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Discussion Starter #1
So after my first real attempt to make a picture frame, well a shadow box frame but same thing, I have a few questions for future reference.

First is what is the best way to cut the miters? I have a 12" bosch miter saw and a bosch 4100 table saw in the garage that I would think would work best. I've seen the table saw sleds to cut the miters. Would building one of these be the best way for me to cut these miters to get them accurate? The ones I did were pretty close, cut them on the miter saw, but not perfect. If I need to build a sled of some sorts to cut these angles is there some plans or even a picture of one that you guys would recommend for me that will work good?

Second, do you route the edge profiles before you clamp it up or do you do the edge profiles first and then glue up the frame? I tried doing the profiles first and with some of the issues I had I'm thinking it would have been easier to glue up the square stock first and then run the router around the outer and inner edges?

Third, what are some options for the miter joint to make it strong? Is the best way to do a spline? Or are there other options? Today I tried my hand at using my dowel jig. While the jig worked great I couldn't find a way to clamp all the corners and hold them tight while the glue dried. I tried a few different clamp setups I had but just couldn't get the corner real tight and hold it. Maybe it was that my cuts were off just a hair but there has to be a clamp setup that would work nicer then what I was trying. In the end I used some corrugated fasteners that I drove in the back. Not the prettiest but they worked and they were angled so they pulled the joints pretty tight as I pounded them in. But I would like to figure out how to do these "right" so that I don't have to use the corrugated fasteners in the future.

Anything else that I'm not thinking of? I'd like to build some more frames in the future and want to try and make them better then the one I did today!
 

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The way i do it is with a miter saw.
The number one thing is making the sides the same length must use a stop block.
I rout the profile after i glue them together.
I use a four corner clamp that pulls everything together at the same time.
I just use glue for the corners no failures so far.
Other people will do it different .
This works for me.
Kenbo has a tutorial here search for that.
It has a lot of good info.
 

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Unless you are going into the picture frame business you would probably be fine making picture frames with your miter saw. The picture frame shops use a tool which looks like a paper cutter to make the final miter cut. The table saw sled you mention would do better than the miter box. With a sharp fine tooth blade you can make cleaner cuts than you could ever do with a miter saw.

When I make picture frames I make the molding in long lengths first and then miter it. Running short lengths of molding you are more likely to get some sniping on your cuts or other imperfections you might not see until you start finishing it. I'm not sure what you have intended in gluing up stock for the molding. I think it would be better to purchase stock thick enough to make the molding. When you route a design in the wood when you have wood glued up sometimes it looks bad where you go from one board to another because of differences in the grain.

The spline is probably the easiest and best way to join the miters. You would have to be very accurate doweling the joints to have good results. When you clamp the joints there are many different ways to clamp them. Go to google images and enter picture frame clamps and see which one appeals to you the best.
 

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Remember that for every one woodworker there are at least 3 different opinions as to the best way to do anything.

That said;

Cutting:

I have never made a miter sled. I've always cut my frames using a sliding compound miter saw. I have modified mine by adding Zero clearance fences to prevent chip out. I have two such fences. One for 90 degree cuts and another for 45's. I'll probably make another for any different angled cuts I may make in the future. If the thing I'm making is too tall to fit under the blade while standing, I lay it down and tilt the saw head.

There are two things that are imperative to making good mitered frames or boxes. First is the angle of the cut. For a 45, its easy to verify using either a plastic drafting triangle or the slanted part of a combination square. If the angle is wrong, nothing else will ever be right. Second is to make sure that opposing sides are exactly equal in length. 10"x8"x10"x7-31/32" may look OK, but its not going to be square and the joints probably will not match up correctly. A big reason why I've never felt the need of a sled is because I have both a table saw and a good miter saw that serve me nicely. Also, I'm not real sure that I can build a sled that will end up being exactly 45 degrees.

Routing:

Depending on the profile I want my finished product to have dictates when I do the routing.

For a simple rounded over edge, I'll rout things first, then cut the miters. However, when I'm planning a more fancy edge treatment I'll glue up the frame before routing. This makes shaping the splines a one step procedure as I rout the edges.

Splines:

There are a lot of things on the market sold as corner strengtheners. IMO, the fastest and easiest way is the use of splines. There are two way to do this.

1. This only works on a glued up piece that has dried. Make a jig to hold your glued up piece on one corner and pass it over your table saw making a kerf cut shallower than the thickness of your piece. Then glue in a piece of wood that fills the kerf. This can be either the same wood or a contrasting wood.

2. Make a tall sled that allows you to clamp each piece of your frame so that the mitered edge is flat on the table. This is pretty easy to make with a few scraps of plywood. Just make something that straddles the fence and has room to add a clamp to hold the work piece. Now make a single pass over the blade creating a kerf cut in the middle of each mitered corner. Glue in splines as you assemble the frame.

Clamping;

I've tried many different methods to calmp mitered boxes and frames. All of them left a lot to be desired until I hit on these clamps from Lee Valley.




http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=31162&cat=1,43293,31162

They are not exactly the easiest things to put on or take off, but they really work great and even allow me to tighten up those pesky joints that don't want to stay tight.

I've see a few newer styles that are spring clamps with points attached. I may give those a try someday.

I hope I've at least offered some useful information and not just gotten you more confused. :yes:
 

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Remember that for every one woodworker there are at least 3 different opinions as to the best way to do anything.

That said;

Cutting:

I have never made a miter sled. I've always cut my frames using a sliding compound miter saw. I have modified mine by adding Zero clearance fences to prevent chip out. I have two such fences. One for 90 degree cuts and another for 45's. I'll probably make another for any different angled cuts I may make in the future. If the thing I'm making is too tall to fit under the blade while standing, I lay it down and tilt the saw head.

There are two things that are imperative to making good mitered frames or boxes. First is the angle of the cut. For a 45, its easy to verify using either a plastic drafting triangle or the slanted part of a combination square. If the angle is wrong, nothing else will ever be right. Second is to make sure that opposing sides are exactly equal in length. 10"x8"x10"x7-31/32" may look OK, but its not going to be square and the joints probably will not match up correctly. A big reason why I've never felt the need of a sled is because I have both a table saw and a good miter saw that serve me nicely. Also, I'm not real sure that I can build a sled that will end up being exactly 45 degrees.

Routing:

Depending on the profile I want my finished product to have dictates when I do the routing.

For a simple rounded over edge, I'll rout things first, then cut the miters. However, when I'm planning a more fancy edge treatment I'll glue up the frame before routing. This makes shaping the splines a one step procedure as I rout the edges.

Splines:

There are a lot of things on the market sold as corner strengtheners. IMO, the fastest and easiest way is the use of splines. There are two way to do this.

1. This only works on a glued up piece that has dried. Make a jig to hold your glued up piece on one corner and pass it over your table saw making a kerf cut shallower than the thickness of your piece. Then glue in a piece of wood that fills the kerf. This can be either the same wood or a contrasting wood.

2. Make a tall sled that allows you to clamp each piece of your frame so that the mitered edge is flat on the table. This is pretty easy to make with a few scraps of plywood. Just make something that straddles the fence and has room to add a clamp to hold the work piece. Now make a single pass over the blade creating a kerf cut in the middle of each mitered corner. Glue in splines as you assemble the frame.

Clamping;

I've tried many different methods to calmp mitered boxes and frames. All of them left a lot to be desired until I hit on these clamps from Lee Valley.




http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=31162&cat=1,43293,31162

They are not exactly the easiest things to put on or take off, but they really work great and even allow me to tighten up those pesky joints that don't want to stay tight.

I've see a few newer styles that are spring clamps with points attached. I may give those a try someday.

I hope I've at least offered some useful information and not just gotten you more confused. :yes:

+1. :yes: Good write up. Here are shop made brackets that make clamping pretty easy...
.
corner_clamping.jpg






.
 

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My daughter is a professional frame maker. They have some specialized equipment but they use a simple Makita chop saw to cut their miters. If you have the proper type of blade and know how to set up the chop saw correctly, you should be able to cut dead on miters. Opposing pieces have to be exactly the same length. You use a fence with a stop block to ensure pieces are equal. They don't use a miter slicer since it would be difficult to make sure pieces are exactly the same length. The miters are carefully glued so there is no messy squeeze out. They use V-nails in the back of wood frame material. The Frame material is completely formed before cutting the miters. They have thousands of choices in the stock room ready to go, all finished.
http://www.framing4yourself.com/shop/products/4-5/logan-v-nails/

A strap clamp can be good for picture frames since it will apply even pressure on all four corners.
http://www.woodpeck.com/besseyvariangleclamp.html

These type of clamps are also great for picture frames, easy to make your own out of wood, using a wood screw type clamp in the middle instead of a bolt.
http://www.woodcraft.com/Product/2003087/449/Self-Squaring-Frame-Clamp.aspx
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for all the great advice!:thumbsup:

Looks like I need to make a stop block setup for my miter saw and then can use that. That's probably why my joints were off just a hair.

I was trying to get one of those clamps with the L brackets and threaded rods but woodcraft didn't have any in stock. The guy recommended a setup like cabinetman made, Blokkz Universal Clamping Blocks, Pack of 2 (UCB5R20) - Amazon.com. So I picked up a set of these. They didn't work to well since I had already cut the edge profile which didn't leave much for the clamps to grab. I think they would work better if I glued the frame up first and then did the edge profiles.

I didn't mean gluing stock up to make the molding boards. Was meaning gluing up the 4 sides before doing the edge profiles.

Thanks again for the advice, have some things to try to start out and try to improve!

Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!
 

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I've tuned my Ridgid SCMS to make perfect cuts, had to break the fence ring and epoxy it back straight, and made a ZCI. I have a long fence with a stop block for repeat cuts and I cut all miters to the left, then all miters to the right.

I usually do all the profiling and rabbets first.
For clamping, I like the Merle steel band clamps.

When I make shadow boxes, the back is my main structural component, usually 1/2" or even 3/4". IOW, I don't rely on the frame to support the shelves.
 
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