Coped joints for baseboard look great, but can be time-consuming. Instead of using a coping saw, learn to cope baseboard with a miter saw. It's faster and works great for common baseboard profiles.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
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Video: Coping Baseboard With a Miter Saw
Coped joints for baseboard look great, but can be time-consuming. Instead of using a coping saw, learn to cope 1×4 baseboard with a miter saw. It’s faster and works great for common baseboard profiles.
Using a miter saw for cope joints
Photo 1: Expose the profile
Make a reverse 45-degree cut to expose the profile.
Photo 2: Cut off the straight part
Swing the saw around to the other 45-degree setting and cut the vertical part of the cope, stopping just before the profile starts.
Snap off the waste.
Photo 3: Whittle away the waste
Nibble away most of the waste above the profile, then fine-tune the profile, stopping about 1/32 in. above the finished cut. Once you get used to the process, you can work even faster by dragging the base sideways while lowering the blade at the same time.
Photo 4: Tune up the cope
Follow the finished wood surface with a “4-in-hand” file to finish up the cope. With any luck, you’ll still have a line of raw wood to follow with the file to get a perfect cope. Be careful even with base that’s made from hardwood—the file carves away wood very quickly.
Photo 5: Check your work
Test the cope with a scrap of base.
•If the base is going to be painted, don’t be a perfectionist—a small gap is easy to fill with caulk.
•If it will be stained or varnished, take your time to achieve a perfect cope.
•If you completely blow it, who cares? You can recut another one in seconds.
The usual way to get tight inside corners on trim is to “cope” them—to cut a profile on one part that will fit over the adjoining part. That means lots of slow, fussy work with a coping saw. Next time you have some inside corners to cope on standard 1×4 baseboards, try this method for doing the whole process on your miter saw. It works for ranch and Princeton styles. It takes a bit of practice to master the trick, but once you do, you’ll be able to achieve a perfect cope in less than 60 seconds and never grab for the coping saw again.
If you have a low fence on your miter saw, add a 1×4 (photo 1) to fully support the baseboard. Your saw has to be adjusted so it cuts perfectly square in the vertical direction. There will be wood shrapnel and your saw will be running for long periods, so wear vision and hearing protection.
Install base in the clockwise direction around a room if you’re right-handed and counterclockwise if you’re a lefty. That’ll be playing to your strong hand, and you’ll always be coping the same way joint after joint—no confusion.
Rest your elbow on the table or the saw miter adjustment arm for stability. Don’t try to get a perfect cope with the saw alone; you’ll be able to quickly clean it up with a file. And lastly, don’t take your finger off the trigger until you’re clear of the cut. The blade will plunge the instant you shut off the power and you’d wreck the cope.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Required Materials for this Project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.