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HALL OF FAMER
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
So, I headed out to the shop today to work on a few small projects and I figured that I would honour the request for a picture frame tutorial. So, without further delay, here we go. :thumbsup:



There are several things to consider when building a picture frame. First of all, there is the size of the picture. Secondly there is they type of backer that you will be using. Thirdly, is the thickness of glass or plexi that will be used. Fourthly, you will want to know what material you are using and lastly, you will want to decide whether the picture will be held in with brads, photo turns or another method.

The requested size of this frame tutorial was a 5"X7", so that was already decided for me. Next, I decided that I was going to make a walnut frame, with a hardboard backer, 1/16" plexi and I wanted to hold the photo in with small brads when everything was said and done.

With that out of the way, let's get started.

It was a little cold out in the shop today with the thermometer only reading 1 degree. That's 33.8 for my American friends. So I lit the wood stove, threw on my toque and got to work.
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Because I decided that I was going to use hardboard as my backer, the first step is to cut the backer board to the same dimensions as the picture that will be in the frame.
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The backer board is then checked to ensure that it is the correct dimensions and that the four corners are square. This is important because the backer board is what the frame will be built around and it is the reference point for all measurements from here on in.
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I had an off cut of walnut sitting up in the rack and decided that I would use that for my frame. I'm not even sure what the thickness is, but I think that it was around 3/4".
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It's time to start squaring things up. There are a lot of factors that can affect the miters in your frame. You want to be sure that you are checking your table saw blade for square before cutting and that you are doing test cuts with your miter gauge to make sure that your final cut on your stock will be 45 degrees. Making perfect 45 degree cuts with your miter gauge is useless if you blade is not square to the table. You will create nothing but gaps and frustration. Take the time to check your equipment. If you are in a hurry, then this tutorial is not for you and maybe you should hit Walmart and give them your money for a piece of junk frame that you will never be happy with. A home made frame might take a lot longer, but the end result will be something that you will be proud of every time that you look at it. With that rant being over, I now head over to the jointer and check that my fence is square to the bed of the jointer.
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HALL OF FAMER
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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
I face jointed and edge jointed the walnut to make sure that I had nice perpendicular surfaces to use as a reference point for the rest of my cuts.
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From there, I checked my jointing with a straight edge and a square. Happy that the board was perfectly flat, and the edge was 90 degrees to the surface, I moved on.
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From there, it was time to get out the thickness planer. I wasn't too concerned about the final thickness; I just wanted to plane the board enough to make the unjointed surface, parallel with my jointed surface. As you can see, I was quite happy to be doing this. :laughing: Or maybe I was happy that the temperature had risen enough to take my hat off. :laughing:
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I'm not sure if this picture shows it or not, but apparently, my planer needs some adjusting. I have a small amount of snipe on the back end of the board. It is pretty minimal, but it can affect my frame, so I mark it, and cut it off.
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While I have my planer out and set up, I take the opportunity to plane some scrap maple down to a 1/4" thickness. You will understand the maple in a little while.
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HALL OF FAMER
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The next step is to install my ripping blade into my table saw and check it for squareness to the table.
IMG_0244.jpg

I decide that I would like my frame slats to be 1 1/4" wide, so I set my fence at that measurement and rip my slats.
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I also set my fence and rip some 5/16" wide strips of the 1/4" thick maple. Here, we can see the stock cut and ready for the next step. I know it doesn't look like much yet, but hang in there.
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Here comes the funky part. You can omit this step if you want to, but this is what I wanted to do for my frame so that is what I did. I installed my dado blade to a configuration of 1/4" thick. I set the height of the dado at 3/16" and did a test cut in some scrap. I made sure that my 1/4" maple strips from earlier fit nicely into the test dado.
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From there, I cut a 3/16" deep, 1/4" dado down the center of each of my walnut strips. It is very important to pay attention to the orientation of the boards at this point. Be sure that you keep the boards oriented the same way for each cut.
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Log dog
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Awe man i was just getting into this. Hurry back. Popcorn is done. Looking interesting.that was fast. :laughing:
 

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Woodenboat Builder
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327 Posts
Thanks for the how-to's Kenbo. I actually enjoy the reminders of checking for square, using safety equip, etc as it prompts me to do the same thing and not just go after my projects like a mad man on a killing spree! Plus, your how to threads explain things good enough to make me believe that even I can accomplish quality work!

Watching and waiting ;)
 

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HALL OF FAMER
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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
To help keep me from mixing things up, I marked the side that would always be against the fence with a letter "F" using chalk.
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I then took a measurement of the thickness of my backer board and my plexi combined.
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I added a little bit extra, to give me room to install my brad nails to hold my photo in and decided that 5/16" would be plenty. I then set the height of my dado to correspond with this measurement. If I were to use photo turns to secure my picture in, the height of the dado blade would equal the thickness of the backer board, the plexi and the picture combined so that the backer board will sit flush with the back of the frame. Seeing that I'm not using photo turns for this one, I don't need to worry about that.
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I then flip the slats over and cut a 5/16" deep, 1/4" wide rabbet in the other side of the slats, being sure to pay attention to board orientation, keeping the letter "F" against the fence while cutting. The reason for keeping the orientation the same, is if the previously cut dado is not exactly centered on the slats, they will not line up once the frame is assembled.
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Looking at the end of the slats, you should have a profile that looks something like this.
IMG_0253.jpg
 

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HALL OF FAMER
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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
I then checked to make sure that my previously cut maple strips, fit into my centered dados on the walnut slats. See where I'm going with this yet? They are a nice tight fit, so I move on.
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I then ran a bead of wood glue into the dado and clamped the strips in place. I'm not too worried about squeeze out on this one, but now, I sit and wait for the glue to dry.
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:whistling2::yawn::whistling2::yawn:









Okay, the glue is dry so I head to the planer to trim down my maple and make it flush with the rest of the slat. As you can see, I'm happy to be out of that bulky sweat shirt and down to a t-shirt. Or maybe I'm just happy to be woodworking. :thumbsup:
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At this point, you should have some slats that look like this.
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Now it's time to start with the 45's. I set up my miter gauge for the table saw, installed my fine crosscut blade, checked it for square and made a test cut on a piece of scrap. It's actually a good thing that I did do a test cut because my gauge was a little off. I adjusted the gauge, made another test cut and once I was satisfied with the 45, I cut each end of each slat at 45 degress. If I hadn't done the test cut and checked the test, my frame would have been a disaster from this point.
IMG_0258.jpg


You want to be sure that these 45 degree angles are cut in such a way, so that when the frame is assembled, the previously cut rabbet will be on the inside of the frame.
 

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HALL OF FAMER
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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
There are many factors that will affect the measurement that you set your stop on your miter fence while cutting a picture frame. If you are looking for those magical numbers, I don't have them. The width of the slats will greatly change the setting of the stop. I will, however, show you a foolproof method of cutting your frame to suit your backboard size. It is up to you from there, to record your fence stop settings for future frame builds. Remember though, the measurements that you record are ONLY valid if all other dimensions are identical. It is for that reason, that I don't use measurements for this part and I build the frame around the backer board.
With the initial 45's cut in the slats, it is time to cut the slats to length. I am pointing at the corner, that your backer board has to line up with when the frame is assembled. A lot of people make the mistake of measuring their frame to the inner most corner. This will result in a frame that is too big. Place your backer board in the rabbet cut and line up the edge of the backer with the corner that I am pointing to with the pencil.
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Then, mark a line on the slat at the opposite end of the backer board.
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Draw a line squarely across the slat at this mark. Try to follow along here, because I'm probably going to confuse myself and I'm going to need you to set me straight. :eek:
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Then draw a line, using your combo square, to simulate where the 45 will be cut.
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You should have something that looks like this.
IMG_0263.jpg
 

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HALL OF FAMER
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Transfer the markings all the way around the frame, being sure that your 45's are angled the correct way. Don't laugh, I've screwed it up.
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With all of these lines in place, you should have some pretty good reference lines to set your stop on your miter fence. I usually set the fence so that the blade is about 1/8" outside of the line. I then cut the 45 and creep up on the line until I have the proper measurement.
IMG_0265.jpg


Lining up the backer board with the corner that I previously pointed out, check to see that your backer board is about 1/16" shy of the opposite corner of the slat. You want a little play in the backer board and 1/16" is a good amount of play.
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With the stop already set at the proper length now, go ahead and cut the matching opposite slat of the frame. Be sure to pay attention to which way the angles are being cut. As a little tip, I usually cut the longer slats first, that way, if I screw up on which way the angles go, there is usually enough room that I can at least cut a shorter side of the frame from the screwed up longer slat.
IMG_0267.jpg


Using the same method as I just described, go ahead and cut the rest of the frame pieces. This time, however, you will be using the shorter end of the backer board as your reference for cutting.
You should now have something that looks like this.
IMG_0268.jpg
 

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HALL OF FAMER
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Okay, now we are getting somewhere. Time for a dry fitting. Get out your frame clamp. There are many different types and I have used quite a few of them, but this one is my favourite, by far. Set your frame in your frame clamp and dry clamp it together. Make sure that you 45's are lined up nicely and that your maple inlays are lined up. Don't forget to flip it over and make sure that your backer board fits as well.
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I then headed over to the router table and installed a small roundover bit. I want to soften the sharp profile edge of the inside of the frame window. This is better done before the frame is assembled. If you like, this step can also be done before the 45's are cut. That works as well.
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I then used my small straight edge to allign my router fence with the bearing of my roundover bit.
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I then routed the inside edge of the front face of each of the slat pieces. Don't be a hero here guys. Use eye protection, hearing protection and push pads/ sticks etc. It's never a good time to lose a finger over the sake of not using safety equipment.
IMG_0273.jpg
 

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HALL OF FAMER
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Time for the glue up. I applied a generous amount of glue to the inside surface of the 45 cuts. I spread the glue evenly around the surface and clamped it tight. Don't forget to pay attention to allignment here. A little extra care can make the difference between a so-so frame and a great frame. You may notice the waxed paper under the frame. This works great in preventing the frame from sticking to your bench.
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You can see here that there is a little bit of squeeze out. It is important to clean this up. I use Q-tips and water to clean and dry these areas. Be sure to clean the squeeze out on the front and the back. Squeeze out in the rabbet where your plexi and picture are supposed to go can make it so that the picture doesn't fit correctly.
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Here we are, with the squeeze out cleaned up. You can see by the top right corner, that when the finish is applied, this frame is going to have some really nice contrast.
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Okay, the frame is dry and it is time for a quick sanding.
I used my orbital sander to clean it up a bit and take off the fuzziness left by the water and Q-tips.
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You should now have something that looks like this.
IMG_0278.jpg
 

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HALL OF FAMER
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Wait!!! We're not done

Well, we are in the home stretch now. In my opinion, just glueing the 45's together is not a sufficient way to properly assemble a frame of any kind. There needs to be some other structural member, such as brad nails. Me personally, I hate brad nails. I prefer splines. Contrasting splines in this case, but if you don't like contrast, make the splines out of the same species of wood.
I installed my ripping blade and ensured that it was square to the table. Don't forget this step in any woodworking that you do guys. Taking 10 seconds to check a blade for square is what separates the woodworkers from the hacks.
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I then got out my spline jig. This one is pretty simple and you can see that it has seem some serious use. I'm thinking that it is time to make a new one. I think I saw one in a fairly recent issue of shop notes. :yes:
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I then checked to make sure that my frame sits properly in my jig.
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I clamped my frame in the jig, set my fence so that the blade would cut in the center of the frame (this setting will depend on how thick you made your frame) and set the height of the blade. I think I set it at about 1/2" or so. This measurement isn't critical, you just have to make sure that you blade isn't so high that you cut through the inside corners of the frame. :blink:
Again, I stress not to be a hero. Push sticks/pad and eyeprotection is a must.
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With the spline slots cut in all 4 corners, you should have something that looks like this.
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HALL OF FAMER
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I then pulled a 1/8" thick piece of maple out of my scrap bin and checked it for fit in the spline slots. Once I was happy with the fit, I marked the splines in the configuration shown in the picture. This configuration isn't critical and I only marked it this way to get the most out of the piece of wood.
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I then headed over to the scroll saw and cut the pieces apart. You don't have to use a scroll saw. A band saw, dovetail saw or any other saw will suffice but did you really think that I was going to do a project without incorporating my precious Excalibur? :laughing:
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Here you can see the splines. Really nothing special when you just see them cut up like this but they sure pack a visual punch once they are completed.
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I then proceeded to spread glue onto each surface that would come in contact with the edges of the spline slot.
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Once I got the spline in place, I placed a clamp on the corner and cleaned up all squeeze out with Q-tips and water. Take your time on this and be sure to clean all of the squeeze out. Glueing the splines in place one at a time will make your job a lot easier.
IMG_0289.jpg
 

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HALL OF FAMER
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Here we can see all four corners clamped and glued. Once the glue is dry, we can move on.
IMG_0290.jpg


Heading back to the scroll saw, I then cut off the excess material of the splines. You can sand these off, but I find it easier to cut the excess and then sand. A bandsaw also works well for this.
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Once the excess is cut off, a quick sanding brings the splines flush with the rest of the frame.
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I then installed a 1/4" roundover bit in my trim router and rounded over the outside edges of the front and the back of the frame. Don't set your router too deep, as doing this can result in the bit cutting into your splines.
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I then got out my 1/4 sheet sander and gave the frame a final sanding to 220 grit. I hand sanded around the routed perimeter and interior sections. Don't forget the protective gear guys. Dust in the collectors, not your lungs.
IMG_0295.jpg
 

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HALL OF FAMER
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
And here we have the finished frame, complete with maple inlay and splines.
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Now find yourself something pretty to put in the frame and you're done. :laughing:
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I hope you guys have enjoyed this tutorial and I hope that it has helped those of you who had questions. If there is anything that you don't understand, let me know and I'll try to explain it a little better for you. Thanks for looking in.



Oh, and by the way. In answer to the question..........I take my own photos. Tripod and a timer.
:thumbsup:
 

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Log dog
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Thanks Ken you did a great job explaining the steps. The frame looks very nice.
Looks like you had a good time doing it.
 
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