Cutting Crown Molding
Cutting crown molding is simple once you think it through. I don't know about you but I am ready to get to work. The first thing you are going to do is to trash about 3 feet of crown molding so you can understand how it all works.
A Test Corner
Cut off a 3 foot long piece of crown molding. The first reason why I want you to do this is because it makes it easier to handle in the saw. When you start cutting long lengths you will need to have a helper or you will have to build some sort of support devices so the molding is not stressed or bends as you cut it.
Let's first cut the molding in half, so you have two 18 inch long pieces. With that complete, I want you to cut two 45 degree cuts so that you can see just how two mitered pieces would fit in a perfect 90 degree corner.
The First Cut
Take one of the 18 inch long pieces and turn it upside down so the bottom of the molding profile is pointing up to the sky. Place it in the miter box so that the molding is sloped from the back saw fence towards the miter box base. The lumber mill helps you with this as you will notice that the parts of the molding that eventually will touch the wall and the ceiling are 90 degree cuts. In other words, if you place the piece of molding on the inside of a framing square (the square representing a wall / ceiling intersection) you will see that the back/top cuts fit perfectly against the wall and ceiling. Think .... your miter bow fence and base are at 90 degrees to one another! Use this to your advantage to recreate the actual placement of the molding while you cut it.
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OK, now place the molding so that one end is under where the saw blade will cut through it. Let's make it so that the molding is hanging out the left side of the miter box. Remember, your saw should be set to a 45 degree angle. If you are using a compound miter box, DON'T adjust the saw for a compound cut! Leave the blade set for a 90 degree cut.
With the molding in position, proceed with the cut. Make sure your fingers are out of the way. Once you cut it, the bottom of the molding will actually be the longest part of the molding. It should be about 17 and 3/4 inch or so long if you just cut a little off. The top of the molding might measure about 15 inches or so from the square cut opposite end.
Repeat the Process
Do the exact same thing you just did but rotate the miter box saw blade so it is now cutting a 45 degree cut the other way AND the other 18 inch long piece of molding is now projecting out the right side of the miter box frame. When you complete this cut you will have the left side molding that completes a typical inside corner.
Check for Fit
If you did everything right, you should be able to take both cut pieces and hold the mitered ends together. The profile cuts should be a mirror image and they should fit like a glove. You can actually take them inside and place both pieces up in a corner and slide them together to check for fit. My guess is that there will be a gap when they touch. DON'T blame yourself! Rarely will cut pieces like this fit perfectly. Why? Because the corner is not perfect! If you want to cut crown molding this way and expect perfect fits, you must have perfect corners. The solution to this problem lies in coping joints like the old carpenters.
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The Coped Joint
A coped joint is simply where you cut one piece of molding in such a way that the cut face matches the curved, sloped profile of the molding once it is up on the wall. It is just like those shadow cutouts that an artist does of a child's face in the shopping mall. Possibly, you have seen these before. The miter box cut you just did creates the profile line you need to cut along. There is no need to use a pencil and a lamp!
To create the coped joint, use a coping saw and cut along the line created by the saw blade on one of your pieces. Note how the saw cut traces a perfect line along the molding profile face. Tilt the small coping saw blade so that you are back cutting the molding. If you don't do this, the molding simply will not fit tight against the other corner piece. You basically just want the thin wood edge to contact the other corner piece.
Speaking of the other corner piece, you simply square cut this piece. In other words, you do not cut it at a 45 degree angle at all. Simply cut the molding as if you were cutting off a 2x4 for length. Slide this square cut piece into the corner and then the coped piece will slide up against it. The advantage of using coped cuts lies in the fact that you can slightly twist either piece in the corner to achieve a nice, tight fit. Remember, practice makes perfect!
Click here to watch a video on cutting crown molding the easy way.
Place the small cut piece of crown molding upside down in your miter box frame. Imagine that it is up on your wall. Adjust the molding in the miter box frame until the measurements match what you determined when it was in the square. Make reference marks on the saw frame so that you can hold the molding accurately as you saw it.
To accurately cut inside miter joints, you simply need to remember that only the small bottom shoe of the molding will fit into the wall corner. The intersection of the finished face of two moldings meets out in space away from the actual corner. This means that the longest point of your molding once it is cut must be at the actual bottom of the molding.
I always cut a one foot long left and right mitered corner. I check these for fit in each corner to see how they look. These pieces also serve as templates back at the saw to help me correctly visualize the molding as it sits upside down and backwards in the miter saw!
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