Ten gallons of sawdust later...

Posted by Steve on Thu, 02/22/2007 - 4:03pm

I finished cutting 208 feet of bolection moulding for the wainscotting in the bedroom reno and guess what? I needed 216 feet to complete the job, dammit! I knew I was cutting it close (literally) but I only had a couple of (expensive) red oak 1x8s left which I need for the wainscotting shelf. I'll dig into my red oak scrap pile and cut the remainder this afternoon.

Anyway, I was right. A bolection moulding a/k/a inset panel cap moulding a/k/a rabbeted panel moulding is just an inverted base cap profile with a rabbet. After my router bit quest, I settled on a $28 base cap bit from Woodside.

So it was back to the shop to rip a bunch of red oak to the 1-1/4" width I needed for 26 eight-foot blanks, which I thought would do the job if I planned my cuts carefully.

Man, this shop needs cleaning and reorganizing after six months of this renovation!

But what started off as a two bit job (hey!) became three bits. I didn't like the abrupt return to the panel so I modified it with a step down. These are the three bits I wound up using to cut this bolection moulding.

From left to right: the base cap bit, the concave bit and the rabbeting bit. Pretty colors!

The set up was the most tedious part of the job, which is why I'm so annoyed that I have to go through it all over again for another eight feet.

I ran some test cuts of the base cap bit on scrap plywood until I got the depth and length I needed. This was pretty much established by the fixed profile and length of the bit but you still need to set up the fence and vertical depth on the router. Then I ran a bunch of 1x6 oak through the table saw to get the 1-1/4" width of the bit profile. Why 1x6? Because the leftovers gave me the stock I need to cut the quarter-round shoe moulding I'll need after the new floor is down, if three times as much as I'm actually gonna need.

Then it was four passes through the router, dropping the fence back in steps to avoid chunking the wood. You never want to cut deep profiles in one pass because you can damage the bit, the collet and especially the wood. Ask me how I learned that one. The last pass was barely 1/16" deep to shave the surface smooth.

Next was a concave bit. I didn't need the concave; I needed the very bottom edge of it to create that little step down.

Finally, using a 3/8" depth pilot bearing on a rabbeting bit, I made the dado for the back. This creates a recess for the raised rails and stiles of the wainscotting and hides that square edge.

... and here, at last, is the finished profile.

Whew. Next time, I think I'll spend more time looking for prefab moulding. Probably twenty bucks worth of red oak was sucked up by the dust collector.

Anyway, here's the result. I think it made those rather dull panels pop! It's a bit more formal than I was originally going for but as Kathy commented on the blog, I'd never be happy with the plain, square-edged paneling. Here is what it looked like before the bolection moulding.

And here's a view towards the bay window.

... and finally a little fisheye of just the panels.

And, now, on to the shelf for the top of that tall wainscotting. I was going to do this with plywood but decided to do it in solid oak instead, mainly because I'm too lazy to make a trip to the lumberyard.

I also found the radiator vents I needed for the center panel at Atlanta Supply. I just have to modify it because it's an angled baseboard vent. I was originally looking for a decorative cast iron vent but I couldn't find anything in the size I needed that also didn't cost as much as the radiator.


Wow, that really came out nice. How will the wood be finished?

Wish I had your carpentry chops. I appreciate the photo of the finished profile. Not knowing the terms, I had no idea. I still need to spend some time to visualize how each bit contributed.

What makes it a "bolection" molding?

Posted by Steve on

The intent is to stain it a saddle brown because that's the color of the prefinished engineered flooring sitting in my shop and waiting to be installed. It's the same color as the woodwork in the guest room. Now that I see all this woodwork now I'm a little concerned that it might be too heavy a color. But I'm stuck because of the flooring. One thing I almost certainly won't be doing is painting the room a deep red. That was the plan in the beginning. Karen is pitching a pastel blue. But that's still a ways off.

Technically, a "bolection" is an architectural element that projects beyond the face of a panel. In this case, this moulding projects about 1/4" above the face of those rails and stiles.

Posted by Rick Sargent (not verified) on


I'm curious about the amount of time this process took. From start [cutting the boards into strips] to finish [everything installed, nail holes filled, sanded], what would you estimate your time to be? I wish I had the time to devote to the art that you are creating. For the time being, I'll just try to absorb as much as I can. Thanks for sharing your work.

Posted by Steve on

Most of my time was spent researching how to buy the moulding and, when that hit a dead end, how to make it myself.

The actual making of that bolection moulding didn't take too long. I set it up like a production job: maybe 90 minutes to make 200+ feet of it. Actually, using the finished moulding profile as a template to set up the router, I made the extra eight feet I needed in about fifteen minutes.

I haven't filled the nail holes yet. That's something I do after I stain, just before the final finish coat so I can color match the fill, which invariably won't stain the same color as the wood. But I usually rely on glue for exposed trim work like this and just use a couple of thin brads to hold it in place. Sometimes the staining process will swell the wood enough to hide those brad holes without any fill.

I only make small mouldings like this when I can't buy them prefab. Unless you have access to some really cheap raw lumber (which I don't), it's usually cheaper buying prefab than cutting it yourself.

Posted by brian (not verified) on

I'm not sure how stuck you are on Atlanta Supply for your baseboard vents, but I recently needed wood baseboard vents for my remodel and did exhaustive searching to find a supplier who had to be cheaper. Eventually I found http://www.knobshingesandmore.com
Do a search for baseboard vents and you will find identical ones. I ordered a fair number of them and other than the time to receive them, I have been happy with them. They seem to be the exact same ones that are twice as expensive elsewhere. Just thought I'd pass it along, since saving a few dollars somewhere on a house, usually allows you to spend it elsewhere on the house. At least that is the case with me.

Posted by Steve on

Unfortunately, I've already got the grills from Atlanta Supply and they're glued into the panel now.

I'll save the link for next time though. Thanks!

Posted by lothian (not verified) on

Hiya, Steve.

There is markedly little information online concerning the chore of creating moulding in the DIY shop. Your blog provides testimonial that it is possible to make the stuff with shop tools, and garner perfectly acceptable results for the effort.

Moulding is expensive. Costs add up quickly, especially with wainscot projects where linear feet add up in multiples. My own nascent wainscot project--with its projected expense from bolection moulding in particular--motivates me to learn how to make it myself.

But mostly this effort has been a frustrating waste of time. I've found little online to slake my thirst for specific information; two exceptions: your "Ten gallons of sawdust' blog-post, and the video "Router Milled Moulding" (YouTube).

My dilemma is figuring out which among the various router cutter heads are required to create an aesthetically appealing bolection moulding. I also lack the experience to visualize the finished profile that might result when combining this cutter with that one.

Seems few folks who may have attempted it post their experience online for the benefit of others. This is definitely an opportunity for the budding "woodworker with a camera and a youtube account" to meet acclaim!

Anyway... it'd be awesome if you revisited your experience at the route table and delve into the details of cutting bolection moulding, prep and post process, lessons learned; etc etc.

Here's your change at seminal importance within the DIY woodworking/home-improvement niche, and achieve a position among the sawdust glitterati!

- lot.