Make Your Own Moulding for a Quarter of the Price
By Clint C. Thomas, Esq., Photography by Shellye Thomas
Save money and resources with a little DIY carpentry.
I recently completed the renovation of a small bedroom whose final embellishments had been put off for many years. The last two steps in the completion process were the installation of crown moulding on the ceiling and quarter-round moulding along the floor. I originally went to my local box store with the intention of purchasing both the crown and quarter-round at the same time, but quickly abandoned this idea when I saw the price of the crown. Thanks to my beautiful wife’s encouragement we shopped around at another box store and got a really good deal on a contractor’s pro-pack of crown moulding for about half of what the first box store was charging for the same product.
While we were comparing prices on the crown, I also priced pieces of quarter-round. I discovered that quarter-round, sometimes confused with “shoe-moulding,” which is not as thick in depth as quarter-round, was running about fifty cents per linear foot. For my project I needed a minimum of 30 linear feet of quarter-round. This would have cost me $15 plus $1.50 in tax. So, after finding the crown moulding that we needed for half price, my wife and I stood in the aisle looking at all of the trim work on display and tried to concoct more ways to save money. It did not take long for me to decide to mill my own quarter-round and avoid that expense completely. Yes, I know, I sound like Ebenezer Scrooge telling Cratchet to stoke the fire instead of adding coal to it. However, my money does me more good that it does the store.
In my case, I already had close to a dozen 2-by-4 studs left over from a previous project, and I love to use what I already have on hand. By having the 2-by-4’s left-over it allowed me to mill my moulding at no cost at all, unless you count the electricity that was used to run the tools.
If, however, it is necessary to purchase an 8-ft. 2-by-4 stud to make the moulding, the current cost in my area for this size piece of lumber is about $2.36.
I used a large diameter 3/4-in. round-over bit to make my quarter-round, which allowed me to produce three, 8-ft. long pieces out of each stud. Those three pieces total twenty-four linear feet. When the $2.36 cost of a stud is divided by 24 linear feet, this works out to less than 10 cents per linear foot compared to $0.50 per linear foot for professionally milled moulding. If I had used a smaller round-over bit, then I probably could have pulled four pieces of quarter-round out of each stud, thereby decreasing the cost per linear foot that much more.
The first step in the milling process is to set up your router table if you have one, and if not, you can free-hand the round-over edge and achieve the same result albeit with a little bit more work. I already had a Freud round-over bit that I had purchased for another project.
Once you have your router set up, it’s smart to run a test piece through it to see how the edge looks. This will help you decide whether or not you need to adjust the height of the router bit up or down.
After the router table is set up, run one side of a 2×4 through the table. In fact, I usually make a couple of passes to ensure a smooth finish on the millwork. This is especially necessary if you are using a large bit like I did. The bigger the bit, the more wood that it takes off, and this usually requires several passes to achieve a smooth finish. With the first side of the stud rounded, rotate the stud 180 degrees and round-over the other side.
The next step in the process is to run the 2×4 through a table saw to cut off the pieces that will be the quarter-round. This should be repeated for both sides of the stud so you end up with two pieces of moulding and a square piece of stock left over that you will use for the third piece.
This sounds very simple; however, it took me about half an hour of experimenting to perfect my technique. The first problem I encountered was that the blade on a table saw usually eats up nearly 1/4 in. of whatever it’s cutting into. Trying to align the blade at the exact edge of the top of the curve of the quarter-round without the blade eating into the curve or leaving too much waste on the backside, took a lot of trial and error. I finally determined that if I set my fence so it was 24mm from the blade (the measuring strip on my bench saw is in 1/4-in. intervals and, in this case, the metric measurements were more exact), that it would take off just what was needed and leave a very thin strip of waste along the top edge of the quarter-round.