I teach technology education in a High School and frames are a project I often do with my students. If a ninth grader can complete a frame, anyone can.
Step 1: Its All About the Stock
The best stock has a rabbet cut (the right angle cut) on one edge. You can also cut a rabbet with power tools, but having a rabbet edge is not 100% necessary. Hardware stores often have trim that can be used for framing. Craft stores and art stores often carry framing stock specifically for framing. However pieces with a rabbeted edge are not 100% necessary.
I use scrap wood, thin long scrap pieces are easy to come by on a construction site or lumber yard. No matter where you get it from you are looking for stock that is long and about 1" wide or wider.
The piece on the left is scrap wood. It was a 1x3, I shaped the rabbet and rounded the edge with a router.
The piece on the right was a scrap piece of tongue and groove flooring. The rabbet was made by cutting way the bottom edge of the groove, the tongue was cut away also. Scrap flooring is great for framing!
Step 2: Necessary and Optional Tools.
Tools on the left are optional. A drill, screwdriver, acrylic knife, and sandpaper. They help but you can get by without them.
Miter box saw: The saw in the picture costs about $30, but I have had almost identical results using a $7 wooden miter box and a $700 power miter box. If it can cut good 45's it will do the job.
Band clamp: You can buy a band clamp for $10 to $20. However my best band clamp is an old cargo strap I modified. Anything that you can tighten like a belt will work, luggage strap, large rubber bands, surgical tubing, I have seen it all work.
Step 3: Layout and Cutting Process
After cutting the end, then use a combination square to measure and layout the frame. Measure on the inside of the frame or the side with the rabbet. Make a mark at your measurement and then draw a 45 from that mark.
I layout one piece at a time and then cut it.
Step 4: Cutting Continued
The key with cutting is to cut very accurate 45s. Clamping the stock in place when cutting makes accurate cuts and a noticable difference in quality.
Step 5: Assembly, Trimming, Gaps
Gaps in the corners are because of one or both of the following.
1. One of your sides is longer than the opposite side. To correct this TRIM the longer piece to the same length as the shorter piece.
2. Your 45s are off, to correct this recut your piece or pieces.
Trimming is done to improve the fit on the corners. You can trim with your miter saw or use a hand plane to cut away very small amount.
Rarely do you have a frame with out any gaps. Large gaps and gaps on the outside of a corner will need to be trimmed away. Smaller gaps and gaps inside the corner can be filled with wood putty later. (Note you can only fill gaps with wood putty if you are using unfinished wood.)
Step 6: Gluing and Clamping
Apply generous amounts of glue to the both sides of the corners. Glue all the corners together at the same time.
Once you have applied glue tighten the band clamp around the frame. I tighten it until you can pluck the strap of the band clamp and it gives you a sound like a guitar string.
Wipe away excess glue with a wet sponge!
Step 7: Sanding
Step 8: Laser Engraving (If You Have Access to a Laser)
Laser engraving can add a great deal of personalization, creativity, and personality to any project.
This was going to be a just a frame. Now it is a frame that commerates the birth of my best friend's son.
Step 9: Attaching Hardware
There are many different types of hanger hardware you can buy. I have 2 types in the picture. But I prefer a 1/4" hole. It is cheaper than store bought hardware. But more importantly a hole for hanging allows the frame to lay flush against the wall.
Step 10: Staining and Finishing
Step 11: Glass
You can cut plexiglass many ways, but I have had the best results by scoring a line with an acrylic knife or utility knife. Then breaking the glass over the edge of a table.
Step 12: Mounting Your Picture
Backing can be scrapwood, cardboard, paper from a cereal box or case of beer.
Place all this in the back of the frame glass down. Tighten your tabs to hold the sandwich in place.
You can also add mat board to the picture if desired.
Step 13: Finished Frame
You are ready to hang it on the wall or give it as a gift.