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How to Make an Eared Architrave Part 2

[This is part of A Kitchen Molding Makeover series.]

Posts in This Series

1.  DOOR TRIM-103 Home

2.  How to Make an Eared Architrave Part 1

3.  How to Make an Eared Architrave Part 2

On this Page

  • How to Install the Plinth Blocks
  • How to Cut and Assemble the Ears
  • How to Assemble all of the Moldings Together

In my previous post, I showed you how I built the plinth blocks and upper and lower scribers.  Now I’ll put all of the pieces together and make one of my favorite door trim styles.

But first I’ve got to make some scribbles on the wall to be sure the ear portion of the architrave is just the way I want it.

how to install mdf door trim

How to Install the Plinth Blocks

Below  The little piece of sand paper holds the plinth block just off the tile a bit.  I’ll remove it after I glue and nail the plinth in place.  Other than that, just glue and nail it in place.

plinth block for diy greek revival door trim installation

Below  I check the molding fit and height before I commit it to nails.

how to install mdf door trim in kitchen

Below  I made these architrave ears  13-3/4″ tall.  I wouldn’t make them proportionally any taller, but they can be much shorter and still be historically correct.

test fit the mdf door trim molding

Below  I make sure the bottom edge of the molding is square and flat for a good fit on top of the plinth block.

mdf door trim on miter saw

Below  Cut the left and right moldings to the exact same lengths.

miter 45 degree angles on the door trim top

How to Cut and Assemble the Architrave Ears

Below  It does not require a large ear to create a dramatic look.  I made this horizontal 7/8″ wide.  If I had the room, I would have made them 1/2″ wider, but I wanted more room between the cabinet and the molding.

measure width of ears on architrave

cut eared architrave on miter saw

left and right side of greek revival door trim

verticle sections of the mdf door trim ears

Below  She has no idea what she’s looking at, but is certain I’ve done something wrong.

cute cat inspecting mdf door trim

Below  Take your time assembling the ears.  The dramatic change of direction in the molding detail is the whole point of this pattern, so take great care putting the pieces together so that the profiles match perfectly.  Trying to blend all this detail later is an exercise in frustration and really is not practical.

glue the mitered corners of mdf door trim casing

glue the mitered corners of the mdf door trim casing

If you don’t already have a Senco or Accuset 23 gauge micro pinner, then stop what you’re doing and go buy one.  Nailing small pieces of molding together without one is madness.

senco 23 gauge micro pinner nailing door trim moldings


How to Assemble All the Pieces Together

greek revival mdf door trim

Below  Don’t forget to glue the bottom of the molding where it contacts the plinth.

liquid nails on mdf door trim moldings

Important Note: I don’t nail above the ear just yet — wait until the upper piece of molding is glued and nailed to the miters — this gives me flexibility to match the miters.

nailing mdf door trim molding to outside door

mdf door trim moldings installation

Below  Everything I’ve done prior to this was in preparation for the step right here.  Make sure the detail on your miters lines up, and, make sure they will stay lined up when you nail them in place.

line up miters on mdf door trim moldings

nailing mdf door trim casing in place with 18 gauge brad nails

nailing mdf door trim casing moldings

Below  I’ve cut all of the scriber pieces and am testing the fit.  Door jambs are notoriously inconsistent, and so knowing what the scriber moldings are going to do before you apply glue and nail is a big help.

greek revival door trim casing inner scribers

mdf door trim casing moldings greek revival style

What I love about using scribers on a door surround is the ability to adjust the width.

mdf door trim casing molding right side

And that’s all there is to making a Greek Revival (traditional) eared architrave.  They are so easy to make and yet are so dramatic, I don’t understand why more people don’t make of them.

Video: The Finished Door Surround

The next step is to prepare it for paint, and then to paint it.  Here is my How to Paint Moldings page if you need some help.

Good luck making your own eared architrave, let me know how it turns out!

Posts in This Series

1.  DOOR TRIM-103 Home

2.  How to Make an Eared Architrave Part 1

3.  How to Make an Eared Architrave Part 2

[This is part of A Kitchen Molding Makeover series.]

6 Responses to How to Make an Eared Architrave Part 2

  1. Brian August 17, 2012 at 10:45 AM #

    Ken, what is the set up time for the glue you use? You obviously like the Borden’s product. What makes this better than Titebond II or III?

    Have you ever used spring clips to hold moldings in place for set up?

  2. Ken August 17, 2012 at 12:54 PM #

    I don’t have a preference between Elmer’s or Titebond, because I think they are both great products (OK, truth be told I like Titebond’s bottles better).

    Here’s my scientific technique for discovering glue cure times given the kind of glue, material, temperature, humidity, and my immediate level of patience.

    1. Smear glue product on both contact surfaces
    2. Mate the two faces together
    3. Wait until I’m too bored to wait any longer
    4. Try installing the piece of molding
    5. If the two pieces didn’t fall apart, super! If they did fall apart, mutter the profanity of choice and repeat.

    I never used spring clips because I rely on my hand-dandy micro pinner for so many of those little pieces. I’ve had real woodworkers sneer at my micro pins, and to them I say bah! I’m decorating with moldings, not woodworking. Whatever helps me get the job done, then that’s what I do. For the truly tiny pieces of moldings, I just let the glue do the work. But I really should have a few spring clips on hand, they would be mighty useful.

    Really, Brian, it’s no more complicated than that. But here’s something you can do that will help you get a feel for your glue cure times: glue some scrap moldings together, let them dry for different amounts of time, and then break them apart to see how firm the glue gripped.

    But I do admit I like a glue that is pretty viscous, because that stickiness helps the two pieces of moldings stay together during those precious few moments when you’re holding the pieces in place before you let go. To increase the glue stickiness before you mate two pieces together, you can set the pieces aside for a few minutes while the glue gets even stickier.

    Glues that are thin (like Liquid Weld) are not bad glues, they just have a different cure rate — a whole different kind of cure chemistry.

  3. Kelly October 17, 2012 at 3:41 PM #

    Ken, can you talk about proportioning? How do you determine how wide the ear should be? I guess it depends on ceiling height, door height and width of casing material? I saw this years ago in Colonial Williamsburg. My wife and I are now preparing to build a home and I want to do something like this throughout. I’ve been googling for a picture to show the builder and found your site. It’s great!

  4. Ken October 18, 2012 at 11:44 AM #

    Hi Kelly,

    When I design an eared architrave I always start by referring to Andrea Palladio’s “The Four Books of Architecture,” which you can find at any new or used book store.

    Then I look at how craftsman have interpreted that pattern throughout history. Eared architraves, as it turns out, have been interpreted in many different ways. A Google image search for “eared architrave” or “shouldered architrave” will be the quickest way to understanding all the variations. You’ll quickly notice the two basic ear styles: short ears and long ears. I prefer the long style.

    I like the ears of my architrave to look refined, graceful. So my inspiration for DOOR TRIM-103 proportions (13-3/4″ long x 3/4″ wide ears) come from the works of Robert Adam, and more recently, Quinllan Terry (think London or Manhattan townhouse rather than southern plantation).

    Since there is no standard model for this design, then the best way to come up with your exact proportions is to do what I do — make sketches on the wall first, and then I make models of the eared portion until I like what I see. Tack your favorite designs up next to the door and then live with them for a few days.

    If your builder has a passion for architectural detail, then he can probably take one look at this post and come up with a materials list with little trouble.

    However, if you sense he’s not that interested, that he’d rather quote you a basic trim package than fuss with this kind of detail, then you’re probably better off finding your own finish carpenter who loves installing these kinds of moldings (not all of them do, some just want to get in and out fast).

    Good luck. Keep us posted on your progress.

  5. Everett December 4, 2012 at 4:45 PM #

    Hi Ken, I wanted to ask about the scribers. Are they the same thickness as the casing used for the door or slightly less than the thickness of the casing?

  6. Ken December 4, 2012 at 5:44 PM #

    Everette, the scribers are indeed slightly less thick than the casing. They are about 1/8″ thick.

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