Build a Wooden Photo Frame

Build a Wooden Photo Frame

Turning a Precious Moment into a Work of Art

My friend Hugh Morton down at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina is a wonderful nature photographer, and he just sent me this stunning photo of one of the bears at the park. Now, I was going to take it down to a frame shop and have it professionally framed, but then I thought, “You know what? This is the perfect workshop project – custom-making a frame!”

So, that’s exactly what we’re going to do right here at the workbench. Come on over, and let’s build a frame that will do justice to this beautiful photograph.

Selecting the Right Wood

I’ve decided to use poplar for this project. I picked it up at the local home improvement center, and I’ll be using three different thicknesses – 3/4 inch, 1/2 inch, and 1/4 inch. Poplar is a great choice because it’s easy to work with and has a lovely, subtle grain pattern that won’t overpower the photo.

Now, the first thing I want to do is rip the wood down to the proper width. To give the frame a rounded, sculpted look, we’ll use a router with a round-over bit. This will help smooth out any sharp edges and create a seamless, cohesive appearance.

Watch how the round-over bit works its magic on the wood

Building the Frame Layers

We’re going to build this frame in layers, starting with the base. I’ve clamped the router upside down in a router table, and I’ll be passing the wood over the bit to shape the first layer. Once that’s done, I’ll glue a smaller 1/2-inch piece of wood right on top, using a glue spreader to ensure an even application.

Now, you might be wondering, “Why all the layers?” Well, it’s all about creating depth and visual interest. By stacking these different thicknesses of wood, we’re going to end up with a frame that has a really beautiful, multi-dimensional profile.

Check out this great tutorial on making a custom wood picture frame from scratch

Sculpting the Frame

Alright, the glue has dried, and it’s time to move on to the next step. I’ve swapped out the round-over bit for a cove box bit, and I’m going to use it to remove a section of the wood, creating a smooth, S-shaped curve. This is going to give the frame a really elegant, flowing look.

Next, I’m going to cut a rabbit, or recess, on the back side of the frame. This is where the glass and photograph will sit, helping to conceal the edges and give the frame a professional, finished appearance.

Finally, I’m going to add the third and final layer of wood – the 1/4-inch piece. I’ve set up the router table again, this time with a smaller round-over bit, and I’m going to run the wood through to give it a lovely, rounded edge.

Learn how to apply edge banding to plywood projects for a flawless finish

Cutting the Miters

Now that we have all the individual pieces of the frame ready, it’s time to cut the miters. I’m using the miter gauge on my table saw, with a stop block to ensure that all the pieces are the same length. This is crucial for getting a perfect, square frame.

To help with the gluing process, I’ve made a simple jig out of a piece of particle board and a square. This will allow me to line up the frame pieces and glue them together with precision, resulting in a frame that’s as sturdy as it is beautiful.

Assembling the Frame

Alright, let’s start gluing this thing together! I’m applying a generous amount of glue to the miter cuts, then using the jig to line everything up perfectly. Once the pieces are in place, I’m going to use a pin nailer to secure them. This will help hold the frame together while the glue dries.

After the glue has set, I’ll give the frame a quick stain and a couple of coats of varnish, just to really make that wood grain pop. And voila – a custom-made frame, ready to showcase my friend’s stunning photograph.

Finishing Touches

Now, to complete the project, I’ll start by setting the glass into the rabbit we cut earlier. Then, I’ll place the matted photograph on top, using some glazier’s points to hold it all in place. Finally, I’ll attach a sheet of brown craft paper to the back to protect the artwork and keep out any pesky dust.

And there you have it – a one-of-a-kind frame that’s sure to turn heads. Making your own frame is a great way to add a personal touch to something that’s special to you. Whether it’s a precious photograph, a print, or a piece of art, designing and building your own frame allows you to create something that perfectly complements the piece and your home’s decor.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab some wood, fire up the router, and let’s get to work on your next custom frame project! Who knows, you might even discover a new woodworking passion in the process. And don’t forget to visit timber-building.com for all the tools, materials, and inspiration you need to bring your creative vision to life.


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