Using a miter saw for cope joints
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Photo 1: Expose the profile
Make a reverse 45-degree cut to expose the profile.
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Photo 2: Cut off the straight part
Swing the saw around to the other 45-degree setting and
cut the vertical part of the cope, stopping just before the
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Snap off the waste.
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Photo 3: Whittle away the waste
Nibble away most
of the waste above
the profile, then
about 1/32 in. above
the finished cut.
Once you get used
to the process, you
can work even
faster by dragging
the base sideways
while lowering the
blade at the same
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Photo 4: Tune up the cope
Follow the finished
wood surface with
a “4-in-hand” file to
finish up the cope.
With any luck, you’ll
still have a line of
raw wood to follow
with the file to get
a perfect cope. Be
careful even with
base that’s made
from hardwood—the file carves away wood very quickly.
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Photo 5: Check your work
Test the cope with
a scrap of base.
•If the base
is going to be
painted, don’t be
small gap is easy to
fill with caulk.
•If it will be
stained or varnished,
time to achieve a
•If you completely
blow it, who cares?
You can recut
another one in
The usual way to get tight inside corners
on trim is to “cope” them—to cut
a profile on one part that will fit over
the adjoining part. That means lots of
slow, fussy work with a coping saw.
Next time you have some inside corners
to cope on standard 3-1/4-in.
baseboards, try this method for doing
the whole process on your miter saw.
It works for ranch and Princeton styles.
It takes a bit of practice to master the
trick, but once you do, you’ll be able to
achieve a perfect cope in less than 60
seconds and never grab for the coping
If you have a low fence on your
miter saw, add a 1x4 (photo 1) to fully
support the baseboard. Your saw has to
be adjusted so it cuts perfectly square
in the vertical direction. There will
be wood shrapnel and your saw will
be running for long periods, so wear
vision and hearing protection.
Install base in the clockwise direction
around a room if you’re right-handed
and counterclockwise if you’re
a lefty. That’ll be playing to your strong
hand, and you’ll always be coping
the same way joint after joint—no
Rest your elbow on the table or the
saw miter adjustment arm for stability.
Don’t try to get a perfect cope with
the saw alone; you’ll be able to quickly clean it up with a file. And lastly, don’t take your finger off the trigger until
you’re clear of the cut. The blade will plunge the instant you shut off the power and you’d wreck the cope.