Introduction: Picture Framing-an Easy and Economical Guide

About: I teach shop. I love the fact that this website is all about people doing this on their own. Most people today are too materialistic, it has to be new, when its old cast it aside. Make something yourself,…

Frame shops typically charge an arm and a leg to frame and mount a picture. Store bought frames just lack personality and style. This instructable will show you the basics of making your own picture frames at low or no cost.
I teach technology education in a High School and frames are a project I often do with my students. If a ninth grader can complete a frame, anyone can.

Step 1: Its All About the Stock

First to make a frame you have to start with the right type of stock and enough of it to frame your picture.
The best stock has a rabbet cut (the right angle cut) on one edge. You can also cut a rabbet with power tools, but having a rabbet edge is not 100% necessary. Hardware stores often have trim that can be used for framing. Craft stores and art stores often carry framing stock specifically for framing. However pieces with a rabbeted edge are not 100% necessary.
I use scrap wood, thin long scrap pieces are easy to come by on a construction site or lumber yard. No matter where you get it from you are looking for stock that is long and about 1" wide or wider.

The piece on the left is scrap wood. It was a 1x3, I shaped the rabbet and rounded the edge with a router.

The piece on the right was a scrap piece of tongue and groove flooring. The rabbet was made by cutting way the bottom edge of the groove, the tongue was cut away also. Scrap flooring is great for framing!

Step 2: Necessary and Optional Tools.

Tools on the right are necessary. Some form of a miter box saw, wood glue, a square with a 90 and 45, a sharp pencil, and a band clamp.

Tools on the left are optional. A drill, screwdriver, acrylic knife, and sandpaper. They help but you can get by without them.

Miter box saw: The saw in the picture costs about $30, but I have had almost identical results using a $7 wooden miter box and a $700 power miter box. If it can cut good 45's it will do the job.

Band clamp: You can buy a band clamp for $10 to $20. However my best band clamp is an old cargo strap I modified. Anything that you can tighten like a belt will work, luggage strap, large rubber bands, surgical tubing, I have seen it all work.

Step 3: Layout and Cutting Process

Prior to laying out any lines the first thing you want to do is cut the end of the stock at 45 degrees. That is 45 degrees of wood cut away and 135 degrees of wood left. Also the vertex of the angle will always be on the inner side of the frame(Note the picture).

After cutting the end, then use a combination square to measure and layout the frame. Measure on the inside of the frame or the side with the rabbet. Make a mark at your measurement and then draw a 45 from that mark.

I layout one piece at a time and then cut it.

Step 4: Cutting Continued

After cutting your first piece you will be left with an end at 45 degrees. You have to cut this off so you have 135 degrees of wood.

The key with cutting is to cut very accurate 45s. Clamping the stock in place when cutting makes accurate cuts and a noticable difference in quality.

Step 5: Assembly, Trimming, Gaps

After you have cut four sides it is time to assemble your frame and trim where necessary. Put your sides together and check for a tight fit in the corners.
Gaps in the corners are because of one or both of the following.
1. One of your sides is longer than the opposite side. To correct this TRIM the longer piece to the same length as the shorter piece.
2. Your 45s are off, to correct this recut your piece or pieces.

Trimming is done to improve the fit on the corners. You can trim with your miter saw or use a hand plane to cut away very small amount.

Rarely do you have a frame with out any gaps. Large gaps and gaps on the outside of a corner will need to be trimmed away. Smaller gaps and gaps inside the corner can be filled with wood putty later. (Note you can only fill gaps with wood putty if you are using unfinished wood.)

Step 6: Gluing and Clamping

Dry fit you pieces, put them together in the clamp and tighten the clamp. If everything fits together nicely you are ready to glue the frame together.
Apply generous amounts of glue to the both sides of the corners. Glue all the corners together at the same time.
Once you have applied glue tighten the band clamp around the frame. I tighten it until you can pluck the strap of the band clamp and it gives you a sound like a guitar string.
Wipe away excess glue with a wet sponge!

Step 7: Sanding

Once the glue has cured and your frame is dry it is time to sand. First fill any gaps with wood putty then sand by the method of your choice. Hand sanding, palm sander, pneumatic sander, etc.

Step 8: Laser Engraving (If You Have Access to a Laser)

My school does not have a laser, but the neighboring high school does. The teacher there graciously lets me come over and use it from time to time.
Laser engraving can add a great deal of personalization, creativity, and personality to any project.
This was going to be a just a frame. Now it is a frame that commerates the birth of my best friend's son.

Step 9: Attaching Hardware

The first framing hardware that you will need are tabs to hold the glass, picture, and backing in place. You can buy tabs from any craft/hardware store, but I prefer to make my own. I made the tabs for this frame from scrap wood and use a 3/8" screw to hold them in place.
There are many different types of hanger hardware you can buy. I have 2 types in the picture. But I prefer a 1/4" hole. It is cheaper than store bought hardware. But more importantly a hole for hanging allows the frame to lay flush against the wall.

Step 10: Staining and Finishing

After sanding and mounting your hardware apply a stain (if desired). Even if you do not apply a stain you will want to apply a clear coat finish like a varnish or polyurethane. My personal favorite is spray varnish, it dries quickly and looks great.

Step 11: Glass

I use plexiglass (acrylic) for my frames. It is cheap, safe, and you can cut it. You can get real glass or plexiglass at a hardware store and they will also cut it for you. But for a small frame like this you can use scrap plexiglass. The chain hardware stores will give you scraps or sell them to you for pennies.
You can cut plexiglass many ways, but I have had the best results by scoring a line with an acrylic knife or utility knife. Then breaking the glass over the edge of a table.

Step 12: Mounting Your Picture

Make a sandwich: Glass on top, picture in the middle, and some type of backing to support the picture.
Backing can be scrapwood, cardboard, paper from a cereal box or case of beer.
Place all this in the back of the frame glass down. Tighten your tabs to hold the sandwich in place.
You can also add mat board to the picture if desired.

Step 13: Finished Frame

Now your frame is complete. Made for a fraction or next to nothing compared what it would cost at a frame shop.
You are ready to hang it on the wall or give it as a gift.