How to make your own Picture Frames

Let me preface this blog entry by letting you all know that I am NOT a framer.  I needed lots of frames made and decided to learn how to do it on my own.  In this blog entry I will tell you what I did, what I learned and what I would do differently.  I am sure there are people out there (wood workers?) that know how to do certain steps much better than me.  I think the frames turned out pretty good so I must have done something right…

STEP ONE:  Purchase all the required tools

This first step is a costly one.  I am planning on making frames for some time and making lots of them so I decided it was worth the investment.

You need:  A router, a table for the router, router bits, a chop saw (I borrowed one), a studio joiner, wood glue, oil based spray paint, simple leaf and adhesive… and of course, wood.

STEP ONE: (the real step one)


Get all your boards ready to be routed!  I used 1”x3” poplar and hemlock.  I found the poplar less likely to chip but it seemed to warp more than hemlock (even when I made sure they were all straight when I bought them).

I looked at a lot of designs online to decide on how I wanted to cut my molding.  I decided I wanted it simple yet intricate.  I’ve always liked plein air style frames… basically a flat area in the middle of the frame with some bumps on the inner and outer edges.

The easiest way I found to make the cuts was to start on one edge of the board and cut the with a 1/8” double roman ogee, then center a 1.5” diameter straight bit on the remaining flat part of the wood and cut that out (routers work best if you do a small amount of wood at a time shaving off bits with multiple cuts), then on the remainder of flat area on the outer edge I centered a 1/4” round nose and then lastly cut small notches with a small radius v-groove.  Oops… all that is left is to take a straight bit and cut out the notch on the other side of the board… I cut it somewhere between 1/8” and 1/4” in from the outside edge.


What I learned is that this is a LOT of work.  I learned later that you can contact a custom cabinet maker shop and give them a diagram of a blade that you want made.  It costs $250-$300 for the blade and then just a few dollars per foot of cut molding.  The cost of all the equipment is more than the cost of getting this blade cut and a lot less work.  I think I will do this is in the future.


Once your wood is all routed it’s time to cut the boards at 45 degree angles.  Don’t forget, the short side of each piece of wood has to be the side where the lip was cut and measure the inside edge to 1/8” larger than the painting you are putting in the frame to make sure it fits!

At first my cuts weren’t precise enough and then I watched this video: and got the cuts to exactly 45 degrees.  Also, I had a rough blade on the chop saw I was using at first and it was chipping up the wood.  Get at least an 80 tooth blade for miter cuts… it will save you a big headache.


Put a small bead of wood glue on the cuts and join the frames with a Logan Pro-framing F300-1 Studio Joiner.


One thing I learned on this step is that the studio joiner will break if you tighten it too hard!  This is unfortunate because in order to get a really tight corner you need to tighten it down hard.  I recommend getting some corner clamps (which I didn’t do) clamping them first with some wood glue and then after they are dry adding the V-nail with the studio joiner.


Get the paintable / sandable / stainable wood filler.  Putty it and scrape off the excess.  After that drys sand it until it is nice and smooth.


Now its time to finish the frame!  I learned that there literally millions of ways to finish a frame but some are veeeery involved and I wanted something simple.  It doesn’t get much simpler than this:


You might be wondering why I had red spay paint there.  Well, you can get a really nice finish if you first spray with the red, let it dry, spray with the black, let that dry, and then sand a small amount off to reveal a little bit of the red.  I have done it on tests and I really like the results.  The frame I made for this blog entry is just the black spray paint that I sanded off to reveal a small amount of the wood color underneath.


After the frame is sprayed and slightly sanded I added “chalk paint wax black” to get a nice protective layer with a silky sheen.  Just put it on with a brush and rub it off with a paper towel or rag.  Ooooo, purty.


You could leave it like this but I wanted to have a silver lip on it so I added silver leaf to the inside edge.  I think I did this wrong and will try it another way next time.  I taped off the area I didn’t want the silver leaf on, put adhesive glue on, let it sit for 30 minutes and then applied the silver leaf.  Next time I will take the tape off before putting the silver leaf on… I think this will make for a cleaner edge.

Silver leaf can be pretty finicky.  You will have spots that it doesn’t attach to as shown below.  Just add more glue, wait and add more leaf… eventually you’ll get it covered!


After you get the silver leaf on, remove the tape (or removing before I think might be better) and then just rub on another layer of the “chalk paint wax” if you want a more tarnished look like the one I went for or just put a clear coat to protect it if you want to just keep it shiny.  I guess you could just put the silver leaf on before waxing the whole frame but that would just be too simple!


Stick a painting it in!


Well that’s all folks!  The first and last tutorial I have ever made!  Apparently it takes a lot time to make these tutorials.  I sure hope it has helped someone out there.  Feel free to ask any questions if I missed anything or something just isn’t clear.  I am not a pro but I’ve definitely learned a lot going through these steps!


One thought on “How to make your own Picture Frames

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s