Installing trim and a Wood Symphony Gallery Exhibition
Installing trim is never easy. I set myself up for this. I tricked myself into thinking this job would be easy, even though I knew very well that’s almost never the case.
I had some baseboard and quarter round to install in my kitchen, dining room, living room and hallway. I also had some crown moulding to install in the dining and living rooms. I brought it home a few days ago, and now it was time to install it. My plan was to start with the baseboard and quarter round, and get the easy part out of the way. The house is pretty simple. The trim itself isn’t over the top in any way. It’s not like I was working for a particularly difficult client, either. I was even going to use a simple approach to cutting the moulding that would make things tidy and easy.
My “simple approach” was to make a simple crosscut miter jig for trimming the moulding to length. Little airborne dust, less mess, nice and simple. Yeah, right.
I brought a few 16′ lengths of baseboard into the living room, measured up the first wall then set up a length in my crosscut miter jig. I was really excited to see just how fast, easy and clean I could work my way around the living room.
About one minute into my first cut I had to stop and take off my sweater as I was getting hot. At the two-minute mark I checked to see if I was somehow cutting into a screw that held the fences in place; maybe that was what was slowing me down. Nope. My right arm was also ready for a break at that point. At around the three-minute mark I finally cut through the piece of baseboard. I was breathing hard and my brow was slightly wet from working up a sweat. I needed a moment to rest. Only about 30 or 40 more cuts to make and the baseboards would be done.
When I put the first piece against the wall, I realized how curvy the wall was. Gaps of 1/2″ formed at three places, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to just flex this trim into place. After marking where the bulges were, I cut a few kerfs with my handsaw, then used a sharp chisel to remove some material off the rear face of the baseboard. “Caulking will make this look great,” I kept telling myself. About 20 minutes spent marking, cutting, chiselling, fiddling, fine tuning and repeating, and the inaugural piece was ready to be installed. I hoped the whole house wasn’t this curvy.
When I set up the second piece I couldn’t stop thinking about the long game. Burning arm muscles, overheating and an ultra-slow pace were not welcome thoughts, especially as I knew there were dozens of cuts left. My shop is about 10 minutes away, so it was an easy decision; I’d grab my miter saw and end this silliness. My “simple approach” wasn’t so simple. A quick trip across town to lug my Festool Kapex miter saw down a set of stairs and put it into the back of my vehicle, and I was on my way. Forty-seven pounds isn’t a crazy amount of weight, but when it’s a weird shape with no real handles, it’s far from light. And I’m not a big guy. My back will have to just grin and bear it.
Back at home I set the saw up, adjusted the bevel to 45°, then got to work. Wow, this little job was going to go swimmingly now! First cut, as you can imagine, took all of three seconds, and it was also perfectly square and clean. It was a good call to go the shop to get my miter saw.
The next piece went well. As did the next few. But they still took a lot more time than I anticipated. About three hours went by and I had only done the three walls in the dining room and most of the living room. The hallway, with a whole bunch of short runs to deal with, was next.
Short pieces = lots of fiddling
Although I only installed about five linear feet of moulding in the hallway, it took me over 90 minutes. There were 13 pieces, all of which were at least slightly troublesome and had to be carefully fitted to the piece next to it.
It was at this point that my trick back started to act up. Every time I knelt down to measure, cut, test, recut and install a piece my back let me know its displeasure. I knew this was only going to get exponentially worse as the day went on, so I decided to stop at this point. I installed about half of the baseboard, zero quarter round, zero crown and my back was sore. I guess I should have anticipated this, but I didn’t. One of these days I’ll learn.
Stay tuned for next week’s column, as the upcoming day or two will be very productive and impressive. Yeah… VERY impressive.
Latest Wood Symphony Gallery Exhibition
And now for something truly impressive: a new exhibition by Wood Symphony Gallery, titled “The Art of Giving,” is now online. As I’ve said before, I enjoy getting inspiration from the artistic pieces other makers have completed. I always find the online exhibition fun to view. You can view all the pieces at woodsymphony.com.
This Will Work Great
To reduce dust while working indoors I made this simple crosscut miter jig. It fit the baseboard nicely. It was also light enough so that I could easily move it around the house as I installed the baseboard. The only problem was it look an incredibly long time to make a single cut. Which, by the way, was the only cut I made with it.
Although they look straight at first glance, some of the walls in my place are far from it. Gaps open up between twisty and determined studs, and it’s up to me, the noble trim carpenter, to camouflage the imperfections.
Do Others Use This Approach?
Not knowing what I’m doing, I just wing it. Rather than make the wall straight, I shape the backs of these 5/8" thick baseboards to fit the curvy walls. In this case, close is certainly good enough.
While I’m working, I have a shadow that helps me with every piece. In this photo she must have been bored by the lack of production and laid down. I tripped over her about 100 times that day.
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