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Answers to Go with Susan Smith

San Marcos Public Library
Sunday, January 12, 2020

Q. I am adding some simple crown molding up in my kitchen. I thought I knew how to do it, but it’s more complicated than I expected. Do you have any books on installing trimwork?

A . Yes. I used "finish carpentry" to search the catalog and found quite a few options. Some books focused on appealing design ideas, but several got right down to text and sketches to explain how to cut and install crown molding.

A diagram in “Trim Transformations” shows a plan for simple rectangular rooms and another for rooms with outside corners. Outside corners are present in rooms where the wall is not a straight line — this might occur around a fireplace, a dormer window, or kitchen cabinets.

Let’s start with simple rectangular or square rooms: “Every inside corner will have one piece of molding that simply extends to butt against the wall and a joining piece that must be coped to fit against it. Avoid having a single piece that must be coped at both ends.

“Instead, plan your joints so that one end can be coped and the other can butt against the wall or join another piece of molding with a scarf joint.

“If your room includes outside corners, that’s no problem. These outside miters are easy to mark and cut.”

Here’s more from another source, “Finish Carpentry Basics,” which offers more about coped joints.

“A coped joint allows two pieces of molding to meet at an inside corner. The method produces a tighter-fitting joint than an inside miter. To make the joint, butt one piece of trim to the corner and nail it into place.

“Miter the second piece of trim across its face. (Don’t cut it to length yet; do that after the joint is fitted.) You should see the mitered end when looking directly at the face of the molding.

“Clamp the molding face up on a rigid work surface. Then using a coping saw held at 90 degrees to the face of the molding, carefully saw the outline of the molding profile — the line where the face of the molding meets the slanted miter cut.

“When the coping cut is finished, butt the coped piece of molding against the first. The joint should be tight and close-fitting. If not, reshape it slightly with small files or sandpaper. After you have fitted the joint, cut the molding to length.

“To ensure a good fit, you can back-cut a butted or coped joint. Back-cutting means cutting at a slight angle so that the rear portion of the joint cannot interfere with a close fit at the front.”

I think this topic is proof of the adage, “a picture’s worth a thousand words.” Fortunately, these books are well-illustrated with clear diagrams. We are always happy to hold a book for you to come in and check out. We can also easily scan the relevant pages and email them to you.

Alas, it’s clear that I don’t have a future in carpentry. I’ll need to stick to library work.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666