Moulding Tips

Any piece of furniture looks best with proper mouldings – be it waist mouldings, base mouldings or the most important crown mouldings. Crown mouldings can be as simple as a flat-cut, angled design as on my adapted Shaker Press Cupboard from “Fine Furniture for a Lifetime” (Popular Woodworking Books), or a complex assembly such as found on the Canadian Step-back Cupboard in the same book (shown on the right). Installation of these mouldings can sometimes be laborious and/or tricky. With this post, I thought I would share a few tips to make sure your moulding work is easy.

First, take a look at the poplar spacer in the photo below. In working on a three-stage crown moulding, I need my thin, lower moulding to extend beyond the cove just the right amount, at least to my eye. With two pieces of scrap cut to 1-1/8″ in width (an estimated width), I can balance the first moulding in place then fit the cove to the case. Not happy with the look, I shaved an 1/8″ off each piece and took another look. Those spacers keep me from having to mark up my case with lines that need to be sanded away. I made three changes before deciding on the location. I ended up with a 3/4″ spacer. Spacers also hold pieces in position as you work to wrap the mouldings around the case.

It's always a good thing to wrap mouldings around your case. Here the end piece was a cut-off from the front. By wrapping it around the corner, you have a nice match in grain and finish.

Another tip is to use spring clamps to hold your cove in place as you fit pieces. I set my miter saw to 45 degrees to the right and leave it there throughout the job. Begin with the left-hand piece as the case sits on its top  – upside down is the easiest way to install crown mouldings (as shown in my photos). Make your miter-saw cut with the piece upside down and backward, then position it to your case. (Because you can trim the length anytime, keep the piece extra long.)

The front piece of cove is next to fit. Make your saw cut with the cove right-side up, or so the bottom edge is down to your miter saw table and fence. It takes a bit of balance to make this cut. If you lean the moulding out or back, you influence the cut – that is something you can use to your benefit to tweak your fit as you gain experience. Position the front cove to your case by matching the angle-cut ends, add spring clamps to hold everything in place then mark and cut the second end of your front cove. Finally, fit the remaining end and trim the lengths to size.

My last tip for mouldings is to glue end grain as you assemble pieces. Most woodworkers forget this step, but it really adds strength to your stacked mouldings. Below is what I’m working on with most mouldings in place. There is one more piece to add to the works. It’s a frieze moulding that is centered between the bottom edge of the crown moulding and the edge of the door opening. I’m sure you’ll see the finished piece somewhere down the road.

If you have a simple trick to cut or install mouldings, please add it to the comment section below. Any help is appreciated.

Build Something Great!


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3 thoughts on “Moulding Tips

  1. Glen–You may remember me as the proud owner of the signed 12-pane Press Cupboard you built for Fine Furniture for a LIfetime. I remember you saying that the crown was delicate and to be careful not to put weight on it. So–when I had to put things in storage between moves–I was very worried about damage. I wrapped the crown in styrofoam corner blocks and strapping, then had the movers wrap it a 2nd time with ‘this side up’ arrows! Fortunately, the only damage was one strip of window putty that fell out intact, and I have that putty piece.

    My question is: Would Durham’s Rock Hard Water Putty look out-of-place after all this time, or is that the best way to fix it (and throw the dried strip away)?

    1. Marilyn,
      It’s great to hear from you. It has been a long time. I hope all is going well. My opinion would be that new putty would look very close to the original used in the Press Cupboard. If there is any variation in color, it would be minimal. You may find it possible to re-attach the original piece, but that would be taking a chance as it may break when you affixed it to the glass and door.

      Send me a message anytime at


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