Resources for Special Tips, Tools, and Articles to Conquer Precision.

My wife is a professional photographer, and that entails more work than you think. There's a lot that goes into taking a good picture, and there's even more that goes into taking a great picture. She puts a lot of sweat and creativity into every one of her photographs, and each of them deserves a picture frame that's going to do them justice.

The finished product ends up on customer's walls and in galleries, which means they must be framed. And framing ain't cheap, ranging from $100 to $200 for a decent one and going up from there depending on complexity and craftsmanship.

Being a DIYer and a good husband I decided to build the picture frames for her. After a few attempts, I was able to come up with a system. I've even reached a point where I can make enough frames to have a reserve, allowing me to take my time, be a little creative and knock out some beautiful frames.

Note: I'm not going to get into cutting, matting, and mounting the artwork as there are millions of sites that can walk you through that part of the project. If you want to learn more about matting here's a link.

Step 1 - Ideas and Materials

If you're looking for ideas, Pinterest has become my go-to design source because I can quickly scan thousands of ideas in very little time. Many of the images lead to good, in-depth articles that have already been vetted by other users.

I get most of the wood for my picture frames from the hardware store in the molding section. It's relatively cheap and there are plenty of designs to choose from. You can use flat panel wood as well if you are looking for something simpler. If you want to be thrifty and join the upcycle trend, look into ads for molding or wood on Craigslist. I have been known at times to go through construction site dumpsters looking for discarded wood and molding.

Step 2 - Screwy Rabbets

screwy rabbetA rabbet is a groove cut into the wood where the art will lay flat. The wood or molding you start with to make the frame will most likely not have a rabbet so you'll have to make them.

If you don't have power tools and don't feel like going out and getting a table saw or table router, there are definitely ways to cut rabbet joints by hand.

Here are a couple of videos that show both techniques:

Using the techniques in these videos is a good way to start if you're new to this kind of work. The advantage to this particular project is that everything you're doing is on the back of the frame. So for the first couple of tries, you don't have to worry too much if they're not 100 percent perfect.

Step 3 - 45-degree angles and math

45 degree angle 1Next, cut your angles. Make sure to measure precisely a 45 degree angle and make a mark with a pencil. For the cutting, like everything else, there are different ways to attack this. You can use a miter saw, a table saw, or a miter box and hand saw. Since I don't have a lot of room at home or in my garage, and I need the exercise, I opted for the miter box and handsaw. Make the 45-degree cut on one end of all four boards.


45 degree angle 3This is where the math comes in. The picture frame was supposed to fit a print that is 11 x 14. So, when the frame is glued, it should measure 11 x 14 inside the rabbets on the back of the frame that provide a lip to support the glass, matt and mounted print.

Once the boards are cut you should have four sides with 45-degree angles cut on both ends.


Step 4 - Pocket Holes and Assembling the Frame

Pocket hole joinery is ideal for attaching two pieces of wood together and is achieved by drilling a hole at an angle on the first piece and then screwing the two pieces together. I use a pocket hole jig to make it easier.

Before using a pocket hole jig, I would recommend laying all four pieces of the frame out on the floor and making sure that you have the correct length and that your angles are correctly cut.

Watch a video of the Pocket Hole Jig in action.


Place your cut 45-degree ends on the jig and clamp it tightly.

Line the board up in the jig, using the holes to determine where the drill will make contact.

ph jig 1

Drilling the holes.

Make sure that your board is fully covering the hole that the drill bit goes into. This will prevent you from drilling through the side of your picture frame, and keeps the pocket hole hidden in the back.

ph jig 2

Assembling the frame.

Add some glue to both ends and clamp the ends to keep them from moving while you drive the screw. Drive it slowly so you don't cause the boards to split.

frame 1

Once the glue has dried, look for any gaps that can be filled with your favorite compound. Sand down the frame.

Step 5 - Finish

For this picture frame, I went online and searched for "distressed" and "driftwood effect." After reading through a dozen or so techniques, I tried the distressed look on a spare piece of wood. When I was satisfied that I had come close, I applied the technique to my newly created frame.

frame 2

Step 6 - Marvel at Your Handiwork

Here's the picture frame with one of my wife's photographs ready to be shipped to a buyer. My wife is happy and we know her customer will be happy too. After all, it looks great, if I do say so myself.

final frame

Want to build your own frame? Below are the tools I used.





Check out the below video on how to build your own frame with General Tools!

← Previous Post Next Post →