If you’re lucky 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 the phrase “skilled craftsman.”|
|To cut a 45-degree 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, in the first picture, above; Ron Johnson—D.K.’s head carpenter—is in this picture, on the right.). 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-degree 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, and I said “Good Luck!” Then I 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.|
(This article originally appeared on GaryMKatz.com)
Ed Williams has been the owner/operator of The Great American Carpentry Co. Inc. in Dallas, Texas since he founded the business in 1989. Starting professionally in residential carpentry in 1974, Ed had the pleasure of learning the finer points of wood framing, trim carpentry, and cabinet making from old school woodworkers who started learning their trades long before he was born. Today, he and his crews practice those skills in some of the finest homes in Texas. They offer subcontracting services as carpenters and cabinetmakers. With a specialization in remodeling, Ed also serves as a general contractor for select Dallas clients. There isn’t much they can’t do with a full-service 7,000-sq. ft. woodshop!
Ed- Very cool! I, too, learned these same time-honored ways back in the early 70’s from those ‘old’ 40-year old guys….
Ed- just one question:
How much per lf for that cove moulding?!?!
Ed Latson Danby VT
Great article. I’ve been a carpenter for 37 years and I still use some of the tricks I learned from the guys that started in the 40’s. Way to spread the knowledge guys.
you would make my grandpa smile for a long time he would never lot power on his jodsite every thing was done by hand tools
I still carry and use panel, rip and tenon saws, Yankee screwdrivers etc. in my tool chest, I like to see heads pop up say “what’s that sound?” When I use them.
It often quicker than looking for batteries, chargers and power when your looking to do one quick task!
I still carry and use panel, rip and tenon saws, Yankee screwdrivers etc. in my tool chest, I like to see heads pop up say “what’s that sound?” When I use them (I’m 50)
It’s often quicker than looking for batteries, chargers and power when your looking to do one quick task!
Nice job. I love seeing the jigs people make to overcome the sometimes strange tasks we have to deal with in this trade.
Very cool idea and based on the outcome it looks like all worked out quite well. Thanks for sharing;)
A simple, elegant solution, Ed. Well done!
I was cutting some big crown molding during a visit by my father, an old school carpenter from the 1940’s. He watched as I powered through it with my 12″ power saw. Then I thought about his shop and couldn’t remember seeing a power miter saw there so I asked him what he used. “Well, my old Stanley, of course!” Then I asked him how he cut material that was too big for the miter box and without hesitation he said, ” I build a bigger box.” I learned a hell of a lot from that one statement and keep a sharp handsaw in my shop just in case.
Really cool, I am going to build one! Most of these younger guys laugh when I pull out my hand saw,but when I was learning the trade the old timers that I learned from told me to always have one with you. Awesome article and thanks.
I guess when you really get down to it, all you really need to frame a house is a claw hammer, a sharp handsaw, and sharp chisel, a framing square, a ball of string, a pencil, a pocket knife, and a plumb bob.
I wouldn’t want to – I’d miss my skilsaw, my sawzall, and my calculator, but they used to do it all the time.
I guarantee that if Mr. Chippendale saw an electric router he’d say “gimme that!”. But the old ways still do work.
Nice to see a traditional remedy to a new challenge. We have become tool nuts in this day and age.
We had a similar challenge years back where an architect had designed a gift shop based on traditional dutch kasten designs. The Crowns were about 12 inches wide and had acute 45 corners and many outside miters. To solve that problem, we calculated the angles and built a bridge-sled for our skill saw. After a bit of adjustment we made all the cuts perfectly.
Again, solving the problem with tools at hand and a few scraps.
I ran into this problem the other day…so glad I ran across this article! I’m looking forward to trying this!
This looks easy I have to cut concrete 16 x 13 inch crown mouldings. What would you do? regards sam
How would you suggest cutting concrete crown mouldings the same size?
Off the top of my head, I think a grinder may be your only option. You could set up a line laser to get a mark on the block and then just start into it. It’s not something I’d be looking forward to. Trying to maintain a knife edge on the long point could be problematic – it will probably want to crumble.
Wear a dust mask and a face shield!