Step-by-step demonstration of how to set up a miter saw to cut accurate compound angles for crown molding

Figuring out the miter saw settings for cutting compound angles on crown molding has typically been a multi-step process and required a fair amount of math. A combination protractor like the one demonstrated here makes the job faster and simpler and eliminates any need for arithmetic. The tool displays the miter saw angle setting directly without the need to calculate. The cutting method used in this video calls for the crown molding to be set on an angle in the saw bed. The demonstration shows in detail how to place the material in the saw and what the position of the workpiece should be relative to the blade. 

The combination protractor used in this video article is available from Amazon. Click here for more information.

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compound angles
Step 1

Crown molding corners require a miter angle and a bevel angle.

Each crown molding corner requires two angles — a miter angle which is cut across the face of the molding and a bevel angle that's formed across the end or edge. When working with crown molding, both of these angles have to be made at the same time and that's why they're called compound angles. Accuracy is critical. The tool to make this cut is the power miter saw.

holding the molding on an angle
Step 2

Making a combination miter cut by holding the molding on an angle.

One way to make a combination miter is by cutting the molding while it's held at an angle. When using this technique, make sure the back surfaces of the molding are fully in contact with the fence and saw bed. Some saws have an adjustable crown molding stop accessory.

making a jig
Step 3

Making a Wooden Jig

You can make a jig by attaching together two pieces of half-inch plywood using glue and making certain that they form an accurate right angle. After the glue is dry, the jig is set in place on the miter saw bed and attached with screws inserted through pre-drilled holes in the metal fence.

making a cut with the miter saw
Step 4

Make a cut at 45 degrees — and zero degrees.

Make a cut at 45 degrees — and zero degrees.

using a stop to cut molding
Step 5

Stapling a Wooden Stop

Place a sample piece of molding into the jig and place a wooden stop next to the edge and staple it in place. Do not use glue as the stop needs to be relocated if a different sized molding is to be cut. The jig holds the crown securely in just the right position each time a cut is made.

adjusting the angle on a miter saw
Step 6

Adjusting the Miter Saw

Each corner needs to be measured individually and that measurement must be accurate to get a tight-fitting miter.

placing the Starrett 505P protractor
Step 7

Using a Bevel Gauge or Protractor to get the Correct Miter Saw Setting

Using a bevel gauge, adjust it to fit the corner and then lay the bevel gauge on top of a protractor. Read the angle on the protractor and then divide that reading by two. That provides your miter saw setting. Using the 505P protractor from Starrett Tools, place it in the corner and open the wings until they come into contact with the wall. Now read the miter saw setting directly from the tool.

an inside corner
Step 8

Inside and Outside Corners

In most cases, the crown molding bottom is the edge that has the most detail. Both inside and outside corner moldings must be placed into the saw with the bottom edge up. The bottom edge will always be against the miter saw fence.

cutting molding with a miter saw
Step 9

Cutting Left and Right Hand Pieces of an Inside Corner

When cutting the left-hand piece of an inside corner, swing the miter arm to the right and place the workpiece on the right side of the blade. To cut the right-hand section of an inside corner, swing the miter arm to the left and place the workpiece to the left of the blade.

cutting the bottom right piece of molding
Step 10

Cutting Left and Right Hand Pieces of an Outside Corner

Measure the corner angle using the Starrett 505P protractor. Read the saw setting and set the miter saw arm. When cutting the left-hand piece of an outside corner, the miter saw arm should be swung to the left, and place the workpiece on the right side of the blade. When cutting the right-hand section of an outside corner, swing the miter arm to the right and place the workpiece to the left of the blade. Whenever possible, nail the crown molding into wall studs and ceiling joists and use a pneumatic nail gun to save time and avoid the possibility of damage resulting from missed hammer blows.

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