Introduction: CNC Wooden Picture Frames

CNC routers are such versatile tools, and my favorite machine for personal or professional projects. One of my most recent projects was making wooden picture frames for our newly renovated farm house, and the CNC provided perfect results equivalent to that of professional framing equipment, albeit maybe not as fast. I hope you find this project useful and welcome any questions for steps I may have missed.

Step 1: Sourcing Wood

The wood I selected for this project was North American red oak. I've used this wood before with great results making a dining table for our kitchen. The wood grain is amazingly aesthetic and works with light or dark wood stains. If you are going to be painting the surface, any wood that works well in your CNC will do the job, for example a cheaper Pine is very workable and the grain pattern is not as important if it's painted.

If you don't have access to a planer/thicknesser you will need to source wood that is finished to the thickness required. I planed the frame to a thickness of circa 2 cm.

Step 2: Routing Profile

The next step was to route the profile. The software I use for all CNC routing is VCarve Pro, I've found this to work best with my set up, and it takes a lot of the manual calculations out of the workflow. You just need to design your frame profile with vector lines, I use Illustrator or Corel Draw for this, import into VCarve. You then set the wood dimensions in the CNC, router bit size, depth per pass and VCarve does a great job at creating and exporting a CNC readable file for almost any router. Considerations for profile are frame design (I was looking for a simple straight edge wooden frame, but you can create any fancy moulding desired), and leaving routing enough space at the back of the frame for the backing, mount board and printed picture or art.

The dimensions I used were: Thickness: 2cm, Width: 2cm.

Step 3: Pictures, Software and Printing

Obviously you can frame any art, but I added this step for interest. I'm an avid photographer, and decided it would be cool to create a watercolor effect art for the frames, from pictures I had taken over the summer walking in Northern Ireland near the Giant's Causeway. The second picture I took was looking over the River Liffey in Dublin.

The software I used to create the effects is called FotoSketcher, which is is free to download and a great tool for creating watercolor, oil, pencil, cartoon and a number of other really cool effects for photographs or graphics.

Printing the pictures at a quality printer is also very important, as the prints don't always look the same as they do on screen. Find a printing company that is willing to work with you on colour matching and who are able to send a few samples with different colour calibrations. For this I always use Printco in Dublin, who do a great job printing all sorts of art on a variety of media and are always willing to send samples.

Step 4: Making the Frames

The final step is to put all the pieces together, I purchased some affordable frame making equipment from Picture Framing Supplies, which is well worth the investment if you are looking to make a few frames for the house. If you look at the cost of real wood frames, and printing custom art, the investment pays for itself quite quickly. I have listed the tools that are required below:

  • Logan F300-1 Studio Joiner
  • Logan Mat Cutting Kit
  • Inmes Fi-150M Flexipoint Driver

First you need to join each side of the frame by accurately lining up the right angles using the Studio Joiner and securing them with V-Nails.

Once the frames are made, sand them and finish them with your chosen wood dye, paint or leave unfinished as required.

Next, cut your mount board to size and cut out the opening. Or you can purchase ready made mount boards if you are using standard sizes. You will also need a backing board in the same size but with no opening cut out.

Lastly, insert your glass or acrylic (we used a special frames acrylic, which is lightweight and glare-proof), followed by your mount board, then artwork and then backing board, and seal securely in place using the Flexipoint Driver.