This is a historic moulding profile. It was found on the top of a high chest of drawers made in Connecticut by Brewster Dayton, around the time of the American Revolutionary War. Why should you care about it? Because we're going to use this example to learn how to make just about any moulding you can find, with common router bits. Basically, if you can draw it on a piece of paper, you can create it in your shop, without a giant shaper. These skills will open a whole new world that goes way beyond fancy furniture, as you'll see by the end of this lesson.
In the old-timey days, a cabinet maker like Brewster Dayton might sit down with a pencil and paper and design a moulding profile from scratch. He wasn't limited to profiles he may have used in the past, or that he may have seen somewhere else. He could make a custom profile, anything he wanted if he just broke it down into steps. In the book Mouldings In Practice, Matthew Bickford explains the old-timey process in detail. For this particular moulding, the maker would start by removing the bulk of the wood with rabbet planes, then he'd begin creating each bead and cove one at a time with various hollow and round planes.
Today, we have router bits that do the same thing. So, where Brewster Dayton used a hollow plane, we'd use round-over router bit. Where he used a round plane, we'd use a core box bit.
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A while back we made a video about creating large mouldings in layers. We used a handful of router profiles on three pieces of wood, then glued them together to form the final profile. This same process can be used on larger, more complex mouldings like the Brewster Dayton crown, or really any moulding you design yourself.
This time, I decided I could cut all the shapes with six different router bits. I have a full set of core box and round over bits already. But even if I didn't, it's worth buying the ones I need for this moulding, because the same bits and process can be used for lots of other mouldings down the road.
It's not possible to cut this moulding all in one piece. I couldn't raise my bits high enough above the table, and the cuts of some bits might interfere with the cuts of others. So, I decided to divide the moulding into four layers. This also makes it possible to use thinner stock if I don't have one giant chunk of wood to cut the moulding in a single piece.
The first bead is cut with a 1/4" bull nose bit. I could have used a roundover bit instead, and just did it in 2 passes, but I had a bull nose on hand. This layer will only have to be 7/16" wide, but I'm working with a wider piece for safety. I'll trim it once the profiles are cut.
The next step is to trim back one of the tongues left by the bull nose bit with a straight bit. Then I'll cut a little cove at the bottom with a 3/4 core box bit. If you're wondering why they call them core box bits, it's an interesting story. I'll tell it to you sometime. That's it for this layer, so I trim it to its final width on the table saw.
The next layer has a big cove on it. Fortunately, I have a core box bit big enough. If I didn't, I would have to use the table saw to cut this cove. This is also an elongated cove, so I lay out it's boundaries, and as I cut it I'll keep an eye on these lines, while I make several passes, raising the bit gradually upward to stretch the cove's shape.
Anytime I cut a cove, I do it in light passes. Core box bits remove a lot of material, and it's just asking for trouble to try to take too much at once. I also take a final skimming pass at the full bit height, just to clean up any imperfections. When the cove is formed, I trim the excess material away on the table saw.
Next comes an ogee, which is cut in two parts. First, I use a 7/8" core box bit, raising it incrementally just as I did with the larger cove. To finish the ogee I need a round over bit. But in this position, there isn't lot of clearance for the top of the bit. So, I removed the bearing. That kept it from hitting the cove above as I cut the round over.
The last layer is only 3/16" thick, and it gets a bead on the edge from a round over bit.
That's it, time to put our moulding together. I apply glue sparingly, trying to keep the front edge dry to minimize the squeeze-out as much as possible. I'm not going for a structural joint, just enough to hold it together. I also don't glue the all the layers up at once. I add one layer at a time, let it dry about an hour, then add the next. Wooden cleats help distribute the clamping pressure evenly. If this were a very long moulding, you can imagine how hard it would be to deal with all four layers sliding around. You'd never get it glued up right. So, take your time. You can try to add some salt to the glue to make it less slippery, but go easy. You're running the glue a little dry as it is, it won't be able to dissolve a lot of salt and you could end up with gaps.
And here's our final moulding. At full length and attached to the top of a cabinet, it would be a near perfect representation of Brewster Dayton's 18th century design. Remember, this process isn't just for reproducing mouldings you see on other people's furniture. You can also use it to design your own unique mouldings, whether for large chests of drawers, small boxes, even crown and other mouldings in old homes. Building kitchen cabinets? Design your own crown mouldings for those. The sky is the limit once you realize you can make almost any profile you like, with common router bits.
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