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  Cutting HUGE Wooden Crown Molding  
 
by Ed Williams, a frequent contributor to the JLC Finish Carpentry Forum and works carpentry in Dallas, Texas.
 
If you’re lucky enough to stay in the carpentry business long enough, you’ll see a lot of strange things, like the crown molding in this article. Just when you think an architect has designed something else that ‘can’t be done’, remember the word “skill” in skilled craftsman.
To cut a 45° miter on this Honduran mahogany cove molding, I made a miter box and used a trusty old handsaw—you know, that thing some people hang on their living room walls?
 
Back before the invention of the motorized mitersaw, we used this same setup to cut compound joinery. It was the best way, the only way, and sometimes still is today. Just ask D.K. Merk's framers (that's Jeremy--with the white hat--and David Pugh up there on the scaffold; Ron Johnson--D.K.'s head carpenter--is in the picture below). When these guys first saw the crown on this job, they took off their hats and scratched their heads.
 
I made them a u-shaped channel, about an inch taller than the leg of the molding. The leg is the portion of the crown that mounts on the wall, the head mounts to the ceiling. I added a couple of triangular braces inside the box (out of the way of both the miter cut and the molding) to hold the box square. The box is wide enough to accommodate several different head sizes of moldings simply by changing the width of the stop that's temporarily screwed to the bottom of the box.
But the molding on this job was bigger than the blade on my 24 in. handsaw!
   
So I scribed two plates of plywood to fit the molding as it stood in-position in the box. Next I over-cut the miter by the width of the plates (plus the set on the saw), then dropped them into the box on each side of the cut line. I made the plates a little short so the molding would slide easily through the box.
   
A triangular brace at the back of each plate ensures a perfect 90° angle to the top and bottom of the box.
   
The plates not only made it easier to cut a perfectly straight line—without binding the saw...
   
...but the framers could cut from both sides of the box.
   
 
 
I could have made two cuts in the box, but didn’t have big enough pieces of scrap plywood on the job, so I made two boxes, one for right-hand and one for left-hand cuts. I gave the boxes to the framers, said “Good Luck!” then drove off real quick, just in case the miters didn’t work—you don’t want to be around a bunch of angry framers.
When I came back the next day the framers were all smiles. Sometimes the old tricks are the best tricks.
 
 
     
     
   
     
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