Easy Picture Frame From Pallet Wood




About: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is Sam and I'm a community manager here at Instructables.

This is a ridiculously simple, quick-and-dirty picture frame made from pallet wood.

I built it to display this old motorcycle license plate, but the same approach could be used to make a frame for just about anything.

You only need a few basic tools to make this. However, a 3D printer or laser engraver could come in handy if you want something stylish to rest your beverage on while you work. That's completely optional, or course.

This is not a traditional picture frame in any sense other than general appearance. But it's just about perfect for framing up some ratty old thing that you think is too cool and unique to throw away.

I hope you make one! Let me know if you do.

Thanks for taking a look.

Step 1: Materials

You will need a couple of pallet slats (or any other wood, really). I chose to use some rough old pallet slats because I thought they would compliment the license plate nicely.

You will also need some kind of flat material for a backing piece which will hold everything together. I used a scrap piece of 1/4" MDF.

Thin plywood or even sturdy cardboard would also work great. The only requirement is that this backing piece be a couple inches bigger all around than what you want the open display area of the frame to be, and smaller than the overall finished frame.

The pallet slats I used were very clean. If you have pallet wood that is dirty, give it a good scrub with water and a stiff brush and allow it to dry thoroughly before proceeding.

Step 2: Attach License Plate to Board, or Mark Display Area

As I noted, this isn't a traditional frame--so it can't be used to hold a pane of glass or anything that needs to stay pressed in. It can only display items you can affix to the display area.

For mine, I just attached the license plate to the center of board with copious amounts of hot glue, which is more than adequate for all parts of this project. Plus, it is cheap and quick.

If you want to leave the display area open at this point, just use a ruler to measure and mark the desired boundaries making sure all the corners are 90 degrees.

Step 3: Cut Frame Pieces

Lay a wood slat along one side of the display area (along a side of the license plate in my case), and make marks on the wood slat to correspond with the edges of this area.

Use a framing ("speed") square or other suitable 45-degree-marking device* to extend each mark out 45 degrees. Make sure you leave enough room to the right or left of the first piece to also mark and cut out additional pieces. In my case, each slat only provided two sides of the frame, one long and one short.

Cut out the first piece using any kind of saw.

Measure, mark, and cut out the next piece. Repeat and repeat.

*In a pinch, just fold one corner of a sheet of office paper across diagonally to create a right triangle. Then use this as a 45-degree guide.

Step 4: Attach Frame Sides

Glue frame pieces to board with ample amounts of hot glue, matching inside edges of frame to boundary lines of display area.

Little gaps and imperfections are perfectly acceptable.

Step 5: Add Extra Glue

I added a bead of hot glue around the outside edge of the back board where it meets the frame pieces, just as an extra measure.

Step 6: Drill Hole for the Hanging Nail

You could attach a frame-hanging bracket to the back.

Or for a simpler method, just mark the center point along the back side of the top rail of the frame and drill a hole into it about 1/2" deep. I used a forstner bit, but any kind will work as long as you are careful not to drill all the way through to the front. Take it slow and easy.

Step 7: Finish If Desired

To make the coloring of the wood and license plate stand out just a little, I sprayed everything with a couple coats of semi-gloss lacquer.

I did not sand the frame at all, or even remove any slivers or fibers that were starting to flake off. That's all part of the character I wanted to leave intact.

Step 8: Hang and Admire!

Use a single nail to the hang frame on the wall.

If it doesn't hang straight on its own, use a couple little blobs of poster putty on the lower corners to hold it firmly against the wall in level position.

That's it!



  • Sensors Contest

    Sensors Contest
  • Backyard Contest

    Backyard Contest
  • Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest

    Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest

17 Discussions


4 years ago on Introduction

ive tried to get the mitres right, no matter how hard i try i cant get the wood straight so when cut and joined its seemless. I dont think its possible!! its very frustrating!

1 reply

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Perfect, seamless miter joints are highly elusive, so I understand your frustration!

So, for this type of project done with pallet boards, I'd say "close" is good enough!


4 years ago on Introduction

Great looking frame! I'm getting my dad a license plate from his birth year and this frame will be perfect for it!

2 replies

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Very cool idea. If/when you get it done, I'd love to see how it turns out!


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

I will definitely post a pic when I get it done! Thanks again for the great idea!

Stupid Question: Where can I get old pallets to use? I have a couple of projects I would like to do that I could use pallet slats for, if I had some pallets.

3 replies

Nope, good question! It totally depends on where you live. I picked a couple up from some kind of warehouse in an industrial park near where I live. If you know anyone that works hard for a living (anyone not behind a computer, ahem), they will more than likely have access to plenty, or at least know of some warehouse that has a pile out back. Just ask, and most places will give you a couple.


Okay, great. Now I just have to go and and find someone who works for a living and get to know them.

I missed out on a good one a little while ago. I was out for a walk and saw a huge pallet sitting next to a dumpster. Would have been enough wood to build a planter (one of the things I want to do). But I didn't get back to get it. Or rather, couldn't get anyone to take me back to get it. I really need to learn how to drive.... To bad there isn't an Instructable for that.


That "works hard for a living" line was a jab at myself, and myself only. :)

I used to have manly calloused hands, but they've turned soft due to my camping out by a computer all day!


4 years ago on Introduction

Very nice and rustic is in! This would be cool for house numbers or displaying kitchen items or bathroom art.


Reply 4 years ago

No, but I lived there for a little while. It's a pretty place, but way too hot for me!


4 years ago

This is so simple and rustic, but smashingly beautiful! I love it!