There are two halves to a coped joint. The first piece is simply cut to length, leaving the end square so that it butts right up to the comer of the room or project that you're working on, see drawing at right.
The second piece is the one that will be coped. But in order to be able to "see" the profile of the molding, you need to miter the end of the piece at 45° beforehand, as shown in the drawing. This establishes the profile that you'll follow with your coping saw. You can cut this miter on die table saw or on a miter saw.
One other thing. When you're measuring for the length of the coped section of molding, keep in mind that this piece will butt up against the first piece. So depending on the profile of the molding, it may not reach all the way into the comer of your project.
Measure to deepest point of trim profile to determine length of second trim piece
Cut end of first piece square
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