Moldings are one of those fun home-improvement projects than can really spice up a room makeover or help you achieve just the right feeling in your new home or remodel. From baseboards to crown moldings, door casings to window trim, there are enough sizes, styles, colors and material options available in stock and by special order to satisfy most homeowners.
But what if you still can’t seem to settle on the perfect look for your room, or you want something a little different from what the local home center carries? With a little creativity and maybe some woodworking prowess, you can have it.
The first possibility to expand your horizons outside the norm is to combine stock molding patterns to create something different. With a little imagination, there are an endless number of combinations you might consider. Some basic suggestions include:
Mix and match: Take a standard piece of 1×3 or 1×4 hemlock or MDF (medium-density fiberboard, a common material for paint-grade moldings), top it with a decorative small-profile molding of the same material, and you’ve got a unique baseboard, or even a window or door casing. Another idea is to take two pieces of crown molding that you like and stack them against or on top of each other to make up a new, larger crown.
Mix and don’t match: You can also consider mixing moldings manufactured from different materials or simply from different colors. There are some striking combinations available by mixing a piece of maple molding with a piece of cherry for example, or combining stained oak moldings with a piece of paint-grade MDF.
Space ’em out: There’s no rule that says molding combinations have to touch each other. You can achieve looks that range from the subtle to the striking by spacing two moldings apart a little, and then painting or wallpapering the area in between.
MAKE YOUR OWN
For the more ambitious, there’s the option of making your own moldings. You can alter existing moldings or start from scratch by working with solid lumber or MDF, and possibilities are limited by your imagination and your collection of woodworking tools.
Sometimes there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel when you can just make it roll a little differently, so you might want to consider simply altering existing moldings. For example, you can start with a piece of standard flat molding or 1x lumber and add one or more grooves to the face by running it through a table saw. Alter the width, angle, or spacing of the grooves — or a combination of all of these — to achieve even more variety. You can also cut a groove in the face of a board and then glue in a piece of contrasting wood or molding to create some very unique moldings.
If you already have a table saw and want to try your hand at making your moldings from scratch, you can consider purchasing a molding cutter. A molding cutter is simply a round wheel that slips over the table saw’s arbor shaft in place of the saw blade. There are slots in the wheel — typically three of them — and small, matched molding knives can be locked into the slots. The height of the molding cutter is adjusted so that it is just above the saw’s table, and the wood is run face down against the molding to cut a pattern into the wood’s face. A variety of different profiles can be achieved by altering the depth of the cuts, the combination of molding cutters and the distance between the saw fence and the molding cutter.
The next tool in the molding cutting arsenal is the router. Routers utilize cutting bits of different profiles rotating at very high speed to cut all kinds of very cool edges on raw wood, or even on stock moldings to alter their appearance. You can hand-hold the router to cut a profile on the edge of a piece of wood, but for greater versatility, accuracy and safety, mount your router into a table that is equipped with fence.
If you have a lot of molding to make — or you’ve equipped your shop with just about every other tool and need another place to spend your tool budget — you can consider purchasing a dedicated molder. Molders look just like thickness planers and utilize a set of three equally spaced cutters mounted horizontally in a cutter head located within the machine. Feed rollers feed the raw stock into the machine, and the cutters produce crisp and accurate patterns on the face and even the edges of the wood.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at email@example.com.