Crown molding is a trim piece that speaks to the elegance of your home and provides a delightful finish. Set as a link between the wall and ceiling, it is eye-catching as it is a focal point for any room.
Because it is this central, it is imperative that it is fitted just right. A poorly done job will be too easily noticeable. Most carpenters and fans of DIY projects will openly admit that they are not instantly excited at the prospect of installing crown molding.
It takes quite a bit of practice and finesse to get the pieces to fit into each other seamlessly with nice, tight joints. This however isn’t to mean that it is not achievable using a few handy pieces of equipment, a few tricks and a bit of patience.
Crown molding angles
The biggest challenge in working with crown molding or any other piece of trim, is getting just the right length and the right angles required. This is especially so with crown molding angles because even the slightest misalignment will result in ugly gaps:
❖ The wider the molding, the more necessary a clean angle cut will be. Bigger pieces of molding will reveal errors easier.
❖ Crown molding is rested against the wall at an angle. This means that it absolutely cannot be lain flat against the saw for cutting as you would with other trim.
So what methods can you use to work the correct angle?
1. A compound cut.
To make a compound cut, the miter saw fence is set at an angle to cut a miter and the saw blade is titled to cut a bevel. This setting will factor in the spring angle (the angle at which the molding will rest against the wall) and allows you to lay the molding flat as you cut it.
Getting the correct miter and bevel settings will implement more math and geometry than most people would have preferred to take with them after school. However, most crown molding is thankfully standardized and compound angle charts are easy to determine.
A 38 degree spring angle for instance is so common that many miter saws will come bearing marks at 31.6 degree miter and 33.9 degree bevel settings that will be used for right-angles corners.
❖ Making compound cuts will take up more time and require plenty of accurate calculation.
2. The upside-down cutting method.
Many trim carpenters will confess that the easier way to make perfect crown molding cuts is to hold the molding in the position that resembles what it will look like when it has been installed.
To achieve this, hold the crown molding upside down such that the edge that meets the ceiling rests on the bed of the saw while the edge that will be against the wall is on the saw’s fence. When this is set, make standard 45 or 22-1/2 degree miters leaving the blade perpendicular to the saw bed.
This will make the cutting that much easier and will allow for easy adjustment where the corners are not perfect right angles or 45-degree.
❖ Keeping the molding positioned at the correct angle while lining up the cut is a challenge.
➢ There will likely be several feet of crown molding jutting past the surface of the saw. The effect of gravity will probably work against the effort to keep the molding pressed against the saw bed and fence at the required angle.
➢ To overcome this, try a Crown Molding Miter Jig. It will not only ensure that every piece cut is positioned at the proper angle in the saw but also comes with a reference guide that makes setting up for common molding sizes easier and faster.
3. Making coped joints
Inside corners present more of a challenge in getting that perfectly fitting joint. It is possible to simply make miter cuts on both pieces of molding and fitting them together. However, this is rarely done because there is a better option: coped joints.
A coped joint is made by cutting an outline into the end of one piece of molding that will fit exactly into the curved surface of the molding piece it will meet.
To start, cut one piece of molding as you would to make a mitered joint. The line formed by the intersection of the cut plane and the contoured surface of the molding is where to make the coping cut.
Why are coped joints better?
❖ You need only worry about getting one angle cut right rather than two.
❖ It saves time and material
❖ It allows you to fit even a slightly loose-fitting joint better for a better finish, perhaps with the help of a few nails
❖ It does a better job of hiding small gaps and imperfections than a mitered joint would.
❖ Getting that back-cut angle that will fit snugly is not an automatic feat. It will require a bit of practice and getting used to and can be a challenge where only a coping saw is available.
➢ To make this easier, try the Easy Coper or the Speed Cope Jig. The Easy Coper is uncomplicated and affordable. It allows you to breeze through making the cope for most common crown molding joints. It will work with the help of any power jig saw and the jig’s angled foot promises the exact back-cut angle each time.
➢ The Speed Cope is a costlier alternative that is better suited if you are working with numerous crown pieces. The clamping mechanism and adjustable foot makes it all the more versatile and better suited for heavier projects.
Remember that the joint quality will make or break the overall finish of the décor work. Whatever method you feel works most favorably for you, getting that perfect joint will require patience and practice. Do not be discouraged by how daunting it may seem at first. That divine joint will be worth all the trouble it takes to get there.