Had some solid red oak lumber left over from the Babyroom Built-in Project and decided to make a picture frame for my wife for Christmas. This was my first attempt at this sort of thing but it came out excellent!
- Wood Glue
- Pre-cut Glass (link below)
- Pre-cut Matting (link below)
- Glazier Points
- Polyurethane or Lacquer
- Sandpaper (60,120,220 grits)
- Table Saw
- Bench Router
- Power Sander
- Clamps (at least 3 big ones)
Step 1). Determine your Frame Size
What I learned here is that a 16×20 frame has the internal dimensions (aka “id”) of 16×20. Or in other words if you’re building a 16×20 frame, your piece of glass is going to need to be 16×20.
Also if you want to include a border of matting you can matte down a size. The idea being that you could frame an 11×14 photo in a 16×20 frame and the difference between the two sizes can be found as a pre-cut piece of matting.
Step 2). Purchase Matting and Glass
I have been using a store called Jerry’s Artarama for years and they are excellent. They’re more of an art supply store but they have everything one could ever need in the area of framing. They also have some really knowledgeable staff that can give you guidance on how to complete any framing project. If you don’t have a local store near you, you can buy online directly from Jerry’s. These were the items I used for this project:
Lastly there’s always Amazon. Amazon sells all kinds of pre-cut matting that you can have delivered to your door. The only downside for ordering online with something like this is you can’t get a great look at the precise color until it arrives. I like to pick my stain and my matting at the same time for the best results.
Step 3). Cut Lumber To Frame Width
In my case I started with some larger width boards. So I set up the table saw and made them a bit more narrow, in my cases the frame width was about 2.25 inches.
Step 4). Route the Inside Edge of the frame with a Rabbit Bit
After cutting my lumber to the proper width, I got out my router table and went to the store to get a rabbet bit.
In my case I purchased a rabbet bit that would carve out a 1/2″ x 1/2″ channel. I ran this along one of the sides of all my lumber that was previously cut to width.
Step 5). Cut the 45 Degree Corners
At this point it is a matter of cutting your frame pieces so that you can fit your glass and matte. As I was cutting I took my matte board out several times just to make sure everything would fit without much play.
Step 6). Wood Glue and Clamp
Most folks secure frame corners together with several joining techniques however I was using red oak for this project which is a very porous species of wood and I didn’t think it would be necessary to add the extra strength.
To confirm the theory, I cut a few extra corners and glued them together with Elmer’s Wood Glue to test the strength of the glue alone. After the glue hardened over night, I examined the test corner by hand at first but when I was unable to break it by hand I put it in the vice and only then was I able to break it.
Glue alone is more than enough for a picture frame made of oak.
As the corners are drying I strongly recommend adding a ton of long clamps to all sides to further firm everything up. I even added some C-clamps to the individual corner pieces to make sure they would stay flush with one another. I had 7 clamps set up as mine was drying, 4 c-clamps, one for each corner, and 3 big long clamps to span the sides.
Step 7). Sand Sand Sand
After the glue was set over night I started the sanding process. Before I started, I made sure to empty the sander of anything that might have been in the collection bag beforehand for reasons I will explain in the next step.
At this point I began sanding all sides with 60, and 120 grit to hone out any large imperfections with the glue-up.
Step 8). Fill in Any Gaps
Since I was using glue alone and I am not perfect there were some very small gaps in my corners. Since appearance is everything with a picture frame I wanted to make sure to take care of these.
Using the sanding dust in the orbital sander dust collection bag I mixed-up a paste of wood glue and oak sawdust. I then used my finger and a toothpick to apply this slurry wherever there were any imperfections in the corner glue up.
This technique also allows the corners to take some of the stain in, where as glue by itself would not absorb any stain.
Step 9). Sand Again
After letting the second glue-up set it was time to sand again. This time I went right to the 220 grit sand paper and smoothed the entire piece out.
Step 10). Stain And Poly
I chose to use a nice red oak stain and some aerosol polyurethane but you can finish your frame however you like. I was tempted to just use some dutch oil and see how that looked but despite having purchased a bit of dutch oil I never seem to want to use it when I have the choice of stain.
Two coats of stain were applied several hours apart.
Then an additional 24 hours of drying time for the stain at which point the first coat of poly was applied. I hung the piece from the ceiling of my workshop while applying the poly so I could get a nice even coating and do all sides at once. I waited another 5 hours or so before applying the second coat of poly, then let the piece air dry for a couple days and voila, the frame was complete.
Step 11). Mount Picture
I still haven’t done this for my new frame but I’ve performed these last two steps for other frames. Basically it boils down to these little items called glazier points, you insert the glass, followed by the matte board, then your picture, I tend to use a bit of masking tape on the edges of the picture to keep it from sliding around in the matting.
Step 12). Apply the Backing
After taping the picture you insert the backer board (usually cardboard for larger frames) and start to move around the edge of the frame adding glazier points on each side.
I use a flat-head screwdriver and a hammer to tack the glazier points in place behind the backer board to hold everything in place.