How to Build a Picture Frame

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RON HAZELTON:
My friend Hugh Morton down at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina is a wonderful nature photographer and he just sent me this photo of one of the bears at the park down there. Now I was going to take this down to a frame shop and have it professionally framed. And then I thought, you know what, this is a perfect workshop project -- custom making a frame.

So that's exactly what we're going to do right over here at the workbench. So come on over. We're going to build our frame out of poplar. I picked this up at the local home improvement center, and we'll be using three different thicknesses -- 3/4 inch, 1/2 inch and 1/4 inch.

So the first thing I want to do is rip this down to the proper width. Now to round over this piece of wood, we're going to use this router bit called a roundover bit. It will mount into the router like this and the router in turn is held in this router table. Now come on under here and take a look.

This is just a standard router clamped upside down. Now normally with a router, you move the router over the work, but when you're using a router table, you're passing the work over the router. Now this is going to form the base of our molding, our picture frame, if you will.

And what we're going to do next is we're going to stack on top of this, just a smaller piece of lumber. This is the 1/2 inch thick. It's going to go right on top, just like that. I'll just put some glue on the bottom. Now, I want to get this nice and evenly spread out.

So we'll take a glue spreader and just kind of paint this on here. So what we end up with is a nice even film of glue. Now we'll take this, plop it right on top of that piece that we just finished routing there. I'm going to make it flush with the back. Then we'll take some spring clamps, put one of these every few inches. This is the last one right here. Okay. Now we'll set this one aside to dry and we'll do up a few more, just like this.

Well, the glue's dried, the clamps are off, here's that piece that we attached. Now this is what I want to do next. Remove this little piece of material right in here. It's going to actually create kind of an S-curve. And to do that, we're going to use this core box bit.

You can see right there how that's going to work. That's going to remove this material. Now see what a graceful S-curve that makes? Now I've installed a straight bit on the router and I'm cutting out a rabbit or a recess on the back side of the frame.

This notch will hold the glass and photograph in place, and conceal the edges. Well, this is the third piece of board in our sort of molding sandwich, if you will. This is going to sit right on the top. And what I want to do is to create a rounded edge on this. So I've set up our router table once again for our final routing.

This is a little round-over bit in here. Now this is a very thin piece of wood, so I've added a couple of blocks here and here to hold this in position, keep it from chattering and allow me to keep my fingers well away from the blade.

Let's go ahead and run this through twice --once in this direction, then we'll flip it over and run it through the other direction. There you go. See how the round shape is carried around the entire edge?

Well, now we're ready to glue our third piece of molding on top of our stack of moldings, if you will, to give us a very interesting profile right here. So let's do the same thing we did before. We'll take some glue --
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Well, here's our molding. A very nice looking profile we've got right here.

Now I need to cut angles or miters on the ends of each section. To do that more accurately, I'm using the miter gauge for the table saw, to which I've attached a wood strip as an extension. I'm also using a stop block to make sure the sections on opposite sides of the frame are exactly the same length.

Finally, we have some finished frame parts right here. We're going to glue these together right now. And I've made up a simple gluing jig right here with a piece of particle board or MDF and then on top of that, a square -- I made sure that this was exactly square just screwed in place, just a few inches in from the edge. So what we're going to do is take our molding, put a little glue on the end of the miter cut here -- I've got a pretty generous coat of glue on this. Because this is end grain, it tends to soak the glue up.

Now we'll take this piece, lay it up against the block, take the adjoining piece, lay it up against that edge and then push these two together. Now you see what the block does? The block makes certain that we have a 98-degree angle here.

We're adding the pin nailer here and I'm going to nail this first from this side -- and then from this side over here, and this one, and then we're just going to repeat the process. And folks, we have got a frame. Pretty as a picture, huh? And how about this portrait?

Well, I've put some stain and a couple of coats of varnish on this and I'd say it's time to make this picture perfect. So we're going to take a piece of glass first of all, and drop this right into that rabbit that we cut earlier -- get it in there and here's our photograph. Put a mat around the outside edge of that, drop that right on top of the glass just like so.

We'll hold the photo, mat and glass into the rabbit we cut earlier, with these glazier's points, used by glass installers to hold windowpanes in place. To protect the back and keep dust out, we'll attach a sheet of brown craft paper with masking tape.

Well, there it is. You know, making your own frame can add a very personalized touch to something that's special to you.

Design, build and Finish a Custom Picture Frame in a Few Simple Steps.

Add a personal touch to a photograph, print, or piece of art by designing and building your own picture frame. Taking the time to create your own will allow you to design a frame that fits your decor, the nature of the artwork, as well as give you the satisfaction that comes with doing it yourself.

Select the Material for Your Frame
Step 1

Select the Material for Your Frame

For this project, Ron is using poplar. This hardwood is readily available at most home improvement stores, and is fairly versatile. To build this frame, you will need three different thicknesses, but if you'd like a frame with a little more (or less) heft, then you can be flexible with the thickness of the wood that you choose. Obviously, a heaver frame may be more appropriate for a larger piece. Once you've selected the thickness of your stock, use a table saw to rip it to the correct width.

Round the Edges of the Frame Stock
Step 2

Round the Edges of the Frame Stock

When building a custom frame, you can add your own unique design touches by rounding and shaping the pieces of stock that you assemble. A router and a router table are the easiest way to do this. A round-over bit will eliminate any sharp edges and give the framework a smooth, sculpted look and will help hide the transitions between the pieces.

Glue and Clamp the 1st set together
Step 3

Glue and Clamp the 1st set together

When gluing two flat pieces together, make sure that the glue is spread into a thin even layer. This will ensure that the bond is tight and will stand the test of time. Once the glue is spread over the appropriate area, apply a spring clamp every 6 inches or so. If you have to use heavier clamps, make sure you use a piece of wood between the jaws of the clamp to disperse the force, otherwise you will have marks and indentations on wood and they will show on your finished frame.

Create the Contours of the Frame
Step 4

Create the Contours of the Frame

Once the glue has dried, you can use another style of router bit to remove the corner where the two pieces of wood are glued together. This will make the frame look as though it's one solid carved piece of wood. Use a cove box bit to create the smooth, round face of the frame. After you've shaped the face, change the bit again to a square router bit and cut a rabbit joint on the back side. Make it deep enough to hold the glass that will go over the front of your painting, photograph or other artwork.

Completing the Frame Stock
Step 5

Completing the Frame Stock

The third piece of stock that you are going to add to the picture frame stack is fairly thin compared to the two others. To ensure that you can run it through the router table safely, you'll need to construct a simple jig. The purpose of the jig is to hold keep the stock in place, without you having to place your fingers too close to the router bit. The jig can be several pieces of scrap wood that are clamped into place with spring clamps. After the 3rd piece of stock is shaped with the router, glue it into place and let it dry while clamped.

Miter the corners
Step 6

Miter the corners

Using a table saw to cut the miters for the frame ensures accuracy and safety. Use a miter gauge to ensure that the angle is correct and uniform for all of the joints. A stop block will guarantee that all of the frame pieces are the same length. This is vital if they are going to line up correctly when you try to put them together.

Build a jig to glue the frame together
Step 7

Build a jig to glue the frame together

You will find that it is much easier to build a frame that is square and true if you construct a jig to help you line the pieces up correctly for gluing. Simply nail or screw a square piece of stock to the bench, and then use the square corners to make sure that your frame joints are lined up perfectly. Once you have the jig ready, apply a generous amount of glue to the corners, set them together around the jig, and then fasten them with a pin nailer.

Framing the Picture
Step 8

Framing the Picture

After the glue has completely set and you've had a chance to stain, paint, or finish the frame the way that you want, you are ready to put in the picture. First, set the glass into place in the rabbit that you cut on the back side of the frame. Then, you can set the matted picture into place behind the glass. Use glazier's points to hold the glass and picture in place. Once it is secure, tape craft paper over the back of the frame to help protect the picture inside.