The secret is in the order of cuts.
Synopsis: A restoration carpenter describes his method of cutting complex molding profiles on a tablesaw. Even a straight blade can cut curves if you know how. But the real secret is choosing the right sequence of cuts.
When the landmark Winooski Block was finished in 1862, the builders festooned it with all manner of ornamental moldings and wooden filigree. But by the time we (Moose Creek Restorations Ltd.) got the repair contract, 117 Vermont winters had weathered, cracked and split all of its remaining woodwork. Three-fourths of the building’s cornice moldings were either rotten or missing. We were to replace 10,000 linear feet of various moldings, not one of them a type manufactured today, and we didn’t even own the usual tool for milling moldings, the spindle shaper. We still were able to complete the job, relying on our table saw and a lot of careful planning. We found that the table saw could handle most any profile — it could even scoop out concave curves — but we also learned that every profile required its own sequence of cuts. Figuring out that sequence is the heart of our method.
The first thing we worried about was getting enough good stock. Molding stock must be the highest quality, close grained and knot free. We were still short of stock after several deals to obtain a couple thousand board feet of Vermont pine in varying widths, thicknesses and lengths — all rough cut and in need of finish planing, dimensioning, and in some cases, drying. We were bemoaning our plight when two young entrepreneurs wandered into our office. They asked if we knew anyone who could use several thousand board feet of redwood and cypress beer-vat staves from the old Rheingold Beer brewery that was being dismantled in Brooklyn, N.Y. Well, yes, we probably…