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Hand Cut Dentil Molding
A Dentil (from Latin dens, a tooth) is, in architecture, a small block used as a repeating ornament in the bed molding of a cornice. We see it on the architectural facades on buildings, but more commonly it is used to create a band or decorative piece in crown molding on furniture and cabinetry. Dentil molding can take many shapes and designs but in this article we will concentrate on a simple band of dentil.
Layout using a marking gauge
Marking the layout using a hard pencil
STEP 3: Cut lines for molding depending on the thickness the stock, you can accurately cut multiple pieces at one time. This stock is only a 1/4" thick so two pieces can be clamped together clamped two pieces together which allowed me to make two pieces at once and save a whole lot of time.
Sawing layout lines
Marking the waste with a Sharpie
Making multipe cuts with a hand saw
Be patient take your time when cutting the lines. Crooked cuts stand out in the final product. Your mantra should be "slow and steady." Once all the lines are cut, mark the waste that will be removed (open spaces). A Sharpie works best. If you have your pieces clamped together for cutting, mark the two outer sides and the top while clamped so that they will be identical when they are finished.
There are several ways to remove the waste. All have equal merits so it is more dependent on tools available and personal preference.
Option 1: Make several cuts with your saw in the waste area
Option 2: Cut the waste out with a jeweler's saw
Option 3: Make multiple cuts in the waste area with a band saw
If you have stock clamped up, and go with options 1 & 2 make the cuts. If you want to use a band saw, then unclamp the pieces and mark the waste on the opposite side and cut each piece independently. The extra step of marking both sides is required because depending on how long the pieces are and the throat size of the band saw, you will only be able to cut so far before flipping the piece over to complete the cut. Remember "slow and steady" applies to making the additional marks, as well as cutting.
Removing waste with chisel
Ideally, chisel selection is based in the width of the waste area 3/4" wide space = 3/4" chisel. Slowly work your way down the molding and before you know it you will have a beautiful piece of hand cut dentil molding that will accent and enhance any project you are working on.
The saw leaves a pretty smooth surface but you may have to do a little light sanding. My personal preference is to leave the surface "as is" to bring out the "handmade look" I am going for.
Finally...the finished product
Cutting your own molding may seem like it would be difficult but with a little layout and some patience you will be cutting pieces like a pro in no time. The molding I cut for this cabinet was simple and straightforward but you can cut with as many variations as you would like. Take a few scrap blocks and just experiment with different ideas.
Just by making the blocks wider than the open spaces will give the molding a whole new look. The only limits are the size of your project and your imagination. Take these tips and ideas and put them to good use on your next project and let your family and friends be amazed at the detail and creativity that dentil molding and your newfound skill can add to any project. Now get out in the shop and make some saw dust!
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