Picture of How to Build a Picture Frame
How to build a high-end wood picture frame to accommodate a large oil on canvas. Awesome art by Emily Keyishian.
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Step 1: Make or acquire art

Picture of Make or acquire art
Make something brilliant, or find someone who has and is willing to sell it to you for a reasonable price.

Most cities will hold artists' open studios, where you can walk around checking out neat art, meeting the artists, and generally poking through interesting live/work spaces. This means you can find work by young/unknown artists, who are usually much less expensive than big-name artists yet often just as talented, and that you don't have to pay exorbitant gallery markups. Get out and look around- meet some neat people, support a starving artist, and get inspired to make something yourself.

I found a neat piece by Emily Keyishian. You can check out her art during the SF open studios every October, or as listed on her website. Of course, this picture needed an equally impressive frame. Having spent all my money on art, I got to make the frame myself.

Step 2: Select wood

Picture of Select wood
Measure your picture and draw out a rough frame schematic, then go and find some beautiful hardwood lumber.

I wanted a rich, deep brown wood to bring out the brownish bits of the oil painting. We went to PALS in Oakland, CA, and got sustainably harvested Chechen, a Central American hardwood. The boards were planed but needed to be edged, so I made sure to select boards wide enough to accommodate my needs after the edges were trued.
wolf865 years ago
wow! awesome painting and beautiful frame!
canida (author)  wolf864 months ago

Thank you!

rickharris2 years ago
1. Your circular saw should have a cap over the blade to prevent the wood riding up and being thrown back at you - It happens and it hurts (I know.)

2. It should have a riving blade behind the saw to keep the cut open - See point 1.

3. Your saw blade is blunt hence the burning.

4. Please use a push stick to push the wood through the saw rather than your delicate hands.

Other then that a neat well written instructable.
canida (author)  rickharris4 months ago

Thanks for the feedback! This was a learning project for me many years ago; now I have a much better understanding of the tools, as well as access to better ones. :)

Burningeko2 years ago
Pro tip:
too keep your hands free of the whirling blade of death, use a push stick (I used to use a baseball bat that I squared off, good grip and nice flat edge)
canida (author)  Burningeko4 months ago

Yes, push sticks are the smart choice for those who wish to keep all their fingers!

ActionAbe1 year ago
Solid instructable, but there are some issues with the way you're using equipment, that are probably just making more work for you. If you're having to clean up burn marks, you're doing something wrong. I'd check the manual to make sure but the most common causes of burning that I know of are:

1. Dull saw blade.
2. Pushing wood too fast.
3. Saw blade alignment with the table is off.
4. Your blade is too high.

If you use the right blade, like one for finish work, you'll find that the amount of sanding you end up doing is really minimal. Also, I would not risk my fingers like that. Use a pushstick for anything less than a handspan from the blade, especially since you're going to want to get it all the way through. A screwed up piece of wood is infinitely more preferable to screwed up fingers. You can buy or make a pushstick for a pittance.
canida (author)  ActionAbe4 months ago

Thanks for the feedback! This was a learning project for me, and in retrospect you're certainly right about the dull blade and pushing too fast. I'd do it a bit differently now.

I wouldn't recommend drilling screws into the painting/stretcher bars, or even for that matter having metal or oil treated wood be in direct contact with the canvas. I mean, i guess it's ok if it's cheap art or something you don't really care about, but it's sorta disrespectful to the artists work. simple pine spacers along the frame could have made the painting float in the exterior frame better, and even, wood swatches to secure the back of the frame. I also, don't generally get the idea of just surrounding the perimeter of the canvas... for having access to a wood shop, you really ought to have boxed in the painting a bit. almost every painting frame will cover the canvas somewhat, I think this is a good demo of how to join the wood together and whatnot, but it's not a good example of a frame for a canvas.

canida (author)  mark.sullivan.77924 months ago

Thanks for the feedback, this was a learning project for me. The frame is also designed to fit my tastes exactly. :)

Please post a framing Instructable, I'd love to learn how you'd do it.

jakee1176 years ago
Very cool art and frame... maybe some detil with a woodburning pen would be cool... just an idea.
canida (author)  jakee1175 years ago
Ooh, neat idea! Thanks for the suggestion - will have to try it next time.
sleeepy26 years ago
I've always wanted a biscuit joiner. Do you use it often?
canida (author)  sleeepy26 years ago
I don't use it terribly often, but when I do it's usually invaluable.
FridaFreak7 years ago
This is excellent, saved me a lot of time and a trip to the craft store for help. Couldn't be easier.
Atomic6457 years ago
Places like Home Depot will do the first few steps of wood cutting for you. Sadly, it means having to use their commercial, non-special wood. Still good if you don't have the fancy tools.
rush_elixir7 years ago
Thanks, keep up the great work
rush_elixir7 years ago
Do you have an easy way of doing this without using some specialized tools. thanks. Nice work !!!!
canida (author)  rush_elixir7 years ago
You can easily get away without a biscuit joiner- just use finishing nails to connect the corners, countersink the nails (tap them in past the wood surface), and use putty to cover the holes. You could use a different type of saw to make the long cuts, but would have to be much more careful about keeping your lines straight. Does that answer your question?
Phill8 years ago
That's amazing! How much was this "yuppy hardwood" you speak of; I may be trying this out after I get some form of wood working skill.
canida (author)  Phill8 years ago
It was about $7-8/board foot.
Phill canida8 years ago
Thank You. =)
Pet Pepper8 years ago
very nice instructable... i will save a good amount of money now
and nice painture, by the way.
sam8 years ago
mmmm.. I love the smell of tung oil.. It's a wicked finish. This looks great.
Jafafa Hots8 years ago
Thanks. Well done, good walk-through and photos.