Introduction: 3'x5' Flag Frame

I made this frame for my wife as an anniversary present. We had moved to California from Texas a few years prior and as a gift, some of our friends gave us a flag that had been flown on the Texas Capitol on our wedding date. We'd had the flag folded up in a closet for a long time and I thought I'd take a stab at making a frame for it. I based my design off of a video from Ron Hazelton, but gave it my own personal touch by doing a little extra woodwork on the joints.

Overall the build was pretty easy - minus one snafu that I'll discuss later.

Step 1: A Jig for the Joints

When I started this project I hadn't thought about writing an instructable until after I created the jig for cutting the joints, but I followed this instructable as a guide for creating my own finger joint jig. A finger joint is similar to a dovetail, but much easier to make (especially if you have access to a table saw and some dado blades).

I used 1x3 redwood for the frame, which meant that my joint's fingers would be .5in each. So my dado blades and jig would be built to accommodate that .5in thickness.

Step 2: A Frame in a Frame

Inside the flag's outer frame is an inner frame that I used to mount the flag to. For this I made some lap joints with 1x3 pine. This doesn't have to look pretty because it won't be seen, so feel free to use some scrap wood if you've got it.

  1. Start off by cutting all of the frame's boards to size. I made the overall frame a few inches wider and taller than the 3'x5' flag so make sure you size the internal frame to account for the internal dimensions of the frame.
    • In my case, I needed 3 boards 39 7/8in long and 2 boards 63 7/8in long. The 1/8 in is being left for the space that fabric will eventually take up.
    • If using a chop saw, you can make your cuts in one pass so that all of the boards are certain to be the same length.
  2. To create the lap joints I set the dado blade on my table saw to exactly half the thickness of the 1x3. Then using a piece of scrap 1x3, I marked on each of the boards where to remove the wood for the joints.
    • You'll need to make 12 cuts total. Two for each corner and another two for the top and bottom of the middle part of the frame.
    • Make sure to square up your table saw's fence so the joints come out nice and square.

  3. Spread a layer of wood glue on the lap joints. Using a small brush helps. Slide the joints together and add pressure - clamps, weights, etc. Clean up any excess glue.

Step 3: Sewing With Staples

Since I was surprising my wife with this frame, I had to be a little sneaky at times. That meant when I added the backing to the inner frame I didn't have time to really document it as well as I should have. Sorry for the lack of pictures on this step! For the backing, I used a combination of foam core, felt, and cotton muslin. This is eventually going to be what the flag is attached to. The foam core ads some substance for tacks/brads/nails to attach to, the felt gives a little cushion to the backing, and the muslin is a nice color and texture to work as the flag's background.

  1. Find some foam core large enough to cover your inner frame from edge to edge.
    • If you're confused on what foam core is, think elementary school science fair backdrop.
    • Cut it to size and using some adhesive (I used wood glue), attach it to the inner frame.
  2. Once the adhesive has dried and your foam core is solidly attached to the inner frame, it's time to cover the foam core with fabric.
    • Start by laying out the felt on a flat surface. Then flip the inner frame - foam side facing down - on top of the felt.
    • Make sure you have about 6in of excess felt and muslin to go past the edges of the inner frame.
  3. Start on one of the long sides of the inner frame and fold the felt over that edge. Then staple the felt to the edge of the frame.
  4. Once one long side is completely stapled, move to the other long side of the inner frame.
    • Starting from the corner, stretch the felt across the frame and then staple along the edge you're working on.
    • Move from one corner to the other and make sure to pull the felt straight and not diagonally.
    • Nobody likes a wrinkled backing.
      • Nobody.
  5. Move to one of the short sides and follow the same procedure as step 3. When finished stapling that side, move to the remaining side and repeat the process from step 4. If you check your work as you go, you should end up with a wrinkle-free felt covered frame.
  6. Once the frame is covered in felt, cover that with the muslin by following the same procedure as the felt.
    • Note that the muslin will stretch like the felt did, but not nearly as much.
  7. Once I had the foam, felt, and muslin on, I took some duct tape and slapped it on to the backside of the inner frame to hold down the edges of the fabric. I figured it would help keep it from flopping around when the inner frame was slid into the outer frame later in the build.

Now take this fabric covered inner frame and stash it some place it won't get dirty while you finish the rest of the frame.

Step 4: The Outer Frame

  1. Cut the redwood boards and plywood backing to size. In my case I needed the redwood boards to be 64.5in. x 40.5in and the backing to be 64 5/8in x 40 5/8 in.
  2. Using the finger joint jig from earlier, create your notches for the finger joints.
    • Be sure to think about each joint to make sure they'll fit together properly. (Two fingers slide into three fingers).
      • I wanted the side boards to have two fingers and the top and bottom boards to have three fingers.
    • I'd also recommend using a scrap piece of wood to sandwich the redwood to the jig. This will help to avoid tear out from the dado blades.
  3. With the notches cut, I needed to cut some channels into the wood that would hold the .25in plywood backing and the acrylic sheeting.
    • The channels only need to be a little over 1/8in deep, so set your table saw depth accordingly.
    • Since I've made this frame I've honestly forgotten the measurements I used for where the channels were cut into the boards, but the key thing to remember is that they should go through one of the fingers of the joints and not land on a corner of the joint (see images). Leave some room for a lip on the front and back, and make sure the space between the two channels has enough room for the fabric covered inner frame, plus the flag, and the tacks that will be holding the flag to to the inner frame.
    • I realize this wasn't so much as a step as it was a description...
  4. Cut the channel for the plywood back by making two passes next to each other with the standard table saw blade at about 1/8in deep.
    • I planned on using a piece of 3/32in. acrylic for the front of the frame. Because of that, I cut a channel the exact width of my table saw blade, BUT eventually had to force a piece of 1/8in. acrylic into that channel. More on that fiasco later...
  5. After you've passed all of your boards over the table saw and made sure the channels and fingers line up correctly, take a piece of folded sandpaper and run it through the channels. This will clean them up and also widen them just a hair.
  6. Piece three of the redwood side boards along the appropriate edges of the plywood. Run a little wood glue in the plywood's channel before you do this and also in the notches of the finger joints.
    • Make sure the fourth side that is open is the top side of the frame.
    • Use some straps to gently pull everything together while the glue dries.
  7. Once the glue has dried, place the remaining top board onto the frame (no glue). In the middle finger of the top boards corner, drill a hole for a screw and countersink it so that the top of the screw can't be seen. (Sorry I don't have a picture of this) Don't screw the top on after you finish the holes.
    • I planned on screwing the top in place, rather than gluing, so if I ever need to take the flag out, I can do so without destroying the frame. Besides, once the flag was hanging on the wall, only a giant would ever see that there were screws on top of the frame. I don't know any giants.
    • I planned on using a couple of scrap screws about an inch long I had lying around that had a nice golden finish to them.
  8. Stain the two parts of the frame - top board and the rest of the completed outer frame. Make sure you stain the inside, outside, and finger joint edges.
    • I used a natural colored wood stain and darkened it up slightly by mixing in some honey colored stain.

Step 5: Attach the Flag

After digging out the fabric covered inner frame from its safe hiding spot, I gave it a quick once over with an iron. I did the same with the flag. I used .5in pewter colored upholstery nails to attach the flag to the inner frame. If you want to get really fancy, you could sew it in place, but I didn't have time for that business (or the skills). The upholstery nails give a nice rustic look to everything though.

  1. Grab a longish piece of scrap wood and make some marks going down the board, spacing them 3in. apart. This will be your guide for evenly tacking the flag down.
  2. With the fabric inner frame facing fabric side up, spread the flag out - centered on top of the fabric. I used a tape measure to make sure the flag was square on top of the inner frame.
  3. Using the wooden guide from step 1, start tacking along one of the edges.
    • I chose to start on one of the long sides of the flag, then did the opposite side, and finished up with the remaining two short sides.
    • I gently pulled the flag from nail to nail as I moved along, doing my best to keep the flag's edges straight and taught.

Step 6: Put It All Together

If you've read up to this point, you've probably noticed a couple of comments about me having some issues with cutting acrylic... I hate to admit it, but I ended up shattering the first piece of acrylic I bought while trying to cut it to size and acrylic in sheets of this size aren't cheap. Needless to say, I was VERY irritated and rather than chancing another piece of acrylic sheet on my own, I found a local shop that cut a piece to size for me. I'd suggest going that route if you're a novice at cutting plastic like myself.

What was more frustrating than breaking the first piece of acrylic was attempting to get the second piece into the channels that I cut for the first piece. Like I mentioned earlier, the second piece of acrylic I purchased was about 1/16in thicker than the first piece. This made getting it into the channel I cut for the first piece an absolute nightmare. During the process, I came very close to turning this flag frame into no-flag firewood, but with some help from a buddy, I managed to get the plastic in place.

All that to say, do yourself a favor and have your acrylic cut ahead of time so you know precisely how thick it will be. You will save yourself a lot of stress, anger, and probably a grey hair or two.

  1. Lay the inner frame - with the flag - inside of the outer frame. Keep the open end of the outer frame facing up.
  2. Slide the acrylic sheet into its channel, over the flag.
    • Having a second set of hands really helps with this part.
    • It might also be necessary to have some sand paper and a rubber mallet handy in case the plastic needs a little 'persuasion' into its resting place.
  3. Slide the top board of the outer frame into position and gently screw it in place.
    • Make sure that the plywood backing locks into its channel.
  4. Hang it up and salute!
    • I didn't take any pictures of this part, but I used some scrap wood and made a simple french cleat to hang the flag on the wall.

Overall, the wife was very happy and so was I. The only downside is now I have to figure out how to one-up this anniversary gift with next year's. Didn't think that part through...

Plywood Contest

Participated in the
Plywood Contest

Homemade Gifts Contest 2015

Participated in the
Homemade Gifts Contest 2015