Cutting Crown Molding – Upside Down and Backwards!
DEAR TIM: I have tried for the last 2 hours to properly cut the miters for crown molding that I am installing in my dining room. My cuts are not even close. What am I doing wrong? How do you cut crown molding correctly? What is the trick to getting tight fitting joints in corners? Dan K., Greensburg, IN
DEAR DAN: Been there, done that. I remember my first time trying to install crown molding. I struggled just like you did. After wasting three hours and countless feet of beautiful white pine crown molding, the lady politely showed me to the door of her house. I was really humiliated. After I finished beating myself up, I immediately went to the library and borrowed an illustrated book on crown molding.
It only took one illustration to show me what I had been doing wrong. It was so simple that I could scream. You probably were making the same mistake that I did. I'll bet that you were holding the back side of the crown molding up against the rear fence of your miter box saw, weren't you? After that didn't work you held the molding on the bottom of the miter saw frame. You then tried setting the saw at different angles didn't you? Those are all common mistakes.
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Crown molding differs from wall baseboards and door and window trim. Baseboard, window and door trim moldings are basically rectangular in shape and fit flat on a wall once cut. Crown molding is actually a triangular shaped molding and the finished face sits at an angle to the wall and ceiling. Back when lumber was plentiful the moldings were actually triangular in shape. Modern moldings look similar to door and window casings because of the removal of the large mass of wood behind the molding face. This saves our precious natural resources but it causes lots of confusion when trying to miter it.
To get accurate corner cuts you have to hold the crown molding in the miter box at the same angle as it will be once on the wall. High quality miter box frames or power miter boxes can help you do this. The bottom and rear fence of the miter box actually mimic the 90 degree intersection of your wall and ceiling.
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The first step in achieving professional crown molding cuts is to determine how far the molding projects away from the wall and how far down from the ceiling the molding sits when it is installed. Cut a 2 inch long piece of crown molding to accomplish this task. Place the small piece of molding into the inside corner of a framing square. Note how there is a small foot on the bottom back of the molding. You will also find a shoulder at the top of the molding. These two surfaces should contact the edge of the framing square squarely. Note the measurements where the molding ends in each direction and write them down.
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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 first 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!
Remember, my Crown Molding eBook has complete step-by-step instructions with tons of color photographs that show you exactly how to cut crown molding. 100% Satisfaction Guarantee!