how to build a mdf victorian door header entablatureVictorian Style

This post shows you step by step how to make this beautiful entablature from simple moldings you can buy just about anywhere.

And while it may look complicated to build, I assure you that it’s really very simple once you understand the sequence.

Posts in This Series

1.  How to Build DOOR TRIM-114 for About $60.00

2.  PLINTH BLOCK-101: How to Make Step by Step

3.  PILASTER-103: How to Make Step by Step

4.  ENTABLATURE-100: How to Make Step by Step

5.  How Do I Make This Large Baseboard?

6.  How to Paint Moldings:  Steps to paint this door trim and this room are on this page.


how to build a victorian entablature

[This is part of my DOOR TRIM-114 series.]

Materials Needed

[More detail about each molding on my DIY Projects & Inventory page]


If you can’t find this exact crown molding profile, then just make sure you use one that is primarily a cove shape.  The cove aspect of the profile is what makes this pattern Victorian.

More about CM-007 here >>

crown molding for door trim cornice

$1.29/lf (8′) = $10.32


A sheet of this costs $32.84.  Assuming you rip a 6″ wide piece to make the entablature out of, then that 8′ long x 6″ wide MDF board would cost you roughly $4.10.

More about MDF-300 here >>

diy moldings

$4.10 (1 ea. 8′ board) = $4.10


You can find a cove molding like this one pretty much any place that sells moldings.

More about PM-003 here >>

how to install moldings

$4.16 (1 ea.) = $4.16


This molding acts as the entablature’s architrave, though it is a much reduced one from what you’d expect in an architrave of the classical orders.  But it is a common element on door surrounds of the Victorian period.

More about PM-007 here >>

panel molding astragal door trim necking

$0.48 (8′) = $3.84

[More detail about each molding on my DIY Projects & Inventory page]

How to Build the Entablature Step by Step

Before we get to the exact dimensions, let me show you the two ways you can assemble the entablature:

  1. In-place on the wall
  2. On a bench and then install on the wall

Method 1: Assemble In-Place On the Wall

Pros  Allows me to install the foundation flat-stock right on the wall, starting from left and work my way to the right.  This method ensures that I don’t make some silly dimensional mistake that may not be obvious when building it separately on a flat bench.

It’s also a good method for door jambs that are really out of square and plumb.  You know the kind — with wonky drywall full of bulges on all sides.  It’s easier to make those out-of-square adjustments on the fly, especially when you’re wrapping the molding, because you can cover more gaps between molding and wall as each piece is cut-to-fit.

1. Install the First Capital

how to install door trim moldings

2. Install the Frieze

how to install easy door trim molding

3. Install the Right Capital

how to install easy mdf door trim moldings

4. Wrap the Moldings

Cons  It takes more time to install the entablature against the wall because you have to climb up and down to cut, test the fit, trim and then install each of the 27 individual pieces that make up this entablature.

Method 2: Assemble On a Work Bench

Pros  Allows me to build at waist-height right next to my miter saw, and this is no small thing.

1. Make the Capitals

You can see how easy these capitals are to make.  I just rip a few pieces of 3/4″ MDF and then put 45 degree bevels on them, finally I glue them all together.  23 gauge micro pins help hold all the pieces together until the glue on the joints dries.

easy to install mdf victorian door trim molding

Below  I calculate the entablature height considering the following variables:

  1. How much reveal I want on the frieze.
  2. The total width of all moldings that will be wrapped around the flat-stock foundation.
  3. The height and width of any ornate appliques I want to install.

easy to make mdf door trim header

How Tall Should the Entablature Be?

I would have liked to make this entablature another inch or so higher (making it even more characteristically Victorian), but I wanted to install some extra rectangular rosettes I already had on the capitals, and so the final frieze reveal was based on the tallest space in which those rosettes would look balanced.

easy to make door trim header

Note: The capital width is always based on the width of the pilasters.  I can’t think of any reason to make your capitals wider or more narrow than the pilasters.

the decorators supply corporation

Exactly the Same But Different

You know that I like to make front door surrounds more dramatic than the other door molding in the room, architectural subordination and all that.

But in this open floor plan foyer/living room I made the proportions and molding details on the two door surrounds exactly the same.  Adding these appliques to the front door capitals made it more senior to the other.

2. Prepare the Foundation Flat-Stock MDF

Arrange the pieces of the entablature on a flat surface near your miter saw.

diy victorian door trim

Laying the foundation for all the moldings that will be layered on top.

3. Glue the Capitals to the Frieze

diy mdf easy door trim molding

Be patient. Don’t lift this until the glue is really set. You don’t want your capitals flopping to floor. Why, no, I’ve certainly never had that happen.

diy victorian entablature door surround

4. Make the Cornice Hood

The very upper part of the entablature, including the portion with the crown molding — for lack of a better term — I call the hood.

diy door trim moldings easy

The cornice hood has three pieces: left and right capital hoods and center piece.

Below  Don’t pay too much attention to the dimensions below.  What’s important to know is how much soffit reveal you want showing once you install the crown molding.  That’s where you’ll get your exact dimensions from.

entablature cornice

Entablature capital hood length. I goofed this, it should have been a tad wider (see below).

entablature soffit

Entablature capital hood width.

When finished assembling the hood, glue and nail the hood in on top of the frieze.

5. Wrap the Architrave Molding

Note how I have two pieces of molding mitered and laying on the right and left sides.  Those are my test fit pieces.  I keep shaving a hair from an end of the center piece of molding until both left and right joints fit perfectly.  Only then do I glue and nail the center piece in place.  The rest is cake.

diy architrave molding installation

Important Note: Nothing makes installing these fussy little moldings easier to install than a 23 gauge micro pinner.  If you don’t already own one, either a Senco or an Accuset, then stop what you’re doing and buy one, then come back to this page.

moldings for victorian door surround header

Make all the little piece first, test the fit, then glue them in place.

diy easy mdf door trim moldings

It’s easiest to glue all the pieces together and then install as one piece.

diy easy mdf door trim moldings

Piece of cake.

6.  Wrap the Crown Molding

Install the center piece of crown molding first, before making all the pieces for the capitals.  The only difference between installing the crown molding and installing the architrave molding, is that you cut the crown molding using the oft-repeated mantra “upside down and backwards.”

crown molding on door header

diy poplar crown molding for door trim crown

7. Wrap the Cove Molding

cove molding for diy door surround

cove molding for door header

diy Victorian door surround step by step plans

8.  Install the Entablature On the Wall

Use a liberal amount of Liquid Nails and 18 gauge brad nails to hold it in place.

Victorian door trim moldings

Now do you see how really easy it was to build this?  You just make a good foundation of flat-stock and then wrap the moldings around it.  That’s it.  No magic, just a little planning and patience is all that’s needed.

Behold, My Mistake!

Below  I want to point out a mistake I made in the hood dimension.

diy mdf door trim moldings free plans

The arrow pointing to “My mistake” shows a soffit reveal that does not match the soffit reveal on the front of the capital.  They should match.  It’s not something most people would notice once it’s painted, but I notice, and it still bugs me.

The Next Step

The entire door surround needs to be prepped for paint, and that’s another post in itself.  Until then, thanks for reading this far.

Good luck!

Posts in This Series

1.  How to Build DOOR TRIM-114 for About $60.00

2.  PLINTH BLOCK-101: How to Make Step by Step

3.  PILASTER-103: How to Make Step by Step

4.  ENTABLATURE-100: How to Make Step by Step

5.  How Do I Make This Large Baseboard?

6.  How to Paint Moldings:  Steps to paint this door trim and this room are on this page.