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Cutting and installing crown molding efficiently

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-Fast and efficient cutting and installation-

Let me share a productive way to cut and install tight-fitting crown molding. The simplest way, of course, is to cut all stock at a 45 degree angle. This works fine for smaller, cabinet-type crown moldings, but it does not work well for lager profiles.

For a craftsman-like, formed-to-fit installation, one piece of molding is nailed in place and another is shaped to fit the profile. This method not only assures tight joints, but it also allows the installer to determine from what location in the room an overlapping joint is seen. Cutting and installing crown molding requires a rudimentary understanding of angles. Since construction angles often are not “true” they must be “tweaked”.

The cope-fitted method gets its name from the hand-held coping saw, which can be cumbersome and time-consuming to use these days. It requires that after an angle is cut stock is removed from the back side, so that only the face of the trim piece makes contact with the adjoining piece.

 My tools of choice include the DeWalt 12” dual compound miter saw, a portable Bosch 10” table saw, and a portable sander, with drum and belt attachments. The table of the sander is set at 45 degrees. Absent the drum sander I recommend a small hand-held power sander with a small-diameter grinding/sanding attachment.

I prefer to lay crown molding on the miter saw the way it lies on the wall. In this case the horizontal base of the saw represents the ceiling, and the vertical fence represents the wall because. unlike baseboard, the bottom side of the crown molding faces up!! The saw is set at a 45 degree angle. For an inside corner, stock is laid onto the saw from the acute side of the saw. For an outside corner stock is placed on the obtuse side of the angled miter saw.

I head to the table saw, where stock is removed from the back side of the cut just made. I do this “free style” (no fence attachment) on the t-saw, hence caution is advised. I move my stock sideways across the blade, taking off small sections of wood in several passes. I remove stock up to 1/16” from the face of the angled cut.

Now I go to the drum sander and remove the final excess stock, until a sharp profile is achieved. Finally, the top and the bottom edge of the molding each receive a small 90 degree cut, because these edges are butted against (lie on top of) the previously installed piece of molding.

It’s time to test the angled cut. This is where trouble usually starts. Unless site angles, wall-to-wall or wall-to-ceiling, are 90 degrees the molding won’t lie “true”. To overcome this problem I make a slight adjustment on the miter saw. If the re-cut is minor I only have to re-sand the profile a bit. If there is a major change I may have to go back to the table saw. The molding piece should always lie “true” on the miter saw table and fence; only the angle of the saw changes.

Installing crown molding takes time. It requires patience. I highly recommend that the novice installer prepares several sample pieces representing right and left, inside and outside corners. Label them. Holding these pieces in place will allow the installer identify trouble spots. It will help him/her visualize how to correctly place the molding in the miter saw, where everything is upside down and right-to-left.

MF 2017

Mel Fros

hunh? (post #214481, reply #1 of 8)

After cutting the initial angle on a miter box use one of those bosch reciprocating saws, (or jig saws, whatever they call them), and do the back cut. Way easier than using a table saw. Also, leave the end loose on the piece of crown that is already in place. That leaves some adjustment to match your coped cut.

Also, the sander is (post #214481, reply #2 of 8)

Also, the sander is unnecessary. A rasp will do for cleaning up the coping saw cut. 

huh (post #214481, reply #3 of 8)

If by "reciprocating saw" you mean the oscillating type, I've tried that and found it less than satisfactory and way more time-consuming. More over the finished side risks being damaged. If you mean a power jig saw, that too is far more cumbersome than a quick run over a portable table saw. I invite you to try my method. I think you will be pleasantly surprised how quickly and accurately it back-cuts excess stock. As for the hand-held rasp, it does not yield the crisp, clean profile I desire. It takes more time. Finally, leaving the end of the piece to be overlapped un-nailed is a good idea.

Thank you for offering suggestions. We each have our methods. The important thing is the result.

Mel Fros

I've run miles of crown using (post #214481, reply #4 of 8)

I've run miles of crown using either a bosch jig saw, (the barrel kind worked best), or a coping saw. Either works exactly as intended. A rasp works beautifully too. You have to use one or two different ones depending on the profile. I recall doing some buildups going around the room up to ten times featuring dentilin, egg and dart, and crown. You can do it right at the base of your ladder. One of those workmates comes in handy. Easy as pie once you get the hang of it. 

Oh yeah, I wouldn't recommend (post #214481, reply #5 of 8)

Oh yeah, I wouldn't recommend the jig saw on soft stuff. Only oak or something hard like that. On soft stuff like poplar or pine a coping saw beats all. Especially time-wise. You can make a really accurate cut easily. Leaves very little in the way of touch up with the files. 

Sun (post #214481, reply #6 of 8)

Have you seen or tried the add on Collins Coping Foot for your jigsaw?

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yeah, coping foot (post #214481, reply #7 of 8)

That works for me.


I've seen ads for those (post #214481, reply #8 of 8)

I've seen ads for those things and thought, "what a good idea", but never tried one. Using a coping saw is pretty quick and easy though so I've never made the effort to track the coping foot down.