Sunday, March 21, 2010

Making Your Own Baseboards

The walls in my barbershop room box were just too tall, leaving the edge of the wallpaper exposed at the bottom. I had to decide on adding some wainscoting or to make my baseboard a little taller than the commercially manufactured baseboard that I have. So, decided to make my own baseboard. I also made some of my own baseboards for Sara's dollhouse using this same method. I'm going to show (and describe) what I did to make this baseboard molding.

Let's start with the finished product (below). Please note the picture is missing one final detail that will be part of the baseboard - quarter round wood at the bottom of the baseboard. I will glue that in place when the room box is fully assembled and I'm ready to glue the wall permanently into the box. The baseboard I made is approximately one inch tall - taller than the baseboard you would normally buy at a miniature store. It's made from 3/32" basswood.

Safety reminder: If you want to do anything like this, please always remember to wear safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes!

Here's what I did to make it:
  1. I cut the 3/32" basswood into the 1" wide strips. Then I sanded the edge I ripped with my table saw.
  2. Next, I set up my Dremel tool in the router base (see photo at right). You may also notice the plastic protector at the very top of my router. When I'm routing pieces like this, I flip this out of my way.
  3. See the photo below for the round-over router bit I used. The bit barely peeks out from the edge of the fence so that it cuts a curve into the top of my board. I also allow the bottom edge of the blade to protrude about 1/32 to 3/64" above the router table. This can add another tiny line at the top of the rounded over piece of wood. The photo below is an extreme close-up showing you the Dremel bit I use for this process.
  4. Once the fence and cutting bit are both set for the correct depth of cut, I'm then ready to begin to route the wood.
  5. I usually find a piece of scrap wood at this point that is several inches long and not quite as tall as the piece of wood I'm cutting. I use the scrap wood to hold my piece of basswood against the fence of the router, and I use either my finger or another piece of scrap wood to hold the basswood down so that it touches (and remains firmly touching) the route table surface. (See photo below, which is an overhead view of how I hold the pieces of wood against the router table fence.) Once I have this "jig" in place, I begin feeding the basswood strip through the router. I don't hurry it. If the sound of the router begins to change significantly, I know I'm pushing too fast, and I slow it down.
  6. Sometimes I will start with the fence set a little closer to the router bit so that the first pass through the Dremel router is a "rough" cut. I then move the fence back a tiny amount, exposing a hair more of the bit and run all of my pieces through the router again for the finish cut. Whether I move the fence or not, I always run my "boards" through the router a second time to smooth the cut and clean up any rough spots that might still be on the board.
  7. For some reason, I often get an uneven cut on the first or last half inch of this piece I'm routing. So, if you're following this tutorial to make your own molding or baseboard, always be prepared for some wastage. I usually route at least one if not two extra pieces just to make sure I have plenty of stock to work with. (Nothing is more frustrating than coming up inches short and then having to start all over to recreate another piece of the same stock!)
  8. Moldings and trim boards are all about lines and shadows. I created a line in my baseboard just below the curved portion of the board by cutting a 1/32" depth table saw cut. I used my thinnest saw blade that I currently have for my table saw to cut this line. This blind cut adds to the overall shape and personality of the baseboard piece. It has no other serious value or purpose. However, if you wish, you can always flip your baseboard over and reverse the wood 180 degrees to put a groove into the back of your baseboard for a wiring run. Some commercially manufactured baseboards have a gap cut specifically to hide the tiny electrical wires. See photo below for the approximate set-up of the table saw.
  9. I always sand the cut that I put into the side of the baseboard to slightly round the edges of the cut. (An emery board held at an angle and sanded very gently on both of the sharp edges of the cut works well for this.) 
  10. Next, stain or paint your baseboard, and you're ready for installation!

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