I wanted to tell a little more about my experience with crafting my own crown molding, and share a couple of lessons I learned along the way.
Previously, I showed how I formed and sanded the profile on the last blog of this topic, and so today I thought I would complete the task by showing the installation of the molding, and a few “gems” I discovered along the way.
First off, I made very sure that my cabinet that I am hanging this crown molding on was as perfectly square on the corners as I could get it. I knew that I would have trouble for sure otherwise, so I took time in that preparation step. I wanted the corners of the crown molding to meet perfectly, with no gaps anywhere.
No, Not Naive:
The last time I had the “blessed opportunity” to hang crown molding in 1998, it was around the ceiling of a cheaply built lake cabin that had wavy walls and out-of-square corners. Fortunately, the crown molding was painted in that case, so I could hide all of the gaps with caulking and paint. I also used store bought trim, so I bought about twice what I needed and hid all of the scrap pieces I wasted in the bottom of my pickup trash pile. The trim all looked great when it was done, but the customer showed up a day early to check my progress and was pretty worried about it. I was too, but I recommended he give me one more day to get it all caulked.
Also, my brother-in-law decided (actually it was my sister) that they needed crown molding up around my nephew’s bedroom ceiling. He struggled with it, and struggled with it, and finally gave up. He showed me the problems he was having and wanted to know what he was doing wrong. I told him to buy a power nailer, and use caulking and paint it all. A couple of years went by and he just pulled down the crown molding that was up when they put their house on the market to sell it, and patched the nail holes. Enough said.
So, I didn’t enter into this new experience with crown molding naively, and I knew that making wide crown molding fit edge to edge on outside corners in solid wood would be a challenging task for my skill level.
I spent an entire first evening scratching my head and trying to figure it out. I even, (gasp with me) pulled out the instruction manual for my chop saw. I remembered seeing something on crown molding angles when I thumbed through the manual when I unpacked the new saw box, and just threw the manual in the big pile of all of the other instruction manuals I have collected since I was in High School (a lot of them now).
Here is another one for the You Might Be A Lumberjock list:
“If you never read instructions for your tools, you might be a lumberjock,
or maybe just male. Ok, ok it’s just me.”
Or, another one:
“If you still have dozens of instruction manuals for tools you broke and threw away years ago, but just can’t seem to part with the manuals you never read….you might be…..(Mark DeCou).”
The DeWalt chop saw instruction manual had two pages of geometry and angles, and charts and instructions. It kept saying in several places that the settings on the saw would be very important, and must be calibrated correctly with test cuts. I had calibrated the saw when I bought it several years ago, so I skipped on past those steps this time.
I tried every compound angle combination they gave me, but nothing worked. Nothing. Every cut was a little off, and I started to really get worried going into my 5th hour of figuring it out.
Then, I noticed on another reread of the instructions that it said that most commerical crown molding was set up on either 38 degrees, or 52 degrees, and that most applications would work in those settings on their graph. WOAH, wait a minute! I made the crown molding myself, and I have no idea what the degree setting was on the molding.
Think, Think, Think:
So, back to “Think, Think, Think.” A couple of times I thought I would give up, but I kept telling myself, “This is you Mark DeCou, you can do this!” So, I kept hammering away at my temple for a new way to look at the problem.
Then, it hit me, I remembered when I was in the Home Depot store one time looking for accessories for my chop saw that they had a crown molding bracket. It looked really cheaply made, and I also couldn’t remember what the model number of my saw was to match it to the right bracket, so I decided that I could just as easily home build something better and make it fit. I can’t remember what price was being charged for the brackets at the store, but I do remember it was high enough that it offended me, afterall, it is just a couple of die stamped and barrel clear zinc plated steel parts (that old job with the plating company comes in handy at times, eh?)..
So, as I was thinking this through I tossed the instruction manual back onto it’s storage pile, and started over, determined to figure this out on my own. I looked at the trim, and then I looked at the cabinet. I was getting tired, and wondered if a night’s rest would help. I looked at the trim, and then the cabinet.
Then, it hit me, if I could just hold it in the same position it would hang on the cabinet, and then chop cut it at 45 degrees, it would have to work. Right? Right.
Sliding Cutting Tray Box:
So, I made the sliding three sided box out of scrap plywood that is shown in the photo below. This box is exactly the width I need to hold the crown molding up at the right angle, and it took a couple of trimmings of the base board (spacer) to get it the right width.
This box holds the crown molding in the upright position, and lets me chop down with the saw set at 90 degrees with a simple 45 degree table swing. No need for setting it to compound cut the angle.
Now, just to share a little more of the inner workings of my family, the only reason my wife allowed me to buy the chop saw about 4 years ago was that I told her that I needed it to finish the crown molding on her kitchen cabinets that I installed about 6 years ago. I don’t feel that she even thinks about the kitchen cabinets anymore, so let’s keep this to ourselves, ok? Ok, no need to remind her that I haven’t done her crown molding yet.
Let’s make a test cut.
I held the two cuts up on the cabinet, and it looked like it was close. So, I more carefully made another test cut, and then another, and then another, and something was just a bit off. I sat down, pretty dejected, and was about to call it a night.
Think! Then, it hit me about how many times the instruction manual had cautioned about making the settings perfect, and calibrating with test cuts until it was set. So, I mustered some more energy and decided to adjust the 90 degree setting a little.
What I found was that by adjusting the 90 setting by only 0.001” it was then perfect for a perfect compound miter. I used a feeler guage to adjust the one- thousandths setting on the 90 degree stop, and then, I had it! Hooray.
Who says you don’t need to be that accurate in woodworking? Not me.
Since I am plunging down from the back of the trim in this method, the tendency for red oak to splinter a little on the front side was stopped by putting a strip of blue masking tape on the cut line. This made the cuts perfect without any tear out. I headed to bed to get some rest, as it was well after midnight now, and I had conquered the joint.
Pride Goeth Before A Fall:
Once I was back fresh in the shop the next morning, the first cabinet went like a charm, I was so impressed with myself that I just kept stopping to take photos, because I was sure that I wanted to show off this feat of mine.
Then, I got so bad, I started daydreaming about how I could demonstrate this cut on my own TV show, or a guest spot on someone else’s show, and I was just feeling pretty proud.
I practiced my lines for the imagined movie camera, “and remember, there is no more important safety equipment, than these, your safety glasses….....” Chuckling pridefully to myself about how many years “Norm” has told me that, and I still don’t do it.
Yes, I was too Proud, you might say. Keep reading.
Proverbs 16:18: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (NIV)
I was working my way around the 2nd cabinet, feeling really great, marking things and cutting things with exact precision, and just generally feeling like I was on top of the world. I was even signing along loudly to the CD I was playing in the machine, (this noise I make is only suitable for me and God to hear, so don’t bother asking to hear it).
I was cutting around the last outside corner, and I put the long piece of molding up, and then it happened!
Is “Close”, Close Enough?
You guessed it, I cut it too short. Not very much too short, but too short.
I was sure that I had marked the cut line correctly. What could have happened? I started to reprimand myself for my own pridefullness, remembering the verse in Proverbs I found years ago. As I looked at the line and cut, it dawned on me that in all of my daydreaming and pride, I had marked the cut on the wrong projection of the trim.
This means that by the time the blade made it’s way to my mark, it kept going on past my mark on the last part of the projection that touches the cabinet. For those that have done crown molding before, you’ll know what I mean. For the rest of you, let’s just say, you’ll learn it also. I had just simply marked it on the wrong surface of the trim when I laid out the cut line.
If this was just an old lake cabin and I was caulking and painting the trim, I could just stick a sliver of wood back in the gap, and cover it up. But, not on this piece in natural wood that would be stained.
Note to Self
I sat there on my stool looking at that gap you see in the photo for a long while, just plain sick to my stomach. I had only made two pieces of molding that were long enough for the two fronts of the cabinets. I had made a bunch of extra short pieces of molding to use for practicing the cuts, but I figured in my “save the material” mindset that I would have that all worked out and so I only needed two long pieces. Boy, never again.
Note to self: “I will always make an extra piece…” I sat there and told myself.
“Think, Think, Think!” How, can I hide this? I started to think about how this corner would be placed against the wall, and that nobody would “probably” notice this little flub. Then, I started to tell myself that anyone that did notice it would understand what happened and wouldn’t fault me for just scabbing a piece in. Then in desperation, I thought the only time someone would notice this problem after I sprayed a little airbrushed lacquer on the splice, would be when we loaded and moved the cabinets to the church. I thought how I could always keep my hand on that corner and insist that I stay there to help load it, and move it. Once it was in place in the church, “nobody” would notice. Right?
It was lunch time and the wife called from the house, “Yooo hoooo, lunch!” Good time for a break.
I lumbered into the kitchen, almost ready to cry. I started to remember all of the confident advice I had been giving everyone else about “making things perfect,” “your work will out live your life,” “it will be an heirloom,” “it is what people will remember you for”............ and on and on I remembered writing to other lumberjocks over the past months.
No Mercy Here:
My wife looked at my face and said, “what is wrong with you?” (I don’t have much of a poker face). I told her the sad saga. She said, “why did you do that?” This was not what I wanted to hear. She continued, “How do fix that one?” Then she added the most painful jab, I already knew in my heart, “Well you can’t just patch it, that would look terrible, you don’t do work like that.” She was right, but I wasn’t ready to let her know it yet, nor admit it myself, at least out loud.
I assured her that I didn’t yet know what to do, and that it would take me a whole day to make one more piece of molding. And to make it worse, there was no guarantee that I could set it all up perfect enough again to make the cove cut fit the right profile on the corner.
Ok, Let’s Pray:
So, I sat down at the dinner table and looked at the beautiful faces of the kids sitting there listening and observing their parents’ exchange of communication. When my wife made it to the table and sat down, all four of us in the family held hands and I said, “Let’s thank God for this food, let’s pray…...”
Doing What’s Right:
From that moment on, I knew what I had to do. It didn’t matter whether it would take me one day, or 10 days, I couldn’t with any confidence take that church’s money without giving them my best effort. There would be no words in my business like, “that’s good enough.” Only, “that’s the best I can do.”
After we all said, “Amen” to our little short dinner-time prayer, I announced that I would just make a new piece of trim, and the decision was final. I don’t do patch up work, and I can’t build a successful business on that basis. Amen, enough said. After lunch, I headed out back to the shop and started prepping another piece of wood for the making of the molding.
After the decision was made, it was all smooth sailing, and I felt great. No cover ups were needed. No keeping my hand on the corner while we moved the cabinet. No sheepish hands outstretched while I took the Church’s check for the cabinet. I would make it perfect, and that was just what they were paying me to do, nothing less.
Here is the completed corner with the new piece of trim. Because I had spent so much time photographing the original set up for the cove cutting of the trim and making notes so that I could blog the experience, I was able to easily replicate another piece of trim. Took me a day, but what a great feeling to have that “Big Decision” behind me, and the “Big Mistake.”
So, I am back to telling everyone to do their best work, make everything perfect, and in my next blog, I will demonstrate the benefits of doing so.
If you have hung with me this far, my next update on this Church Cabinet project will really excite and motivate you.
(all text and photos, except Pooh, are the property of, and are protected by, copywrite of M.A. DeCou 2-19-2007)
Here are the posted projects from this Commission:
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If are you reading this Thread, then you might also be interested in:
- Hymn Number Board
- Speaker's Lectern
- Processional Cross
- Matching Side Altars
- Restored Sacrifice: Altar: not yet posted
- Restored High Altar: not yet posted
- Developing Authentic Expectations While Working With Commission Customers
- Commissioned Church Side Altars Complete
- Hanging Homemade Crown Molding: Suffering Through Mistakes & Learning Life's Lessons
- Crown Molding: Crafting Your Own Trim
- Arrival of the Historic Church Altar; Restoration and Making two Matching Side Altars
- Commission Award for the Church Altar Restoration and Matching Side Altars
- Church Altar Restoration and Matching Side Altars Project Bid Submitted
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -Here is a list of the previous project postings from my other Church Work:
-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com