a little while to get used to the angles and all, but in the end…
This piece fits tight…
And is much more forgiving in a crooked room than just cutting the joint at an angle would be.
Painted and finished!