Learning how to properly miter-cut crown molding gives you the confidence to include this classy trim in furniture projects as well as throughout your home.

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Jim Heavey

You've seen examples of crown molding topping kitchen cabinets or adding interest to an entertainment center. Learning how to properly miter-cut crown molding gives you the confidence to include this classy trim in furniture projects as well as throughout your home. And the best part? You'll do all this without buying a jig or modifying your compound mitersaw.

Work the angles

Crown molding tilts forward from the cabinet or wall to add the rich look of depth. That 38° tilt is called the spring angle. A 52° bevel on the top edge of the trim complements the spring angle. Most store-bought trim comes in this 38/52° style.

The trick is making compound cuts (both bevel and miter at the same time) accounting for the spring angle, so that the corners meet at 90°. One method miter-cuts crown molding "upside down and backwards" to its installed orientation while using a jig or a fixture to support it during the cut. Although this technique works, it can be confusing and lead to mistakes. Plus, cutting long or wide trim this way can be difficult.

Flat is where it's at

Cutting crown molding while it lies flat on the mitersaw table allows easy cutting of both long and short pieces; an unwieldy piece can be firmly clamped to the mitersaw because it doesn't rest at an angle. Cutting the trim flat calls for some rather complex math to determine the proper settings for the bevel and miter cuts. But don't worry—mitersaw manufacturers have done the math for you and placed markings on the tools for the proper angles: 33.9° on the bevel scale and 31.6° on the miter scale [Photos below]. You'll see these numbers or some other obvious markings that indicate the "crown" settings. You may have wondered what those markings or stops were for. Now you know.

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Many saws have a detent or stop at 33.9°. If your saw tilts both left and right, as this one does, use only the left tilt for cutting crown molding. This saw has a stationary pointer—the dial pivots under it as the blade tilts.
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Find the miter stop at 31.6°. You'll see one for both left and right. Some saws also have a stop at 30°. Make sure you're locked into the correct one.

Templates make it easy

The first step in cutting molding flat is making a simple set of templates, then using them to set up your saw for cutting the correct angles. Just follow the steps in Photos below.

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Begin by cutting two 18" lengths of crown molding. Mark the bottom edge of one piece with a black marker (#1). Mark the top edge of the other piece (#2).
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Tilt the saw head left to the the 33.9° bevel and pivot the miter to the left 31.6° detent. Place piece #1 face up on the saw table with the black edge against the fence, and cut it in half to produce two templates. Set the pieces aside.
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Now, slide the miter to the right 31.6° setting. The bevel remains tilted to the left. Place piece #2 face up with the black edge against the fence. Cut it in half.

Placing and cutting crown molding on the saw is now a snap! Simply place a template on the saw (for example, template R-IC for the right side of an inside corner). Knowing that the bevel is always set left at 33.9° and the black edge of the template always goes against the fence, you only need to pivot the table left or right to align with the cut end of the template. Place your stock on the mitersaw to match the template orientation and, ta-da! You've just earned your masters in cutting crown molding.

SHOP TIP

Managing short pieces

With the saw tilted left, clamping on that side to cut short pieces can be difficult. For safety and accuracy, miter one end of a longer piece. Then, move and reclamp the stock to cut the opposite end to length.

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Find the two inside corner (IC) mated templates and mark them left and right. Do the same with the two mated outside corner (OC) templates. Placing the templates in their intended position provides a visual cue of how to place your workpieces on the saw.