November 27, 2022
Coped joints are joints produced by the wood joinery technique called coping. The result of this technique is a joint that is neat and professional looking. Coping also gets referred to as scribing. It is a technique that lets you shape the molding’s end to fit the abutting member’s contours neatly. Many English-speaking countries, aside from the United States, prefer the use of the term scribing or scribe over coping.
As a more experienced woodworker, you will often discover that two adjacent walls in your house corners are rarely set at a perfect right angle with each other. So, if you want to join the coped baseboard at the corner, you need to make a coped joint to ensure that one molding butts perfectly against the other. The other molding should also fit snugly against the first molding profile.
How Does Coped Joint Work?
If you are familiar with the basic mitered joint, it will be good to know that the coped joint is the common alternative to this joint. In mitered joint, the two molding pieces get cut at precisely 45° angle to fit each other in the corners. But when you want to join two contoured moldings, you must follow the molding’s face contours.
Thus, it will be best to use coped joint to do this. You can make a coped joint by cutting square the first molding all the way onto the corner. Then, you shape the second piece to fit against the first piece’s face.
Applications of Coped Joints
A coped joint, as mentioned above, is crucial to joining irregularly contoured moldings. So, as an aspiring woodworker, it will be best to know the following uses and applications of coped joints:
Fitting Other Moldings and Skirting in a Room
Yes, you can use the coped joints to connect moldings and skirting in a room. It lets you produce clean joints at intersections of walls, mainly if the walls are not squared. Coping is ideal for internal corners. But when it comes to external corners, a mitered joint is recommended.
To Minimize Shrinkage
One reason coped joint gets used is that timber shrinks more in width than in length. Thus, you can minimize the shrinkage effect when you use a coped joint instead of an internal miter joint. Besides, you can arrange the coped joints in such a way that they point away from the ordinary viewpoint; thus, viewers won’t notice them much.
For Moldings and Frame Components in Cabinet Making
Another application of coped joints is in cabinetmaking for frame components and moldings. You can cut the rails in panel and frame construction to fit the stile’s profile. This method gets more often done in door and window construction.
Construction of Log Homes
You can also use this joint in log home construction. You can scribe the shape of the log underneath onto another log’s bottom that you want to position on top of the other. This method creates a tight seal between adjacent logs. You can also use this joint in making boats because you will seldom find a straight edge in boats. More often, the connections are frequently curved.
Crown Moldings and Chair Rails
You can also use the coped joint for crown moldings and chair rails. Besides, you can use this joint for other trim that is more visible. It is always best to use coped joints if the trim gets more attention or visual inspection. You also can use crown molding jig designed for miter saw if you need to cut lots crown molding.
The Pros and Cons of Using Coped Joints
After knowing the different applications of the coped joints, it will also help if you are familiar with the following pros and cons of its use. This way, you can decide wisely whether to use coped joints or other woodworking joints for your projects:
- In retrofit situations, coping is very useful, allowing you to match one wood piece with an existing wood piece sans any snag or problem. Yet, it is also advantageous when you are joining two components.
- If your place is affected by radical shifts in weather, using coped joints with wood moldings will be best. If the seasonal weather swings radically, corner joints would become more visible. Yet, if you’re using coped joints, the gaps in the corners will likely not become visible.
- If an area has high humidity, like in a bathroom, the use of a coped joint is advisable.
- Coped joints can accommodate better those walls that are not square. You can angle the coped board a bit without being visible to onlookers.
- Coped joints provide a polished look.
- One downside of using coped joints is that making them requires skills and practice compared to making mitered joints. With mitered joints, you let the power tools do the cutting. With coped joints, the challenge is making accurate measurements and cuts on the mold according to the desired and required angles and lengths.
- Coping necessitates a unique technique and precision cuts using the handsaw. Once you’ve become proficient in coping, you will find it easy to make coped joints. So, developing the skill for coping takes time and practice.
Tools You Can Use for Making Coped Joints
The best tool to use when making coped joints is the coping saw or miter saw equipped with a very sharp blade. Besides, you should ensure that the frame is tightly adjusted to create an excellent coped joint. You can also use a powered miter saw, or a manual miter saw to make the necessary cuts before coping.
Besides, if you are working on a large molding project, it will be best to use a powered miter saw. You can also use a chop saw equipped with a crosscut blade.
Using a powered miter saw, you can get better results compared to the use of a saw and a miter box. Moreover, it lets you make easy and fine adjustments as well as tapered cuts, necessary to make an excellent miter joint. If you don’t have a powered miter saw, you can rent one for a day.
Cutting coped joint with jigsaw is especially helpful if you are working in the jobsite and need a quick cut without setting up a miter saw station.
Mitered Joint Vs Coped Joint: Which is Better?
There are pros and cons to using both types of joints. Coped joints, for example, don’t tend to spread apart when nailing the molding pieces. On the other hand, mitered joints tend to open up when you install the molding because as you drive the pieces against their walls, they get forced away from each other.
Besides, coped joints work best in inside corners, while mitered joints work best for both outside and inside corners.
As an aspiring woodworker, you will surely come to a point wherein you will be required to make a coped joint. Thus, it will help if you practice making coped joints and master the necessary skills for making these joints. A good starting point in learning coped joints is learning how to make mitered joints. From making mitered joints, you can transition to making coped joints.
As mentioned above, learning how to make coped joints require practice. So, it will help if you spend time and effort mastering the technique of coping, which is a prerequisite to making coped joints. Besides, it will also help to know when to use coped joints to maximize their use.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.