Introduction: Old Window Picture Frame

About: I've worked for Instructables off and on since 2006 building and documenting just about everything I enjoy doing. I am now the Creative Programs founder and manager for Autodesk and just finished building out…

I like making picture frames from all sorts of things - in this case I used an old wooden window.  Re-using or appropriating different objects to become picture frames is useful because the cost of custom framing big pictures is almost prohibitive for most of the working world, and store bought frames often don't add that personal touch of class and style that you get when you frame a photo yourself, let alone, with something cool, like an old window.

So, why not make your own old window picture frame?  I think I will!

**Note, the large image below is actually not my own work, but that of a professional artist that my family purchased some time ago.  The secondary image, beneath the large image is an example of a window picture frame that I made with a friend.  The professional one looks you'd expect, so that's why I'm showing it below.**

Step 1: Materials

To make a picture frame out of an old wooden window you need:
  • an old wooden window.  In the bay area I know of no better place to get old wooden frames then Urban Ore just off Ashby Ave. in Berkeley.  They have tons there, just watch out for the lead paint!
  • backer board - could be masonite, foam board, or even cardboard, pretty much anything thin you've got lying around
  • the artwork
  • a matte cut to fit the artwork
  • paint (if you want to repaint the frame)
  • painters tape (if you want to repaint the frame)
  • sandpaper (if you want to repaint the frame)
  • razor blade and/or scraper (if you want to repaint the frame)
  • glaziers points or finishing nails to seal the thing up
  • picture hanging wire and wire mounting hardware to hang it
  • brown paper to make it look like a pro job on the back
*note that not all the materials are pictured below...patience patience, they're coming.

Step 2: Strip Down the Frame

If the frame isn't already painted the color that you'd like it to be, or the paint is just too old for your tastes then you've got to strip it off. 

The easiest way to do this is to simply take a sander to the window (angle grinders with sanding disks attached to them work the fastest) and begin to remove the paint from the window.  Start with a rough grit paper (80 or 120) and finish up with something finer (180 or 220).  

Use a razor blade to scrape off any crusty old paint or caulking from the glass surface as well.

Even though I've done this a couple different times on various old windows, I can't seem to dig up the step by step photos that accompany this specific part of the process.  My deepest apologies.  Please forward any questions about how to strip and paint the frame my way.

Step 3: Paint the Frame

With the frame stripped down, you simply need to decide on a color, mask off the area where the glass meets the plaster or caulk molding around the pane with painters tape, and go to town with a paintbrush.

Two coats of paint look best, any less doesn't cover well, and too much more starts to look heavy.

Step 4: Cut a Backer Board and Matte

I'm using masonite as the backer board here for the window picture frame.  It's thin and stiff and will work fine, so will cardboard, foam board, or any other thin material you'd like to back your photo with. 

I cut it down to the exact interior dimension of the window on the table saw.  The matte was professionally cut at a craft store so that it would fit in place snugly.  Michael's cuts mattes for not too much money, as will any other framing shop as well.

If you're going to do a bunch of framing, I highly recommend investing in a matte cutter that you can use at home.  Cutting your own mattes saves a lot of money, is way more convenient, and allows you to make any size matte you like!  My Dad has one and it has paid for itself many times over on framing projects.

Step 5: Assemble

Secure the matte to the artwork with double sided tape if the artwork is the same size as the matte and you know that you will be covering up some of the artwork with the matte.  If the artwork is smaller, then you can simply tape it onto the matte from the back and not risk damaging anything.

Place the artwork and matte into the window frame.  Then lay the backer board down behind them.

Step 6: Glaziers Points

Glaziers points can be purchased at any framing shop, and also at most major craft stores.  They are simple little push-pin like devices that hold the artwork and backboard inside a frame.  

They can be pushed into position around the artwork using a glaziers point tool, or by some other hard object, like an aluminum bracket, which is pictured below.

Once the points are in you can use brown paper and more double stick tape to cover and seal the back of the frame.  This is optional, and doesn't effect the finished product at all, but if you're giving it as a gift it can really class things up a bit.

Step 7: Hanging Hardware

The last step is to install the hanging hardware.

Use some small screws to attach two picture hanging hooks to the sides of the frame and then use picture hanging wire of sufficient strength strung between the two hooks to finish the job.