How to Cope Baseboard Trim with a Miter Saw

Cope baseboard corners fast. We'll walk you through coping baseboard with your miter saw.

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Why Cope With a Miter Saw?

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 profile 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 saw again.

If you have a low fence on your miter saw, add a 1×4 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.

Step One: Expose the Profile

Make a reverse 45-degree cut to expose the profile (above).

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Step Two: 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 profile starts.

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Step Three: Close-up

Snap off the waste.

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Step Four: Whittle Away the Waste

Nibble away most of the waste above the profile, then fine-tune the profile, stopping 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 time.

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Step Five: 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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Step Six: Check Your Work

Test the cope with a scrap of base.

  • •If the base is going to be painted, don’t be a perfectionist—a small gap is easy to fill with caulk.
  • •If it will be stained or varnished, take your time to achieve a perfect cope.
  • •If you completely blow it, who cares? You can recut another one in seconds.

Safety: For the love of Pete, wear eye protection!

Coping in this manner can launch small chunks around the room, especially while you're still in "practicing mode." Make sure they don't get anywhere need your eyes.

For more on other coping methods, click here.