Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Oh Happy Hell.

Crown Molding.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, look it up, you will find notation after notation detailing the frustrated results of broken crafts people resigning to a life of baking pre-mixed brownies vowing to never again touch a power tool in an effort to quell the ache of failed projects that rages inside their soul.

To those that have completed these projects with some modicum of success, I salute you, and I hope you can find solace in the bottom of your favorite bottle, and the arms of your nearest loved one, hopefully simultaneously.

In an effort to describe the sheer magnitude of this project I will detail the scope of what I was faced with.

6 cuts, a total of roughly 22 ft of crown molding.

If I'm honest this has been the most terrifying portion of a project I’ve done. Ever. Period.
I would rather install central HVAC, and high speed Internet lines in the Taj Mahal with a butter knife and a copy of "Pride and Prejudice" for reference than tackle crown molding. My reasons are as follows:

1) I'm going to be looking at this freaking trim every day, for as long as we own this house (hopefully a long long time - I like the house what can is say).

2) Due to the location of the trim, I will see EVERY SINGLE MISTAKE, there is NO hiding even the slightest Fu%k up. No way, wood putty would look stupid. Sloppy joints make even the most well crafted project look terrible.

3) Compound Angles. Perfect Miters are a total pain with POS equipment. A simple picture frame can come undone with a saw that has a hard time keeping tolerance. Take a crap saw, a neophyte carpenter and add not one but two angles PER cut, and that my friends is a recipe for having a project sit undone for years on end.

To catalog the project I will start with the material. We decided on a nice simple solid maple cove crown molding. It’s really nice, seriously, it adds the perfect cap to The Project That Never Ends. The only problem we had was that we picked it up from the local reuse center. Great right? Yeah, if you're sure you won’t scrap any. I knew I would scrap some, and there was not enough in the bundle to give me the margins I wanted. The scant margin of error coupled with my total lack of experience with crown molding made this project loom very large in my lexicon of terrifying tasks.

Once the material had been selected, I had to educate myself on cutting the abominable medium. I began by looking up all the things I could on my handy Internet machine, trying to discern the best possible way to complete this project. Every link, blog, tutorial, video, showed some sort of jig that my inner cheapskate/obstinate DIYer mentality forbade me from shelling out the coin for. I decided that I could do this with no additional tool purchase (moron).

Keep in mind that this crown molding would be covering up, a 40 year old square suspect wall (built by others) behind framing (built by me), behind dry wall (installed by me), and behind cement (applied by.......me). There is a term in manufacturing called "built up machine tolerance", apropos to machining precise machine parts that may all be within spec, but due to them all being at either the Min/Max of tolerance the end result is no longer within spec. This project showed a "built up moron builder tolerance", meaning that all those times I had checked for square and level amounted to, umm well, nothing. I was going to install this crown on a surface that was at best, square......ish. With a saw that could on its best day cut a 45......ish miter. Not fun.

It took me 5 hrs to make and install the three pieces of crown necessary to cover the top of the fire place. I am well aware of the fact that there are skilled crafts people (I am not one of those people - I know skill when I see it, and cannot replicate it on my best day) that could do this in a fraction of the time. It took me 5 hrs. Eat me.

The end result needs some tweaks. I think I can live with the result. If I can pass on any advice, if you ever contemplate doing solid maple crown molding in your project, and your next immediate thought isn’t "lets hire a pro", seek counseling. (Now that I’ve done it, I can say with no reservation, it sucked and it kicked my butt.) Happy cutting.

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