How to Cut Crown Molding With a Miter Saw

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Crown molding instantly makes a room feel more elegant, and installation can be accomplished by any DIYer with the right tools. A miter saw is the perfect tool for making the angled cuts required to install crown molding in corners.

After a primer on the words used to describe crown molding, we’ll explain how to cut crown molding with a miter saw and which miter saws can be used for this purpose.

Crown Molding Terminology

There are some useful terms that will help you keep things straight in your mind when cutting crown molding.

Ceiling with an elegant crown molding

Inside Corner

A corner that recedes from the center of the room. Requires the edge of the crown molding to be thicker on the front than the back.

Outside Corner

A corner that protrudes into the room. Requires the edge of the crown molding to be thicker on the back than the front.

Left/Right

When discussing crown molding, left and right always refer to the molding as it is meant to be installed. The left edge of one piece of crown molding forms one part of the corner, while the right edge of a second piece forms the other.

Top/Bottom

The top edge of crown molding is the flat surface that rests on the ceiling. The bottom edge is the flat surface that connects with the wall.

Cutting Crown Molding With a Miter Saw

While cutting crown molding with a miter saw takes patience and attention, it’s fairly simple once you get the hang of it.

  1. Identify your miter saw. See the section below for a rundown of the different types of miter saw that can be used to cut crown molding.
  2. Make a schematic drawing of your room. Roughly sketch out the walls of your room, and pencil in the measurements of each wall. While you might assume that most of your corners are right angles, it’s actually fairly rare to find two walls that meet at exactly 90 degrees. Measure and record the angle of each corner where two walls meet using a digital protractor or digital angle finder.
  3. Label the inside and outside corners.  The direction of the bevel is dependent on whether the molding will form an inside or outside corner, so it’s important to get this firmly established in your mind.
  4. Start with an easy corner. If you have a corner in your room that is exactly 90 degrees, that would be a good place to start. Obtuse or acute angles require more math, and it can get confusing.
  5. Measure and mark two pieces of crown molding. Place the crown molding against the walls, so the two pieces meet in the corner. Visualize the angle of the cut needed to make them fit seamlessly, and mark a rough cut line on the edge of the molding. When working with large pieces, draw an X on the other side of the cut line to remind you which end is waste.
  6. Choose a cutting method. The section below details a few different methods for cutting crown molding, depending on what kind of cut you are making and what kind of saw you have. Choose the one that makes the most sense to you and fits your requirements.
  7. Orient the crown molding on the saw. Each cutting method requires a different orientation of the board on the saw table. Getting this right is crucial to properly cutting crown molding, so take your time.
  8. Set the saw angles. For every cut you make, you will need to adjust or double-check the miter angle. Start with a sharp miter saw blade. Some methods do not require a tilted blade, while other methods do require you to set the bevel angle.
  9. Double-check the saw angle. If you’ve set up the cut correctly, the blade of the miter saw should be positioned in line with the rough mark you made in step five. If something doesn’t look right, back up and start again. It’s easy to become confused.
  10. Make the cut. With an appropriate (wood-cutting) blade installed and the machine connected to power, you are finally ready to make the actual cut.

Hold the crown molding steady with one hand, practicing good safety techniques by keeping your fingers clear of the blade. Use the other hand to grasp the handle of the miter saw. Power the saw on and plunge the blade through the crown molding.

  1. Reposition for the second cut. Depending on what kind of saw you’re using and what kind of corner you’re cutting, you may need to reposition the miter angle, bevel angle, or board orientation.
  2. Check your work. After you’ve made one cut, bring the molding back to the wall to make sure everything lines up before moving on to the rest of the room.

After you’re done with your crown molding, learn how to cut baseboard with your miter saw.

What Kind of Miter Saw Can Cut Crown Molding?

Any miter saw can cut crown molding, but it is easier on some models than on others.

Ceiling with fine crown molding

Miter Box and Hand Saw

Before power tools, miter boxes were used to guide handsaws, producing angled cuts. This method is still viable if you only need to make a few cuts. Even a basic tool like a quality coping saw can be used with a miter box. For anything more extensive, save your shoulder the wear and tear by using a power saw.

Traditional Miter Saw

A traditional beginner miter saw can be used to cut crown molding, but it is not the easiest or most precise way to accomplish this job.

The blade of a traditional miter saw does not tilt along its horizontal axis. It does swivel from side to side along the vertical axis (In some models, the blade is stationary and the fence swivels.)

Cutting crown molding with a traditional miter saw requires some creative positioning of the board to achieve a bevel cut. And it isn’t the safest option either.

Compound Miter Saw

Most newer miter saws are compound saws, meaning that the blade is adjustable in two directions. Not only can it swivel from side to side, but the blade of a compound miter saw can also be tilted to the left. This allows the user to make bevel and miter cuts that slope from left to right with a single plunge of the saw.

When cutting crown molding with a compound miter saw, you need to be careful about your board orientation. Because the blade only tips to one side, you may have to reorient the crown molding to achieve different angles.

Dual Compound Miter Saw

Dual compound miter saws take much of the confusion out of cutting crown molding. A dual compound miter saw has a blade that tilts to the left and right and can be swiveled from side to side. This can also be referred to as a double bevel miter saw.

While you must adjust the miter and bevel settings before each cut, no reorientation of the board is required, other than shifting the board from one side of the blade to the other.

The best miter saws on the market are going to be dual compound saws, giving you a full range of options.

Methods for Cutting Crown Molding With a Miter Saw

There are three main methods for cutting crown molding on a miter saw. The difference between them is how the crown molding is positioned on the saw table.

Vertical Nesting Method for Cutting Crown Molding With a Miter Saw

This method simplifies the cutting process and can be performed on any miter saw, as long as you can position the board appropriately. It is the only way to cut crown molding on a traditional (non-compound) miter saw.

  1. Orient your molding. Crown molding is installed at a sprung angle, with one edge resting against the ceiling and another edge against the ceiling. The vertical nesting method uses these two flat surfaces to stabilize the crown molding on the saw table.

Flip the crown molding over, so that the decorative side faces the saw. Place the top or ceiling edge of the crown molding flat against the saw table. Move the crown molding back until the bottom or wall edge is flush with the fence.

  1. Position the molding. To cut the left edge, position the bulk of the board to the left of the blade. To cut the right edge, move the board to the right of the blade.
  2. Set the miter angle to half the angle of the intended corner.
    • Inside corner, left edge: Swivel the blade or fence counterclockwise.
    • Outside corner, left edge: Swivel the blade or fence clockwise.
    • Inside corner, right edge: Swivel the blade or fence clockwise.
    • Outside corner, right edge:  Swivel the blade or fence counterclockwise.
  3. Make the cut. Turn the saw on, and plunge the spinning blade through the wood, steadying the molding with your opposite hand.

Compound Method for Cutting Crown Molding With a Miter Saw

This method requires you to set both the miter and bevel angle, and can only be completed with a compound or dual-compound miter saw.

  1. Determine the spring angle of your crown molding. The spring angle is the angle between the wall and the back of the molding (when oriented as it would be after installation). The most common spring angle is 38 degrees.
  2. Determine the bevel and miter angles. If you’re confident in your math skills, you can figure this out using pencil and paper. If not, enter the spring angle into a crown molding calculator or find the corresponding spring angle on a conversion chart.
  3. Practice on scrap. This method requires very precise angles. Mistakes are inevitable. Save yourself the frustration and keep material costs low by practicing the technique on scrap wood first. Move on to cutting your crown molding when you feel confident.
  4. Orient the molding. Place the crown molding on the saw table with the decorative side facing up and the back flat against the table.
  5. Set the miter and bevel angles. Use the adjustable knobs or levers on your machine to tilt and angle the blade.
  6. Make the cut. Plunge the spinning blade through the crown molding.

Conclusion

Any miter saw can be used to cut crown molding, but a dual compound saw is the best tool for the job. There are two methods for cutting crown molding on a miter saw. Learning the terminology used to refer to crown molding will help you keep track of your cuts.

Ellenkate grew up on job sites run by her family’s construction company. She earned her theater degree from The Hartt School, a prestigious performing arts conservatory in Connecticut. Her design and DIY work from her Chicago loft was featured in the Chicago Reader and on Apartment Therapy.