How to Use a Coping Saw for Crown Molding

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Crown molding joints are better coped than mitered. There are reasons for that and a special way to do it, as you will find out after reading this guide. Learn how to use a coping saw for crown molding in simple steps. The guide contains all that you need to know about creating perfect molding joints for inside walls. 

How to Use a Coping Saw for Crown Molding

Coping a crown molding using a coping saw might be a bit difficult if you are doing it for the first time. However, after some practice, you should be able to create professional crown moldings with few or no errors. 

We should you exactly how to do that in this guide. 

What You Need

  • Coping saw to creating coped joints on the crown molding
  • Miter saw to cut the end that will not need coping
  • A file with round and flat surfaces to refine the cut edge
  • Pencil to mark the profile of the piece to be coped
  • Clamps to secure the molding while coping
Man fixing his crown molding

After getting all the required tools, you can now begin working on the molding. Follow the steps below. 

Step 1: Cut the Longer Piece

Start by preparing the piece that will go all the way to the opposite wall. This needs no coping, only an ordinary square cut. 

  1. Identify the longer molding that will line up with the adjacent wall
  2. Square your miter saw
  3. Place the molding on the saw cut its leading end at a square or 90-degree angle
  4. You may also use any other type of saw after marking the molding

Step 2: Miter the End of the Molding to be Coped 

Next, you will need to prepare the second piece by mitering it.

  1. Place the piece you need to cope on the miter saw table, face down
  2. Set the saw blade at 45°
  3. Cut the end of the molding to a 45° angle

Step 3: Mark the Molding

The edge of the cut end may not be visible enough to allow precision when coping. It’s important to darken it so you can direct the blade correctly. 

  1. Using a pencil and mark the profile of the molding at the edge of the mitered end. 
  2. Some people mark molding by holding the mitered against another piece and tracing its profile. Others use a pencil with the end angled slightly. Use either method
Coping saw

Step 4: Cope the Molding

Having marked the profile of the molding, it’s now time to shape it using the coping saw. The idea is to remove some material off the back of the mitered end, without affecting the top surface.  

  1. Support the molding so you can cut it accurately without movements. Use clamps or vice to hold it
  2. Place your thumb on the end that you intend to start sawing from
  3. Position your coping saw near the pencil mark and start cutting
  4. Start with short strokes to avoid splintering the wood
  5. Angle the blade slightly, so it removes wood off the back of the molding and out of the way of the coped joint
  6. Cut through the molding, staying on the outer side of the cutting line all the while
  7. For better results, cut the molding in sections by removing pieces after every few centimeters 

Step 5: Refine the Cut End of the Molding 

The cut edge will not be on the exact line that you had marked earlier. We will use a file to remove the extra material. Filing it will also help to smooth a rough or splintered edge.

  1. Use a file to remove material from the cut edge so that it lines up with the marked line. 
  2. Use the round part of the file for curves and the flat part for the straight ends
  3. You may also use a combination of sandpaper and round file
  4. To ensure correct procedure, try out the coped piece. Position it against the mitered piece and see if the two line up properly
  5. Your crown molding is now ready for installation
Man demonstrating how to use a coping saw for crown molding

Why You Need Cope Crown Molding

Why cope crown molding? You may ask. When joining pieces that meet at 90°, it’s common to use a miter joint. Each piece is cut at 45° and brought together to make a right-angled connection. However, this does not always work when it comes to wall corners.

Most corners are rarely right angles, and using mitered pieces doesn’t do the trick. A better way is to cope one of the pieces while the other remains a square end. We will show you how to do it correctly in easy steps, using a coping saw and a few other tools.

Tips on Coping Crown Molding

Virtually every carpentry process has the hacks that allow you to perform it safely, easily, and with utmost precision. Here are tips to help you cut your crown molding correctly and without much effort. 

  • If you’re not skilled in the coping technique yet, we recommend that you start by practicing the use of a coping saw. Have pieces of scrap crown molding with you for this, then use the steps listed here to cut them.
  • Coping is only suited for inside joints or corners. It eliminates gaps while allowing the joint to look like a 45° angle.
  • When smoothing out coped ends, avoid putting too much pressure. You risk filing past the darkened line and ruining the joint.
  • It’s important that you ensure the crown molding is safe. If using clamps or vice to hold it, place scrap pieces of molding on either side.  
  • Ensure that your prepare your coping saw for the job by inspecting it for damage and adjusting the blade tension to the right level.
  • To protect your eyes from flying debris, wear safety goggles throughout 

Conclusion

Coping your crown molding helps produce tight joints, even when wall corners are not true 90° angles. Only make sure that you have the right tools with you as well as the procedure to do it. The steps in this guide provide you with the skill to install crown molding using coped joints. 

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.