Hand Tools Archive
Bill Tindall, E.Tn.
A common task in furniture building is wrapping a case or top with molding mitered at the corners. I do not recall ever having seen this practice taught in a book or article (I am sure it has; I am just saying I haven’t seen it). This operation can be stressful. The molding pieces are often cut from a continuous length for grain matching, so screwing up one section means starting over with a new piece of molding or sacrificing the grain matching. And, because it is molding, designed to be a focus of the piece, the joints must be near perfect.
I have evolved a strategy for measuring, fitting and attaching mitered molding that works. But I have lingering doubts whether it is the best approach. How do you all accomplish wrapping a mitered molding about a case, in this case a Spice Box?
In the example illustrated I am wrapping the molding beneath the case top with the case upside down, except for the final picture which shows the bottom moldings installed and the case upright.
1. From the front of the case I arbitrarily work from right to left. Let us call the left molding piece #1, the center #2 and the right #3. I begin by cutting the #1 molding piece a bit long. The miter on the end of the remaining molding stock is also cut as seen in the picture.
2. I test the miter fit. If it is not perfect, a common occurrence either because the saw is not set up perfect or the case isn’t square, I adjust the miter angle either by resawing or with a shooting board.
3. A wisp of wood is taken from the inside corner to help ensure the molding seats tight against the case.
4. I press the miter together with finger pressure and mark the final length of the #1 molding. I may cut this piece to its finished length, or if unencumbered for sawing later, I leave it long and cut off the overhang after installation.
5. I typically nail molding on, so at this point I drill pilot holes, add glue to the front third of #1 and nail it on. The precise positon of #1 is established by hand holding section #2 in position to make a tight miter joint between #1 and #2.
6. #3 is now cut oversized with a miter on one end
7.Next is the hard part. Using hand held test fits #2 is trimmed to length so that it fits near perfect between #1 which is now fixed to the case and #3 held in position by hand. The length of #2 must be right to a tiny fraction of an inch. A shooting board, a devise that enables a few thousandths of an inch to be removed from the mitered end, is a reliable means of getting the length right. In the case of this small molding I could not hand hold it in on the shooting board against the force of the plane so I had to saw it to length. I need to work on this problem.
8. When it seems to be of the correct length pilot holes are drilled for nails ( I usually use snipped-to-length brads from the pneumatic brad nailer) and glue applied to molding back and miter. The miter between 1 and 2 is brought together with hand pressure and the molding is nailed on.
9. It is now a simple task to install #3 similar to how #1 was done.