How to Cut Cove Molding

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Cove molding is a basic type of molding used on ceilings, cabinets and woodwork of all kinds. It's nothing more than a recessed, or concave, profile on molding, the most common being the familiar C shape. You can use almost any saw to cut cove molding. There are two types of corners: inside and outside. Inside mitering removes the face of the material, while outside mitering removes the back.

Miter Saw

Cutting cove with a miter saw is the most common approach to inside and outside corners. The process is no different from cutting any other basic molding. The key to cutting cove accurately is to place the molding in the same position on the saw as if it were already installed on the ceiling or wall and to hold it tight while cutting it.

Cut Inside Corners

Step 1

Swing the blade of a miter saw to the left side. Lock it down at 45 degrees.

Step 2

Place the molding on the left side of the blade, tight against the fence. The profile should be facing you.

Step 3

Trim 1/2 inch from the face of the molding.

Step 4

Swing the blade to the right side, and lock it down at 45 degrees.

Step 5

Place a piece of molding on the right side, the profile facing you.

Step 6

Trim 1/2 inch from the face of the molding.

Tip

Establish the correct angles on short test pieces, cutting and fitting as many times as needed. When they fit, use the same settings to cut the long pieces.

Cut Outside Corners

The procedure for cutting outside corners is exactly the same -- except the position is reversed.

Step 1

Swing the blade of a miter saw to the right side. Lock it at 45 degrees.

Step 2

Place the molding on the left side. The profile should be facing you.

Step 3

Trim 1/2 inch from the back of the molding.

Step 4

Swing the blade to the left side. Lock it down at 45 degrees.

Step 5

Place the molding on the right side of the blade, the profile facing you.

Step 6

Trim 1/2 inch from the back of the molding.

Tip

Use a carbide-tipped, combination blade for the cleanest cuts on cove molding. The higher the tooth count, the better.

Inside Corners, Miter or Cope

Coping is a user-friendly approach to cutting inside corner miters. It's accomplished by removing the back of the molding by hand, while leaving the face, or profile, of the molding intact.

Cope an Inside Corner

Step 1

Clamp the molding to a tabletop or bench, with the end of the molding extending over the edge.

Step 2

Cut 1/2 inch from the end of the molding at a 90-degree angle with a coping saw or a miter saw. This gives you the clean, sharp edge needed on the profile that enables you to cope it with precision.

Step 3

Color the fresh-cut end of the molding with a pencil or black marker.

Step 4

Trim away the colored area with a coping saw held at 45 degrees.

Tip

Use a file or sandpaper to clean and fine-tune the edge for the best fit. Test fit and redo if necessary.

Nothing Is Perfect

If you see a gap when you place the two mitered corners together, it's because the walls are slightly out of square. Close the gap by adjusting the blade a few degrees at a time. Re-cut and test the fit until the miters fit tightly. It's usually necessary to trim only one piece.

Warning

Molding wider than 3 1/2 inches can't be cut on an ordinary miter saw; it's too wide to fit under the blade. You usually cut this type of cove, typically cornice or ceiling cove, lying flat using a compound miter saw with a tilted blade. It's a complicated process best done by professionals.

references

Wade Shaddy

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.