Introduction: Parks and Rec Picture Frame

About: Making (and breaking) projects in my shop every 2 weeks (or so)

I got an awesome print from one of my favorite TV shows of all time Parks and Rec. I wanted to build a picture frame that would make Ron Swanson proud. This is part of a longer series of picture frame builds were I used different joinery techniques and frame styles to fill up a picture frame wall in my house!




Step 1: Get the Print

The frame is built to the size of the artwork. I got the Pawnee National Park print from Bottle Neck Gallery last year. It's out of print right now but they will often put the stock back up for special runs:

The first time I watched Parks and Rec I had no clue that Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) was an actual hardcore woodworker. So for the frame, I thought I should do him justice by making it out of walnut with pretty traditional joinery.

Step 2: Break Down the Walnut Stock

I got 2in thick walnut stock from my local lumber mill. The first step was the break it down into a more manageable size on the miter saw.

Step 3: Mill the Lumber

Using a combination of the jointer, table saw and planer I milled the lumber to a good square stock.

Step 4: Rip the Lumber in Half

Since I was working with a pretty thick stock I was able to split it in half on the table saw before taking it through the planer to get all the pieces one final uniform thickness.

Step 5: Cut the Walnut Strips to Final Width

Once the strips were split I ran them through the table saw one last time to trim to their final width.

Step 6: Mark the Half Lap Joints

The four corners of the frame were connected with half-lap joints. I've never tried these before and I thought it would be a fun experiment to see how it would go. I first had to find the exact middle of each piece so that the other side could be cut off.

Step 7: Cut the Half Laps

I cut out the half-laps joints on the table saw with a dado stack. The dado's allowed me to cut out all the pieces faster since it's a thick saw blade. You could do this with a normal saw blade it would just take more time.

Before I started on the first piece I made sure to set the blade height to exactly half the thickness of the wood. I did this by using a scrap piece that was the same thickness and cutting on both the top and bottom until I just barely cut the final piece off.

Step 8: Glue the Half Lap Joints

The frame was glued together with wood glue and clamped into place to allow it to dry.

Step 9: Sand the Frame

I sanded the frame at 60 grit and then 150 and 220 with my orbital sander.

Step 10: Trim the Sides of the Frame

I purposefully left the frame pieces a little longer than the final size. I trimmed all four sides to their final size on with the miter sled on my table saw.

Step 11: Cut the Rabbits for the Frame

If I had used miter joints then I would have been able to cut out the inner groove of the picture frame before gluing everything together. Since they were not mitered you would be able to see the gaps at the end of the frame. I used a rabbit bit on my plunge router to cut out a groove at 1/4in depth.

Step 12: Add a Chamfer

I used a block plane and chisel to add a subtle chamfer around the outside edge of the picture frame.

Step 13: Drill Dowel Holes

Often people will reinforce picture frame joints with splines. I wanted to try something a little different and used wooden dowels. I first drilled a hole at all the corners of the picture frame on the drill press.

Step 14: Drill Dowels

With a dowel cutting bit, I drilled out 4 dowels from scrap maple. Then these were cut out of the stock piece on the table saw.

Step 15: Attach Dowels to the Corners

The dowels were added to all 4 corners with a small amount of wood glue.

Step 16: Trim the Dowels to Size

Using a flush-cut saw I trimmed the dowels to size. Then with a chisel, I trimmed them flush to the frame. I find that I can get a much cleaner result with a chisel then my flush-cut saw.

Step 17: Cut the Glass

Using a glass cutting tool I scored the glass and snapped it to a final size.

Step 18: Tape the Print to the Backerboard

I used blue painters tape and some scrap cardboard as a backer board for the artwork. I will eventually replace this with acid-free tape/backer board.

Step 19: Attach Frame Clips

I used small frame clips around the inside edges to squeeze the artwork/backer board against the glass. There is a tool that makes this process easy but I just carefully tapped them in with a hammer.

Step 20: Attach Hardware

Finally, I attached the hardware to hang it to our wall.

Step 21: Finished!

And that's it.

Hopefully, Ron Swanson is smiling somewhere.

...and eating lots of bacon.


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Make or Break Show (Weekly podcast featuring the stories of other makers!)