Phil Davy shows you how to make your own picture frames! Although you can buy decent enough picture frames for just a few pounds at your local supermarket or online, they’re often quite similar to one another.
Making your own means you can experiment with various woods and profiles, so they become more individual. They also make great presents, particularly when framing a favourite family photo or picture. They’re cheap enough to produce if you’ve a few offcuts of suitable length, too. Assuming you have a suitable saw for cutting mitres accurately, all you need is glass and hardboard or MDF backing to complete. Contrasting vivid timber such as padauk with pale sycamore veneer looks quite dramatic and is easy enough to achieve.
To ensure great, tight joints it’s crucial that opposite sides of a square or rectangular framework are identical in length. If not, there is no method that mitres will close up without a gap somewhere. This is relatively simple as you should just cramp a stop in the correct position along the fence if using a powered mitre saw. Airplane up if the framework sides are longer in relation to the back fence of the saw. You plunge the blade down through this plank on the first cut.
Don’t assume that the 45°mitre settings on your saw’s protractor base are spot-on. With the machine unplugged, check the angle between the blade and live rear fence with a rigid plastic set square or a digital angle finder. For greatest accuracy, it is better if you leave the blade position set up once you’re happy with the accuracy of the cut. You can saw both left and right-hand mitres simply by flipping the moulding over. Always rout rebates plus moulded profiles before sawing mitres. It’s more accurate to do this on a router table, though a small hand-held palm router is fine for minor profiling. Make sure you assemble the frame on a completely flat surface, too. Don’t assume a bench top is dead flat without checking it with a straightedge first.
- Plane the timber slightly thicker than the finished frame size. Saw the board to give narrow lengths, then plane their sawn edges.
- Cut several veneer strips with a craft knife and straightedge. These should be slightly wider than the finished timber size.
- Check the grain matches on each length and mark with a crayon. Spread PVA glue liberally on to each piece of wood.
- Cramp the three lengths together, with veneer strips sandwiched in between. Adjust, as the timber will slide when tightening cramps.
- Once the glue has dried, plane the face side, then thickness the timber so it finishes at 20mm.
- Cut a rebate 10 * 7mm on the underside of the timber. It’s easiest to do this on a router table with a straight bit.
- Add decorative chamfers on both inside and outside edges. Use a bearing-guided chamfer bit in a palm router or table mounted.
- Mark the frame pieces to approximate length and saw one end at 45°. Do this on each component.
- Mark the first side to exact length and position against the mitre saw fence. Cramp a stop to the fence and cut two matching pieces.
- Check that the frame is square. If not, trim with a finely set bench plane and mitre shooting board.
- Set out a Veritas cramp ready for the frame. Apply PVA glue to the mitres and position the pieces. Firmly tighten each corner adjuster.
- Clean up the surfaces with a delicately set block plane, but if timber has interlocking grain, then use a cabinet scraper for final smoothing.
- Brush on finishing oil and wipe oil surplus after a couple of minutes. Alternatively, just use a clear wax polish and buff.
- Cut 2mm glass to size or order this from a glazier. A piece of 3mm hardboard or MDF is ideal for backing.
- Add glass followed by the picture. Either pin or clip the backing board into the rebate and attach hooks or a flap.
Sawing & trimming mitres
I used a sliding mitre saw for cutting the mitres on the padauk frame, while l reverted to my trusty Nobex Champion saw for making a hexagonal frame. One of the advantages of using this saw is the indexed protractor base. Not only when making cuts at 45° and 90°, but the icons make it quick to select the correct angle for sawing precise mitres for five, six, eight and 12-sided frames. You don’t even have to bother with a sliding bevel; the angles here are spot-on. If you need to trim a sawn joint, perhaps the most accurate method is to use a mitre shooting board with a finely-set bench plane.
One of the most useful workshop aids, you can build one from MDF or birch ply for longer life. My board has a removable triangular section, which is screwed halfway along its length for trimming timber at 45° it works well, assuming the plane is nicely honed. For trimming end-grain at 90°, simply unscrew the triangle and revert to the hardwood stop across the end.
Veritas four-way speed clamp
This is quite an expensive cramp, but capacity is pretty impressive and it works a treat. Consisting of four steel rods, each length is screwed into a sturdy, glass-filled nylon corner block. These, in turn, enable the adjacent rod to slide through it at 90°. When assembling a framework brass speed are tightened to supply pressure. Because the knurled nuts have cancel screw threads, it is possible to slide them along the rods fast, threads just biting when they reach a solid corner.