Tuesday, 30 August 2016

How to cut trims

This is a (long) footnote (aka additional post) to the previous post... Elizabeth asked me a question which made me go back to look at the piece and I realised the information was a bit thin on the ground.  Let's see if I can plug some holes...

Firstly - you need a mitre box and razor saw - you can often buy them packaged together.  Do try to have a good (new) blade on the saw - if you are rubbish at sawing (like me) you can soon 'blunt' the teeth.  Ideally a G-clamp is also a big help.  I absolutely can not hold the mitre box in place and saw well - there is always movement of some sort and the slightest wiggle on the wood and your cut will be off.  I suspect it would be good if you could also clamp your wood into the box - but I haven't figured out how to do that yet.

These mitre boxes are aluminium and are soft enough for the saw to cut into them so a strip of wood in the bottom to cut into is a good thing if you are cutting thin enough pieces of trim like dado rail and picture rail.  

Right now I am cutting coving (wood not resin) which is way too big (and a complicated profile) for this small (model making size) sawing kit - I am too cheap and lazy to hunt out something better and I can fudge it enough to make it work OK.  I bet a bigger mitre box and better saw would make it easier though.  (Don't fret about the rubbish paint job that's the first ,not rubbed down, coat)

So, in the previous post I told you how to measure the strip when you need to cut angles at both ends and how put a mark on your wood so that you'd know which way those angles have to be cut.

In all honesty I generally take this to the box and cut through - top to bottom of the trim.  It is an utterly daft way to do it because (a) in this case the trim is too tall for the box and (b) I am starting the cut on the widest and thickest part of the wood.  Ideally it needs 'flipping'.  Now this is where I have a problem because I CAN NOT do spatial problems.  Turn me round on a road and face me the other way and I am on a new road!!  My husband can look at this and just flip it and say - what's the problem?  He can no more understand my 3-D blindness than I can grasp his 'clarity'.  

Sad story over....  to cut it the better way (brace yourself) I have to sort of look up at it from underneath like it was on the ceiling and imagine all over again which way the cut goes.  I then mark the teeny thin edge accordingly and cut it from the thin edge downwards through the thick wood which is now much easier and better for being well braced on the bottom and at the back edge of the mitre block.  I can even see that I could clamp it in place over the top this way round.

The smart cookies amongst you will be able to see that in the picture above this one the slit in the box is running from the top left diagonally to the bottom right whereas when I flip the piece it runs from the bottom left diagonally to the top right.  Perfectly logical I suppose.  Do be sure you are flipping the piece entirely from looking at its top plane to looking at its bottom plane.  If you decided to lie it on its back and look at its middle it it a whole other ball game and the angle is soooooo not right.  Don't go there.

I am showing you the final cut because you will see how raggedy the cut surface is.  This is the only time in this hobby where I do not knock off the roughness with a gentle sanding/buffing.  Two reasons (a) you really will change the shape of the cut you've just struggled to get so right and (b) the fuzzy bits on this one and the fuzzy bits on the other piece that will join up to it are usually a bonus as they help fill any teeny gaps that you are probably going to have

OK, that was the Dummies guide to putting the wood in the block and cutting.  PLEASE, PLEASE seek out something better for you if this is just too addled.  I honestly have trawled a lot of real life videos and instructions (there's not much in mini world searches) and many just confuse me more and others assume too much.  So this is the 'method' I am left with.

That said I am sure this nice simple Sue Cook explanation will do it for most people.

Start by making a mark on the coving on the side which will stick to the ceiling. Make sure this ALWAYS downwards when in the mitre block. To get the angles correct, look at the coving in the mitre block and imagine you are looking UP at the ceiling and mark the angle with pencil on the cornice. Check twice to make sure, and offer it up to the dolls house ceiling to triple check!

Sue Cook Miniatures


  1. Hello Marilyn,
    I had to laugh at your great post. I am pretty good at figuring out angles and usually do a good job. that being said, at least once every time I have cut molding for a room I get mixed up and make a mistake. I am confident while cutting, put it into place, see it is wrong and thing ''what the hell did I do this time''. I then figure out my mistake and re-cut just to realize I have made the exact same mistake and am completely confused on how it happened. If that is not sad enough, I have done that ''re-cut the same way'' mistake several times in a row.
    No matter what anyone says, mistakes like that are human and must be expected when working in miniature. Thanks for posting about this, I know many people think they are incompetent when it comes to cutting molding...it happens to us all.
    Big hug
    N.B. I cut too large molding that is taller then the miter box the exact same way ;) Great minds think alike!

    1. It is genuinely - to some extent - gender bound, most chaps are simply better at spatial awareness than most women something to do with right side and left side brain development. I comfort myself with this thought rather than just admit to being stupid. As for the cutting wrong/recutting wrong/repeat/repeat - been there..... why???? (said with a scream). The other thing I can't fathom, being devoid of topology, is why if I lie something on its back does it all go pear-shaped? I still have to figure out why when I post something does it take a day to appear..... no hope for some folk.... Nice to see you. Marilyn

  2. I can see that I am going to need to go back to mini school and take the exams again!
    Even so I Thank You, because I REALLY DO appreciate you taking the time to fill in the gaps and explain in more detail how to cut cove moldings. Your use of a clamp tip made a whole lot of sense and will be something that I shall look to do next time. But honestly Marilyn, I am like you and I cannot do spacial problems either. Which is why I always buy extra wood trim because I KNOW that I am going to mess up somewhere along the line and I ALWAYS DO! I am still trying to wrap my head around your instructions but I am going to have to come back to this lesson for a quick refresher, when I get to the cove molding portion of my project.
    In the meantime I have a BIG tub of wood filler on standby! :D


    1. Honestly, truly, Eliabeth there is no way to get it spot on. Even if you make perfect cuts, and you won't, life's not that kind, there is no way the two walls meet spot on ninety degress and then meet the ceiling at another perfect ninety. So by the time you've incorporated four ways of the join being 'off', it most cetainly will be. I have just been filling the gaps with a bit of paint that I mix with some of the sawdust and poke in with a small brush and then smooth it over with some more paint on the brush. I swear they start ugly but end up fine. Happy fiddling. Marilyn.

  3. Crown molding truly requires a special brain, one that I don't have. Here's what I have done: when I finally do get the angles cut correctly I use the "correctly" cut pieces of wood to make a template of sorts using small pieces of the same molding. I label each piece either "right" or "left" and put them in a zip locked bag for future reference and safe keeping and use them when I have to cut molding again. Hope this makes sense.

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    1. What a brilly bobs idea. Thank you for that. I too don't have a 3D brain, no spatial concepts at all so can never imagine which way up to cut a piece or what its end result will be. You would kill yourself laughing if you saw the rigmaroles I go through to get myself from the house to the saw and rememberif it is an 'inny' or an 'outy' cut.