Introduction: How to Make a Picture Frame From Firewood

About: My name is Johnny and I am a woodworker in NYC. Check out my Instagram to see what I'm currently working on @jtwoodworks and you can visit my YouTube channel to see videos on these Instructables and other proj…

Making something out of nothing is always a fun challenge and a great exercise. Especially when it's when it's something useful. Even better when you make out of something the was going to burned or trashed. One man's trash is another man's treasure right?

Making a picture frame is a fairly simple process and can be made out of practically any material. So, why not firewood. This was an extremely fun project and this particular piece of firewood has sentimental value. Check out the video if you're curious. Without further delay, let's jump into it!

Here's what I used in this project:

Also here's a link to the video that's posted above if you'd like to open it in a new tab and follow along on how I made this project.

Step 1: Mill and Cut Wood to Size

This step is not applicable if you're not using firewood and instead you're using lumber that's milled and ready to go.

First, two flat and square faces are needed in order to make a safe cut on the table saw. This can be achieved by using a jointer or hand plane. Although not photographed above, I used a jointer for this step.

Next, using the table saw, I cut the pieces to their final width and thickness but left them long so there's plenty material incase I mess up cutting the miters. I cut them to 2" by 3/4" and the length was a few inches over the final desired length of 12".

Step 2: Cut the Miters

This step is arguably the most important one. There are many ways to cut a miter joint and I opted to bevel my table saw blade to 45 degrees and use my miter gauge. Setting the blade to exactly 45 degrees can be tricky and that's why I use a digital angle gauge. This little tool is extremely handy to have around the shop and the magnetic base helps tremendously.

It's extremely important to cut the miters at exactly 45 degrees. If it's even a fraction of a degree off, there will be a gap when all four sides of the frame are assembled. If there's a gap in your frame, you can use wood putty to fill it. I wouldn't advise doing this for gaps larger that 1/16". Of course avoiding this is best so take your time to set up your tools accurately.

In this case I'm making a square frame which means all the sides need to be the same length. After cutting a miter on one side of each piece, I clamp a scrap piece of wood to my miter gauge to act as a stop block. This way I can register all the pieces from the same point and make sure they are all the same length of 12" from the outside corners.

Step 3: Cut the Groove for the Back Panel and Glass

Next I cut a groove on the short side of all the pieces that will accept the glass and back panel. I used my table saw to first cut a groove with the face of the piece registering on the fence and then remove the waste material by registering that same face on the table. It's important to cut this groove deep enough for the glass and back panel. Each panel is 1/8" thick so I cut my groove to be 3/8" deep and 1/2" wide. That way there's plenty of space for the panels to sit in the frame, not stick out the back, and plenty of material to hold them in place.

Step 4: Glue Up

Here we go! Time to put the main pieces together.

I applied a heavy amount of wood glue to each mitered face. The reason for this is because end grain absorbs a lot of the glue that's put on it and that makes miter joints very weak. But don't worry! We'll fix this in the next step.

I used a ratchet strap to clamp all four pieces of the frame together and I used wooden blocks under the metal parts of the clamp so they wouldn't damage the frame. After applying the glue and clamping it together it's key to make sure the frame is square as it may have shifted during clamping. A quick and simple way to check this is to measure the frame diagonally. From corner to opposite corner. These measurements should be equal. If they aren't, tweak the frame one way or the other before the glue starts to set up. It's also important to do this on a flat surface to insure your frame doesn't end up twisted or warped.

Step 5: Spline Time!

As mentioned in the previous step, miter joints are very weak and we're going to add splines in order to toughen them up. I used a homemade spline jig in order to cut the slots needed. I then cut a strip of wood to the appropriate thickness, cut it down to size, and glue those pieces into the slots. The long grain to long grain glue connection that happens within the joint adds a lot of strength. Once the glue dries, I cut off the extra material on the table saw.

This can be a tricky process and if you don't feel comfortable doing this, you can add heavy duty staples in the back of the miters to reinforce them.

Step 6: Glass and Back Panel

I went to my local hardware store and asked them cut down a piece of glass to size I needed. Leaving the glass wrapped up for protection, I use it to set my table saw fence and cut my back panel to the same size. I could have measured the glass and set my fence to that measurement but this is a quicker and more accurate technique.

The opening in the frame is 10"x10". The piece of glass and back panel measure just under 11" square so they fit nicely into the grooves i cut in step 3.

Step 7: Finishing Touches

The finish line is in sight!

After a quick sanding, I apply three coats of spray lacquer to give the frame some protection. As that's drying, I use double sided tape to attach my artwork to the back panel. Once the lacquer dries, which is only a few minutes, I place the glass and back panel in place. To prevent these pieces from falling out, I partially insert a staple into the inside edge of the frame. The last thing to do is to add a way to hang the frame and this actually better to do before inserting the glass and back panel. With many options to do this, I decided on a more difficult way and used a keyhole bit in a router to cut a slot in the back of the frame that the head of a screw can fit into. A simpler way to hang a small frame like this is to screw in picture frame wire in the back of the frame or use picture frame hanging hardware. However, I feel like the keyhole slot has a classier touch.

Step 8: Enjoy!!

The frame is all done! So what are you waiting for? Go hang it up in your house or give it as a gift.

I hope you liked this project and be sure to check out the video if you'd like to follow along and watch how I built this frame.

I built this frame as a gift for my girlfriend and filled with things we did together and inside jokes from a road trip we took.

You can also find me on Youtube

Instagram to see what I'm currently working on

Facebook and Twitter for behind the scenes shots

Note: This post includes affiliate links. Thank you for your support!

Trash to Treasure

Participated in the
Trash to Treasure