The Ants will be Impressed

September 8, 2013 § 2 Comments

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This weekend I finished up the baseboards as part of our ongoing (and nearly finished!) laundry room remodel. The profiles from the router needed to be cleaned up in places, so I unearthed my gooseneck scraper – that had never been sharpened – and scraped away. While Douglas-fir doesn’t scrape as nicely as a harder wood, it is still 1000x more enjoyable than sanding.

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The walls of our house are anything but square and straight in any direction, so the ends of each board had to be custom fit. Those little plastic shims from Lee Valley came in very handy here. I used them to purposely cant the boards out of square on the shooting board.

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I wonder how much coping saws get used to actually make coped joints in most woodworking shops. I suspect they are primarily used for removing the waste when dovetailing. Undoubtedly carpenters and joiners (does anyone still call themselves a “Joiner”) still make frequent use of a coping saw, as a coped joint is the still the standard when joining the inside corners of moldings and trim work.

During installation of the baseboards, one inside corner needed a coped joint. I pulled out my trusty Olson saw and got to work (of course I did a few practice joints first). A nice thing about this joint is that one piece can simply be cut straight and butt up against a wall, and all the work really takes place on the mating piece. A coped joint starts with a miter cut, as if you were going to miter the joint. From there you just follow the the edge of the miter cut, using the thin blade of the coping saw to make the tight turns. In my case the majority of the baseboard is actually straight, so I cut along that line with a ryoba, and only used the coping saw for the curvy parts. After that I fussed around a bit with small round files until I had a nice fit on a piece of scrap.

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Marking the edge with a pencil line makes it easier on the eyes.

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Proud of my efforts, I put the boards into place, stepped back to take a look and…

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And today the washer and dryer arrived. Don’t the baseboards look nice!

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Speed Queen washer and dryer – still made in the USA.

My fine work on these baseboards will be admired for years by the occasional ant that wanders into the house.

Coping saws are readily available at any hardware store and are very inexpensive. Some brands aren’t made to high standards, probably knowing that carpenters will use them in a few years and just buy another. I’ve been happy with the inexpensive Olsen sold through Tools for Working Wood, and the Olsen blades are especially nice. For the discriminating woodworker, Knew Concepts offers better-made (and much more expensive) alternatives to the standard coping saw . They even have titanium fret saws for over $200, if you are so inclined.


§ 2 Responses to The Ants will be Impressed

  • Eric,

    Your story is funny and well told. It is also one to which I can relate, as can many other craftspeople, I suspect. For us, it is not enough to perform a task – we must perform it to the best of our ability.


    • Eric Bushèe says:

      Thanks, Chris. Of course there is that famous quote from Steve Jobs, where the cabinetmaker refuses to use plywood on the back of a cabinet, despite the fact that nobody will ever see it. As you delve deeper into a craft, I suppose you increasingly choose to do things according to your own standard, and not somebody else’s.

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