July 26, 2014 8:36 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a piece of molding for a Chicago apartment

So my house has a mixed bag of messed up and painted over molding, I'm looking to replace it with a stained wood molding in the same design. So far I haven't been able to find a matching piece and I would prefer not to have to have it milled. I was originally hoping to remove the existing pieces, strip and stain them but a lot of them are in too bad of shape. It's in 3 pieces and the top part in particular is what I'm having trouble finding.

Here is a not messed up painted piece still attached

Here is a piece I've removed already

This is in a 1930 chicago apartment that I own. The whole place is very poorly painted wood but I have a dream that it will be wood grain again some day. Haven't totally figured out how to deal with the door casings or this molding yet. Stripping has not worked well on anything so far, other than a door I took to get dipped. Finding this piece for sale would be a start. Total height is 7", this piece is about 2.5".
posted by mike_bling to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
What kind of places have you looked? I haven't done home improvement stuff as an adult, but as a kid I accompanied my mom to all sorts of construction supply places and often she had good luck tracking weird things down at old, non-chain stores that catered to contractors and craftspeople. Often these were in out-of-the-way, sometimes sketchy parts of town.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:08 AM on July 27, 2014

You want a millwork shop, not a lumberyard or home center. If the lumberyard or home center can help you, it will only be because they have a good millwork shop that they can order it from. Best case scenario is that it's a standard profile and they can just pull the cutters off the shelf and make you some molding. Failing that, you either substitute some similar profile, or pay to have custom cutters made.

Edit: I somehow missed that you don't want to have it milled. I guess all I have to offer then is a wish for good luck.
posted by jon1270 at 4:32 AM on July 27, 2014

Did you come across Chicago Molding Outlet? No experience with them, but it looks like it has potential.
posted by evisceratordeath at 11:26 AM on July 27, 2014

Hoo boy. If you want real wood grain, I don't have much to say except what you already know -- either you're going to have to carefully repair what you've got, or have it custom milled. Back then, moldings were made by thousands of local artisans using unique profiles created in their shops. What I find online for order is that there are a number of very exotic and fancy molding replacements available, but not much that's in between home-center-generic and ornate. There would just be too damn many options.

If you were going to leave it painted, a lot of people are going with composites or plastic/resins to get the look they want more cheaply. But you want that wood grain -- I suspect you're going to have to pay for it. Relax, it's a one-time expense and it won't break the bank, and you'll be able to enjoy the look for years to come.

What I'd suggest is working your network to find "a guy" -- someone with the appropriate workshop and time to spare and no great need to charge an arm and a leg. Maybe someone who's retired. You'll probably end up using him more than once.
posted by dhartung at 6:17 PM on July 27, 2014

I'm late to the party, but I'd suggest looking at architectural salvage places in the Chicago area. A quick Googling shows there are many - and although some doubtless have Big Important Items, there's bound to be someone with molding. The Seattle area has several - these are places that come in and take out moldings, doorknobs, doors, sinks, anything that can be re-used - and then re-sell at a retail place. We were able to perfectly match our door and window casings from 1936 - so although some were custom, there are also common patterns. Yours is plain enough to suggest you may find a match. Have fun!
Re-use is another commonly used word for this.
posted by dbmcd at 6:24 PM on July 27, 2014

This is probably no help to you but I'm a pedant and need to call out the general assumption that the creation of complex moulding requires special rotary shapers. For small runs, the old timers used a rabbet plane for the basic layout and then specialty profiled wooden moulding planes like hollows, rounds, quirks, ogees or ovolos to refine the curves. Later, the Stanley 45 and 55 planes were sold as an alternative to the wooden moulding planes. Another way to refine the curves is to use a "scratch stock", which is a piece of profiled saw plate held in a fenced wooden clamp. If you only need 8 or 10' and you already know how to sharpen blades, then it's a fun project. More than that would be no fun.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:46 PM on July 28, 2014

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