Making a Wooden Picture Frame




Introduction: Making a Wooden Picture Frame

About: Hi there! I'm Mario, from I've been working wood for years, but it's past time that I made the effort to move from the DIY woodworker I am now, to the high quality, furniture making woodwor…

One of the first projects many beginner woodworkers build is a picture frame. I've been making sawdust for a few years now, but I can't recall ever having made one myself. So for Christmas just gone, I decided to make one for my wife as a gift.

I took a few photos along the way so thought it might be fun to create another instructable from them; especially seeing how much good feedback I got for the last one.

Thanks for looking, feel free to leave any questions in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer them.

If you're so inclined, I have more about this project and many others on my website,

Step 1: Prep the Timber

The wood I chose for this frame was a length of a very dense, red coloured hard wood. I assume red gum or maybe even jarrah but I've very little experience with hard woods so I could be way off. I can tell you that it was extremely heavy and hard. I picked it up from a house renovation I worked on, I think it had been an outside step which led onto a decking.

The first thing I did was rip it down on my table saw into the required widths. In my case, about 80mm wide and 16mm thick. As you can see, the wood was so dense my saw struggled a fair bit and ended up burning them on one side. Burn marks aren't really a big problem, they just look bad.

Step 2: Keep Prepping the Timber...

Now I don't have a thicknesser, jointer or even a decent handplane so my options were limited for this step. I needed to smooth the lengths out, remove the burn marks and get them as flat as possible.

I decided to use my larger belt sander for this task. Using 80grit paper I ran each length over the belt until I was left with a flat surface. I was a bit worried that using the rough paper would create valleys and dips in the wood, but seeing as it was so dense the machine could really only take off the very outer layer unless I held it in place for a while. I was careful to always keep it flat and level and just took my time.

Once I was finished sanding them, I used an old paint scraper as a cheapo cabinet scraper. It worked wonderfully, you just make short, repetitive scraping motions towards you, and watch the grain completely flatten out and become almost glass smooth. There are videos on youtube and chapters of books devoted to caring for and maintaining scrapers, not being a professional, I ignored them all. I found that if I scraped for a bit, then performed the same motion on the reverse side of the blade on top of sandpaper, that I could easily sharpen it and get consistent results.

Step 3: Make the Cuts

I placed each length on my table saw mitre sled and made the angled cuts. The sled was made following along from this design from Jay Bates. It is a simple build that takes little time but provides great results.

There are two crucial parts here:

* The 2 long & short sides must be exactly the same length. Exactly the same. Or your frame will not be square no matter what you do.

* Keep track of what side of the jig you make your cuts on. If I cut one length on the left of the blade, I make sure that I cut the mating length on the right side of the blade. This way, even if my jig is slightly out of alignment, the two lengths will still combine to create a perfect 90 degree angle.

Once they were cut, I ran them through the table saw and cut out a rebate on all 4 pieces for the MDF backing board and plexiglass to sit in.

I also used my router table to put a slight roundover on the inside of the frame, and a chamfer on the outside.

Step 4: Glue Up

I cheated here and used a single kreg pocket hole screw in each corner (with glue) to help hold the frame together.

I fully intended on using a spline jig to help make it more secure but I just ran out of time.

Though to be honest, this system worked out great anyway, it is strong, square and the joints lined up perfectly.

I do love my kreg pocket hole jig. :-)

Step 5: Nearing the End

Once it was all dry, I measured the inside dimensions and cut a 3mm board of MDF and plexiglass to fit.

They sit in the rebate and are held in with some small nails that I tapped in on an angle behind them.

I also took this time to sand and scrape the timber again, preparing for a finish.

Step 6: The Finish

Looking around my garage, the only clear coat varnish I had on hand was this one by Feast that's what I used. You can see in the before and after photos just what a difference it made to the wood, like night and day really. 3 coats with a light sand in between here.

I got lucky with this piece of scrap wood, it really is a beautiful, rich colour to look at.

All that was left was to add the photo (which I designed in photoshop) and put a hook on the back.

I think it looks fantastic and my wife loved it so that's what really matters.

Making a frame is a fairly simple woodworking task, not sure why I put it off for so long!

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    9 months ago

    I've only read the first two steps, but already I can tell that your approach suits mine very well. Make do with the materials and tools you have at your disposal and trust your own ability to experiment and figure out how to do things. Looking forward to learning about your project.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is a great looking frame, and a very nicely put together guide.

    The ability to build a nice picture frame is an under-appreciated skill!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks seamster, I will have to get on to that spline jig though, I can't very well use pocket holes on all my future frames I think. :-)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I think you might be "rabbet" rather than "rebate". :) But great job!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! As for the wording I think that's an american/australian phrasing thing. Similar to colour / color, mitre / miter and other words like that.