How to make a picture frame.

1. Reuse some older picture frame parts.

The previous picture frame was made of old, cheap plastic encased in acrylic instead of glass. Buying a custom cut piece of glass for this poster would be expensive, so I just reused the acrylic and the cardboard backer.

How to Make a picture frame

Reusing the old picture frame components

2. Measure your picture.

Before you cut any material for a picture frame, you need to make sure you have enough material. In this case, I measured the poster and added a 1/4 inch to each side. This measurement would be the inside dimensions of the frame pieces. To get the outside dimension (to make sure you have enough material), I added the thickness of the frame, which was going to be 3 inches, to the inside dimension TWICE, so 6 inches. This ensures that you have the artwork’s inside dimension, and enough stock to create a 45 degree angle on both ends.

How to make a picture frame / using a speed square

Measure the artwork dimensions

3. Cut the picture frame sides

I cut a huge walnut board into 3 inch strips using the table saw. I then used the outer dimension I found in the last step to cut the 4 sides to length. Setting up a physical stop block on your miter saw can help ensure consistent cuts, this is super important when making cleanly-joining corners. If one side is longer than the other, even by a little bit, the corners may not align perfectly.

how to make a picture frame / using a table saw

Milling the walnut on the table saw

4. Join the corners.

For smaller picture frames, simple 45 degree miter cuts glued together would totally suffice. The larger the frame, the more those corners need to be reinforced. Some people cut slots in the corners and glue in splines, professional frame shops use underpin nails to join the pieces. I decided to cut a joint I hadn’t attempted before, a half-lap joint that looks like a standard 45 degree miter.

This is achieved by cutting a normal looking 45 degree corner on two sides of the frame and then cutting away half the material below that corner. On the opposing sides of the frame, the inverse would be done, cut away the top section to accept the 45 degree corner. This joint creates many strong glue surfaces and it still looks like a traditional picture frame from the outside. I used a wood glue specifically designed for darker woods like walnut.

how to make a picture frame / miter joints half lap joints

Gluing the miter joints together.

5. Cut the slot for the picture.

Because the artwork, the glass (or acrylic), and the backing needs to be secured inside the frame, I cut in a rabbet on the back side. I used a 1/4 inch rabbeting bit on my trim router and made sure to cut in a clockwise path along the inside. I adjusted the depth of the bit to only cut a channel equal to the thickness of the acrylic, the poster, and the cardboard backing.

how to make a picture frame / cutting a rabbet with a router

Routing out the rabbet slot in the back.

6. Sand and finish.

I sanded the whole picture frame with 220 grit sand paper in my orbital sander. It helped that the frame had flat faces, which made sanding quick and easy. I chose to finish the walnut with a combination paste consisting of boiled linseed oil (BLO) and beeswax. This rub-on polish dries really fast and makes the wood soft to the touch.

How to make a picture frame / applying boiled linseed oil and beeswax finish

Applying the Finish.

7. Center the picture.

Thoroughly clean the glass or acrylic before laying it into the rabbet we cut earlier, then lay down the artwork (along with any matting you chose to use). Center the picture in the frame so that it looks straight from the front. Once you’re happy with the placement, tape the artwork to the glass only at the top, tape along all sides can cause wrinkling, and lay down the backing.

To hold the piece in the frame, there are a lot of materials you can use. Most commercial picture frames use points, or the little thin metal tabs that hurt your fingers. An alternative to the thin strips, glazing points, are meant to be pushed in with a set of pliers instead of an expensive gun and are readily available at most craft stores. In this case, I used small nails. Nails can also be used as a simple way to secure backing to picture frames. Make sure that you drive the nails in as flat as you can to avoid scuffing your walls.

how to make a picture frame / centering the artwork

Centering the artwork.

8. Mount the picture frame on the wall.

There are many products used in picture mounting. Traditionally, a picture wire is strung across the back and connected to two fasteners, or you can use those jagged-teeth looking hangers that are nailed to the back of the frame. Because I didn’t want holes in my walls, and because I’m not sure where this piece will end up, I used adhesive-backed Velcro strips. These sticky strips don’t leave any residue on the frame or the wall and 4 of them can definitely handle the weight of this frame.

how to make a picture frame / apply the hangers

Applying the Velcro hangers.

Admire your handy work.

I am so happy with how this frame turned out. I think the contrasting colors of the walnut against the Empire Strikes Back blue is beautiful. The construction of this big frame was a little different, and honestly a little challenging, for me. I am very proud of how it all came together and I think it makes a great addition to our house. If you like this project, check out more of our home projects, here.

How to make a picture frame / mount to the wall

Choose the perfect location.