Custom Maple Picture Frame
When Kaly told me she needed a picture frame for her desk at work I decided to design a custom profile rather than buy frame moulding and assemble it. I found a nice piece of maple with some pretty grain and went to work.
I like to start most projects with a rough sketch to determine critical dimensions. This is also a good time to think about what kind of profile you’d like the frame to have. The critical dimensions in this case are the length, width and depth of the rabbet. I wanted this frame to hold a standard 4″ x 6″ photo, plus a piece of glass and a back with a hinged stand. As for the profile, I wanted a radiused edge with a small step on the outside and a low angle chamfer on the inside edge.
Once dimensions are determined and a profile picked out, it’s time to pick out some lumber and cut it to size. I selected a piece of maple with an appealing grain pattern. I then cut the length to several inches larger than I would need for the four sides. The 1″ x 2″ stock I used felt a bit bulky for a 4″ x 6″ frame, so I ripped it down to 1-1/8″ x 5/8″.
To create the moulding profile I first set my roundover bit just deep enough to create a small step. With the work piece clamped to the work surface, keep the router flat while going over the near edge left to right. Because the piece was cut long you can clamp the ends and route up to them, without worrying about moving and resetting the clamps to route the entire edge.
After routing the roundover I cut the rabbet on the back on the table saw. Make sure this is deep enough to hold the photo, glass, and frame back, and long and wide enough to fit your photo plus about 1/8″ or so of wiggle room. You may have to bypass some safety features depending on your saw’s setup. I had to take off my riving knife to cut the rabbet.
The next step was to set the bevel and fence on the table saw to chamfer the inside edge of the moulding at a low angle. With the chamfer cut, the profile is finished. This is a good time to remove and saw marks or burns, 150 grit sandpaper should do the trick.
Next I cut the sides to length with mitre cuts on the table saw. After checking that the pieces fit up tightly I applied a coat of thinned boiled linseed oil. I like the oil finish because it brings out the natural beauty of the wood and really makes the grain pop. Applying the first coat before gluing ensures even penetration
After the oil has dried, liberally spread some wood glue on mating surfaces. Corner clamps make gluing mitres much easier, but my clamps are too large to glue all four corners at once. I ended up gluing two corners separately, then gluing the two corners together.
If your corners aren’t perfectly tight after gluing you can mix up some saw dust and wood glue to make a wood filler that matches the color of the wood you used. Simply overfill and hole or crack and then sand smooth after it dries.
With the frame assembled you can add another coat of finish. I used one of my homemade wood finishes, a mixture of boiled linseed oil and finishing paste wax. I wiped on one coat with a rag, and after it dried a applied another coat with #0000 steel wool. This gave a nice satin sheen to the maple.
With the wood finished we are ready for final assembly. Insert the glass, photo and back. Attach four to six swivel clips to hold everything in, being sure to pre-drill pilot holes to prevent the wood from splitting. And we’re done!
If you try making you own frame, please share photos in the comments section below!