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There are certain immutable truths to life on this planet; coffee is the stuff of the gods, our kids can wither even the toughest men by sitting in a little chair reading a book and if you don’t cut molding returns on your DIY molding project, chances are, you’re a hack.
I say this because molding is also the stuff of the gods. At least to me. Something that literally breathes life into a boring box should, like a beautiful woman, be treated with concomitant care and respect. And not cutting returns where returns are needed for the elevation of the art is the equivalent of not being a gentleman when gentlemanliness is required.
A molding return is a sliver of molding that brings the molding’s shape, its profile, back to the wall. Crown molding is often returned, say in a mantle. But where returns are used most—and where I often let sturm and drang of a 12-inch slide compound mega mitre saw give way to the quiet capacity of the old school hand-powered mitre saw—is cutting returns in shoe molding and some window aprons. Surely cutting small pieces for cabinetry and woodworking plays into this too. But for me—a carpenter—molding is where I dust the dust of my Stanley Mitre Box (technically, the 20-800 - Adjustable Angle Clamping Mitre Box) and have some quiet time cutting. I hardly use this tool every day, but when I use it, I love using it. Because it works.
It’s not about more or less accuracy. And it’s not about power. It’s about the right tool for the job. I love my mitre saw, but 3,500 RPM of whirring tungsten carbide is just too much for a little piece of ¾-inch x ¾-inch shoe molding and it gets sucked into—then shot out of—the saw.
The Stanley 20-800 doesn’t do that. I set the blade to cut on the pull stroke (that’s with the teeth pointing toward me) and cut my little pieces. I never lose one. The quiet is nice. And the piece almost always fits.
Digression into family mode, I can introduce cutting wood to my son Jack on a saw like this. No cords. No sudden movements. Barely any noise. Yet, there in the background is the sturm und drang of generations of carpenters putting steel on wood to build and decorate our shelter. Hell, if you won’t cut returns for your own satisfaction, do it for them for; for the old guys who line up screw heads in face plates and put plaques on their work that stand the test of time and do their best, stand back and anonymously feel pride in work well done.
Feel the stuff of the gods.