Introduction: DIY Frame to Stretch Canvas

About: Hi there! My name is Bob and I am passionate about woodworking and teaching. I have been teaching woodworking to adults for several years, and I also make videos for my YouTube channel Bob's Wood Stuff. I put…

I made these DIY frames on which to stretch some painted canvases. The frames are constructed from some scraps of 1" thick oak stair treads and joined using half lap joints. I recommend using a softer wood than oak.

This took a little bit of practice, but the frames are easy and cheap to make.

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Step 1: Start With Some Canvases

Start with some painted or blank canvases. I recommend making two or three at the same time, because this project is made faster with repeat cuts.

Step 2: Measure the Painting

Measure the height and width of the painted part of the canvas. This will be the final size of the frame.

Step 3: Rip the Wood Frame Pieces

Rip the pieces of wood on the tablesaw to their final width. I am ripping the pieces to 1"x1", but if you have thinner wood to work with, you should make it 1-1/4" wide.

Step 4: Cut the Frame Pieces to Length

Using a miter saw or a crosscut sled on the table saw, cut the frame pieces to length. The side pieces will be the full height of the panting, and the top and bottom pieces will be the full width of the painting, because they will overlap.

You can see my video on how to make a crosscut sled here:

Step 5: Insert a Dado Stack Into the Table Saw

The dado stack is optional, but it saves a lot of time. This can also be done with a regular blade and multiple passes.

Step 6: Mark the Ends

On one of the frame pieces, use a pencil or marking gauge to mark half the thickness of the frame.

Use this mark to set the height of your dado stack or tablesaw blade.

Step 7: Set a Stop Block and Make Cuts

Set up a stop block on your crosscut sled that at the full width of the frame piece. For example, this frame is 1" wide, so I am setting the stop block at 1".

Cut the shoulder of the joint by putting your piece against the stop block, and then repeat with more passes to remove the rest of the material.

Do this for all of the frame pieces, removing half of the piece on the ends, on the same face of the piece.

The dado stack will ruin your crosscut sled by making a large kerf in it, so use an old one or make a sled that is dedicated for dado stacks and angled cuts.

Step 8: Glue and Clamp the Corners

Glue the corners with wood glue and clamp them together.

Check the corners with a square, or measure the diagonals to make sure the frame is square.

Step 9: Nail or Staple the Corners

Once the glue has dried, remove the clamps and finish nail or crown staple the corners of the frame.

If you don't have clamps for the previous step, you can nail the corners while the glue is wet and it should help clamp them while the glue dries.

Step 10: True Up the Frame Surface

On my frames, a couple of the pieces stood up above the other ones, because my half lap joint wasn't perfect.

Hand plane the high parts until they are flush with the other pieces, or sand them down.

Then add a slight chamfer to the corner with a plane or sandpaper, so the canvas is not wrapping around a sharp-edged corner.

Step 11: Align the Frame to the Painting

I drew a line on the back of the canvas that shows where the painting ends. This helps a lot with aligning the painting.

Place the frame within this rectangle.

Step 12: Begin Stapling

Pull up one of the sides and staple it in the middle.

Then pull up the opposite side and stretch it tight and staple it in the middle.

A set of canvas pliers helps a lot to stretch it tightly, but it is possible to do with just your hands, although more difficult.

A hand-operated stapler also works, but a pneumatic stapler is much easier. See the tools list at the beginning.

Step 13: Staple the Rest

Rotate the frame and staple and stretch the other two sides. At this point you will only have 4 parts stapled.

Once the middle is stapled and stretched, continue that process, working outward towards the corners.

Step 14: Fold the Corners

Fold the corners neatly and staple them to the back of the frame. This fold should hide all the excess canvas in the corner. This is the "hospital corners" method from upholstery.

Generally, the sides of a canvas are more visible than the top and bottom when it is hanging, so the thicker part of the hospital corners should be on the top and bottom of the frame, not on the side.

Step 15: Install the Hanging Hardware

Screw an eyehook into each side of the frame, and stretch a wire between them. It it now ready to hang or to paint!

Step 16: Enjoy! It's Done!

These two paintings came out very nice on their frames, and I will use this process a lot in the future to make cheaper canvases and for using paint-by-numbers canvases.

Thanks for looking and make sure to check out my Youtube.