My only sister got married in January of 2016 so I decided to make her and my brother-in-law a hardwood picture frame as a wedding gift. This 6 month project turned into a 10 month project due to balancing work, friends, and free time. This is the largest wood project I have undertaken and certainly the most technically challenging. One of the biggest challenges was the lack of tools and budget at the time of making it.
Step 1: Design
To start with I decided to make a 3d model of the picture frame so I could get an idea for size shape and look.
This is my first time using Sketchup for a woodworking project but I was very pleased with the experience and will continue to utilize it for future projects. To start, I measured various picture frames to get the general dimensions I was after. My original idea was very flashy with contrasting wood stripes throughout. I didnt realize until seeing it on the screen that it was not what I was going for. So I changed the design until it is was to my liking.
The end design was a hexagonal frame made of maple mahogany and walnut.
Once the design was finalized on the screen I could calculate how much wood I would need to buy and take measurements for various angles and lengths.
Step 2: Materials and Tools
Clamps (Harbor Freight) ~$30
Mahogany Maple and Walnut (Home Depot) ~$60
Table saw (borrowed)
Band/disc sander (Harbor Freight) ~$60
Drill (Harbor Freight) ~$40
Crosscut jig (I chose to make this)
Push stick (I chose to make this)
Wood glue (Home Depot) ~$5
Miter Saw (borrowed)
String (Home Depot) ~$5
Low gloss tung oil (Home Depot) ~$10
Sketchup Free! http://www.sketchup.com/download/all
Sand paper 40, 80, 150, 220 grit (Home Depot) ~$10
Tape (Home Depot) ~$5
Step 3: (Optional) Making Crosscut Sled and Push Stick
The push stick is for guiding wood through the table saw blade without risking your finger and was made out of a simple 3/4"mdf cut to shape using a jigsaw. Finalized with a bit of sanding and added a hole for some string to hang it.
The crosscut sled is for running wood through the table saw at a 90 degree angle from ordinary. It was made using scrap pieces of cabinetry that were extremely thick and squared on all edges. I followed various Youtube videos on making a DIY crosscut sled. I wasnt looking for something exceptional here as the table saw is borrowed and I dont foresee using it much for crosscuts.
Step 4: Cutting the Boards Down
Using the table saw and fence I cut down each board to the widths in my 3D model
Then using the crosscut sled the strips were cut to either short or long length. If i had a miter saw or chop saw at the time, I would have opted to use it for this step as it is the perferred method for this type of cut. Note the stop block in the picture ensuring that all the cuts come out the same length.
Referring back to the 3d model often I cut up the sections of wood required for the frame. With maple and walnut I cut up 6 long pieces and 75 short pieces of each and with mahogany I cut up 24 long pieces for a total of 180 different pieces. It is a smart idea here to cut extras of every piece in case accidents occur later.
Step 5: Gluing the Strips to Make the Stock
I lied the pieces out in the orientation they would be glued paying attention to grain patterns. Using a pencil, I lightly marked top right etc on each piece prior to gluing so you know which face will be shown once glued.
I placed wax paper around areas glue isnt welcome (table saw, clamp) and taped it down to stop it from moving about. I then glued uniformly on both sides of the wood and clamped down evenly distributing the force overnight.
Be careful on the longer clamps as the wood will tend to bend away from straight. In my case i had to add weights to the top of the long stack of short pieces due to the stack bending under clamping force.
Step 6: Plane Your Stock Down
Ideally every board is run through a planer set to the desired depth for parallel faces. In my case I could not afford a planer so I hand planed each board using an inexpensive belt disk sander combo from HF.
If hand planing (which I don't recommend) use a speed square constantly to check for square while sanding, any imperfections here could be visible in the final frame so pay close attention.
Sand as little as possible remembering that corners will be cut off to achieve hexagon.
Step 7: Glue the Flat Layers Together and Plane Again
I determined the better face for each piece of wood and marked it as the outside face. Things I looked for are knots, grain shape and direction, discoloration etc.
I then glued the two strips together keeping the markings on the outside placing wax paper and clamps overnight like before.
The next day I re-planed the boards just like before to ensure uniform shape to all the glued blanks.
Step 8: Cut Up All That Hard Work
All the detailing in the stock was made using a tablesaw in various ways.
Trial and error here. Before running any of the glued stock through the table saw, run test passes using scrap wood ensuring the table saw settings match the cut you want to make.
Optionally you can use using Sketchup to show the processes step by step ensuring you know exactly how the wood will line up with the blade and fence before running it through. I my case, had I cut off too many of the larger angles I'm then left with no flat surfaces to run against the fence. Meaning I would have to build something additional for that cut to cradle the oddly shaped wood i was left with. Luckily I thought ahed and was able to complete every cut on the tablesaw.
The round cut was achieved with a table saw fence set at an angle relative to the blade. In my case I clamped a piece of hardwood to the table to act as a fence since the fence I have only goes straight. Start small with these cuts since the blade is under more stress than typical. Then gradually move the blade more and more out of the table doing about 4 passes before reaching the desired depth. My tablesaw blade is moved up and down via a knob. One I found the correct depth using scrap wood I lowered the blade back into the table counting how many full spins I was doing. This way I could make gradual cuts and multiple passes and still know when Im nearing the correct depth.
30 degree cuts are then done with a miter saw to achieve the hexagonal form. Cut the first side of each piece as close to the end removing as little useable wood as possible. This is a good time to remove any major defects near the end of the stock that are beyond repair. Spin the miter 120 degrees so it is on the opposite 30 degree cut. Now starting with the shortest piece of stock line up your blade as if to chop as little off as possible from the other face but do not cut yet. Instead without moving the wood line up a stop block touching the 30 degree tip you previously cut. Lock in the stop block and then proceed to cut. Remove the piece and set aside, push each following piece up against the stop block and cut for a perfect match.
Youtube has decent videos on how to cut moulding designs with a tablesaw. Use the techniques but also be aware of the limits of the tablesaw including maximum angle the blade can rotate and how far out it will rise.
Step 9: Sand Sand Sand
Hand sand away every area of the newly cut pieces (excluding the faces of 30* cuts!) until no glue, saw marks, or bumps are left
Sanding on the recently cut 30* edge could result in it not aligning correctly once the pieces are glued so try not to sand this.
Use 40 to 80 grit to remove large amount of wood to shape the pieces but dont worry to much about final appearance as they will be sanded much more thoroughly later.
It is a good idea at this stage to dry fit the pieces like in the photo to ensure the angles line up correctly before proceeding. If they do not go back and recut each piece until they do, this will make or break the final appearance.
Step 10: Make Gluing Rig and Glue
I was inspired by the ease of traditional picture frame clamps but was limited by budget.and found most to only contain 4 90 degree corners instead of 6 120 degree angles like I needed.
Instead I sought out to make a clamp by cutting a piece of hardwood down at 120* angle to fit the hexagon's outer angle. I then notched out the back of each piece to allow the string to sit and not slide around
On a level surface I aligned everything dry and ensured the clamping rig works and is stable. From here I prepped the area for gluing by laying down sheets of wax paper wherever glue may drip out and on the face of each clamping block.
I added a thin layer of wood glue along every surface to be glued ensuring it hits all sides and slowly tightened the string till it seeped out, constantly realigning the clamping blocks to make sure the corners are receiving even pressure.
Step 11: Final Sanding
Gluing will leave many rough edges and squeezeout that will need to be cleaned up. I started with 80 grit to take down the larger high points shown in the photos. After 80 I moved onto 150 grit to smooth out any cracks, pits, scratches, and cross sanding marks left behind. From here i moved onto 220 grit to really give it an extra smooth finish.
This step requires lots of patience. This frame took me a couple days of sanding to get into the final shape I desired.
To help with sanding use the spray adhesive to stick sandpaper sections to scrap pieces of wood for a cheap sanding block. In my case I found a scrap with 30 degree cuts in it perfect for getting in the inside corners of the frame.
Step 12: Making a Backing
I made a hard backing out of dark brown hardboard available from Home Depot. I cut it to the same shape as the interior of the hexagon then sanded the corners until it snuggly fit on all walls.
Next I copied the hardboard shape onto a smooth piece of white cardboard to make a soft backing to go between the photo and the hard backing. Once they both fit within the frame, finishing nails were pre-drilled for and then tapped in along the back of the hardboard to press it into place and keep it from moving.
Step 13: Finishing and Protecting
Formby's Tung oil from Home Depot was used to seal and protect the frame while still allowing the woods natural colors to shine. Only apply the oil after all sanding is completed and you are pleased with the final texture.
The intentions of the picture frame was to house wedding photos but I will leave my sister to decide exactly what goes in it. I will update this instructable with a picture once the frame is filled and hung.
Although this picture frame took many more months than expected to finish, it is the most fulfilling and most involved wood project I have taken on but I absolutely love the finished product. Pro tip: It is acceptable to give wedding gifts up to a year after the date of the wedding ;)
Thanks for reading! I hope you liked my project, possibly learned something, or got inspired to make this or something similar I will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.