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Table Saw Cove Molding

By: Erich Lage
Why settle for store-bought cove molding? With this simple table saw technique, you can create your own in the shop.

cove cut 01 When it comes to adding cove molding to a project, you don’t have to settle for off-the-shelf molding. Making cove molding in your shop is easier than you might think. And it offers a chance to use your ordinary table saw in an unusual way. It also lets you create custom shapes and sizes using species of wood that you won’t find in a store.

New Angle. To create a cove, you pass the board over the saw blade at an angle (photo above). If you’ve never done this before, it may seem intimidating. But with careful setup and technique, it works great. You can use the same basic concepts shown here to make any size cove molding.

Cove Setup. When you cut the cove, the workpiece is guided over the blade at an angle by a pair of fences. So the first step requires determining the proper angle of the fences. Setup Gauge. To do this, I built a simple gauge that helps me find and mark the fence angle. You can see how to use the gauge and then set the fences in the drawings you see below.

Find The Angle.

cove cut 02 After setting the blade height at the maximum depth of the cove, apply tape where the teeth come through. Then, set the gauge to the cove’s width and use it to mark the angle as shown above.

Set The Fences.

cove cut 03 Mark a second line to account for the shoulder of the molding blank. Now you can clamp both fences in position to get ready for the cut.

Making the Cove Cuts.

After clamping the fences in position, the cove cuts that follow are surprisingly straightforward. The key is to take multiple shallow cuts — not more than 1⁄16 at a time. You should be able to feed the blank without too much resistance. If not, you’re probably taking too deep a bite. As the profile takes shape on the molding blank, you may notice that it’s not centered on the layout. Don’t worry: Once the cove is cut to full depth, the profile will match the layout line.

Cove Cutting.

cove cut 04 With the fences in position, cut the cove by making a series of light passes 1⁄16 over the blade. Use push blocks to guide the molding over the blade safely.

A Smoother Cove.

Cutting at an angle to the saw blade is bound to leave a series of ridges along the cove, no matter what blade you use. However, you can minimize these ridges by working with a sharp blade. Also, try to finish the cove by making a very light (about 1⁄32 ) pass over the blade at a slow rate. Finally, stop a hair shy of the final shape and use a sanding block that matches the profile of the cove to sand it smooth. Once the cove is cut, complete the molding with just a few simple table saw cuts as shown below. In the end, you’ll have a custom, shop-made piece of cove molding that you’d be hard-pressed to find at a lumberyard. cove cut 04 5 cove cut 05Once you have cut the cove on the face of your molding blank, completing the molding is easy. It just takes four 45° beveled rip cuts as shown above and at right. Finally, lower the blade to cut a rabbet, or fillet, that adds a decorative detail to the molding, as shown in Figure 5. cove cut 06 two-three-comb Shoulders. You cut both shoulders of the blank the same (Figs. 1 and 2). Turn the board end for end between cuts. Back. Next is an angled cut on the back of the molding. Raise the blade and adjust the fence for this cut. cove cut 07 four-five-comb Complete the Back. Here again, simply flip the piece end for end in order to make the second cut on the back. Fillet. Lower the blade so it just peeks through the table, and make one final pass to complete the molding.

Published: Feb. 13, 2024
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