Taking Millwork Impressions for Reproduction

Woodworkers discuss non-destructive ways to take profiles of existing mouldings in order to make exact reproductions. December 27, 2008

Is there any product out there designed to take profiles from mouldings, more accurately than the profile gauges, without harming the moulding itself?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor T:
There are digitizers, like MicroScribe and Faro. Is this what you had in mind?

From the original questioner:
I'm not sure; I'm looking at some reproduction mouldings that have to be measured and profiles taken on site without actually removing or cutting into the moulding (kerf and notecard method).

From contributor R:
I have used oil based clay (like sculptors use) to get an impression of moldings - it will not harm them. After you take the negative mold in oil clay, take it carefully back to the shop and use something like Bondo, plaster or water putty to recreate the positive pattern. Cut a slice of the positive that you can scan into AutoCAD, and trace for a perfect reproduction of any moulding.

From contributor M:
We have removed a piece that's in an inconspicuous spot like a closet. Other than that the card under a casing or basically what you are doing and go for it, because no one will ever know, because they can't compare them either. Within reason, of course. Good overall dimensions, then we scan the profile tracing, outline it in AutoCAD, and scale for overall dimension. The knife template can then be used for a double check onsite if needed.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I was thinking along the lines of the clay and plaster; I've used that before for carvings. Should work fine.

From contributor B:
If I have the option I remove a piece (since we are going to reproduce it, I can re-trim a window). There are often multiple coats of paint on the trim and the profile gets very muted. I take all the paint off and reproduce the original profile. I have had customers who wanted the muted profile so it matched what is there, but most want what was originally intended.

From contributor U:
Van Dyke sells a product that is two-component putty. Mix, apply, wait 5-10 minutes and peel off. No fuss, no muss. It creates a negative image which can be sent to a knife grinder guy for perfect knives. Have done this many times. You can also reproduce carvings or intricate stuff. I don't remember what they call it, but a salesperson should be able to help if you can't get it on their website through a product search.