We’ve already shared how we take existing frames and turn them into mirrors on the cheaps (read up on that here and here). Now we’re going to share how we make our own frames from scratch. We have a lot of stuff we’ve been meaning to frame and hang over the years, but we never got around to it. A few weeks ago, we found this in a thrift store:
Bradley had a nerdgasm. We scooped it up for $10, then chortled and mouth-breathed all the way home. This is the purchase that sent us into a frame-making frenzy. We had some solid oak boards lying around that we thought would be perfect for the job. It looks a little worn and aged — sort of like driftwood. Check out the texture:
We got a bunch of these from Lowe’s for $50, and that was enough to make 5 frames.
The wood was a little rough and had some splinters along the edges, so we started by sanding each board to take the grit off.
While I sanded, Bradley set up the table saw to cut a channel:
Think of a standard picture frame you’d get at IKEA or Target. If you take it apart, you have the frame itself and the glass, plus some sort of backing made out of cardboard or masonite. The glass and backing sits inside what we’re calling the channel.
Bradley ran the end through and then pulled it back out to see if the channel would be deep enough for both the glass and the backing to sit in:
We have more than enough room for everything. So Bradley went ahead and cut the entire length of board. There were some clingers left, so he used a chisel to slice them away:
After that, it was time to cut the board down to size.
We used a miter saw because we need to cut 45-degree angles for the corners.
We simply made a cut with the angle facing in (like the photo above). Then we moved the miter saw blade to 45-degrees on the opposite side and made the next cut. The angles on each cut of wood face in. Once the cuts were made, we could simply piece together the frame:
We have two short cuts and two long cuts. If you want a square frame, just make all the cuts the same. If you want a really long, skinny frame (for a floor-length mirror maybe?), just make the long cuts super long. This is the beauty of DIY frames — the possibilities are endless and the cost is low.
With our frame roughly pieced together, we marked each corner with a pencil:
We made a line to indicate the center of the joint. We didn’t actually measure it out — eyeballing it is good enough for our purposes. This is super important to do because it shows us where exactly we need to make our cuts with the biscuit joiner.
Each joint was also assigned a number 1 through 4, and we marked either end of the center line with that number. We’re doing this so we can take the frame apart and piece it back together later.
The next step is to make cuts with our biscuit joiner. For this we need biscuits:
Not the nummy tea-and-biscuits kinda biscuits, but little football-shaped wood chunks that hold two cuts together. (Sidenote: Bradley’s Dominican coworkers these “cookies,” which is beyond adorable.)
This is how biscuits work:
…except they’re on the inside of the wood. Not following? Lemme break it down for ya:
- Each corner consists of 2 pieces of wood butting up together.
- We make a slot in the butt of each piece of wood.
- We spread wood glue in each slot.
- We put the biscuit in one of the slots. It should fit so that half of the biscuit is sticking out.
- We butt the ends together so the biscuit sits halfway in one butt and halfway in the other butt, thereby joining them. BAM! Biscuit joining!
- Heh heh biscuits in butts.
This is the biscuit joiner Bradley picked up a few weeks ago at the Grizzly warehouse:
It’s a Porter-Cable. He chose it over the others because it has a few more settings than its rival Dewalt. It’s slightly more pricey, but also seems more durable.
See what Bradley’s pointing at there? It says FF. That’s the dial for setting biscuit size. We have to make sure and use FF-sized biscuits or they won’t sit in there properly.
We double-checked. Then triple-checked. And then we made our cuts:
Bradley dangled the piece of wood off the edge of our workspace, with the end he’s cutting facing him. He used his hand to hold it firmly in place. Later, Bradley said, “Don’t do it that way ever.” Why? Because the wood isn’t clamped and could move around. So there you have it: use a clamp, not your hand.
Next step: we line up the red line on the tool with the center mark we drew on the wood.
Once it’s in line, turn the joiner on and firmly push it into the wood. This is what the cut looks like when finished:
We made all our slots first and then moved on to the gluing stage:
We gave each slot a good schmear of wood glue. (Schmear. Always schmear, never smear. That’s the New York in us.) Then we popped the biscuit in the slot
And pressed the ends together. That’s it. We let our newly joined rectangle dry for a few hours. Once dry, we came back to tidy up the joints. For this, we needed wood filler and a putty knife:
A lot of people skip the filler step, but we think it’s worth taking 5 minutes to do. It makes the difference between a frame that looks cheap and a frame that looks fancy. This is what the joint looked like before filling:
We gave it a schmear of wood filler:
Then we pressed it in so it fills the crack:
And finally, we scrape all of the excess off:
Just say no to crack:
We let the filler dry for about 15 minutes and then sanded the joints to make them as smooth as possible:
The next step is crucial. Under no circumstances should one move to the finishing stage without first completing the hammy-posing stage. We take this stuff seriously, people:
Being serious all the time is exhausting.
We really need to lighten up. And learn to use auto-focus properly:
In case you missed it, Bradley’s fingers are doing kind of a weird Dumbledore thing (Level 5 nerd status achieved.) That’s because he stained our frames and didn’t wear gloves:
We felt like experimenting with the finishing, so we tried a few different stains on some leftover wood craps. White made the oak look pink. Black seemed too heavy. Grey looked chalky. So Bradley tried something new.
- First, Bradley stained the entire frame white and immediately wiped it all off. That way the white stayed in the cracks and gaps, but not on the entire surface.
- After that, Bradley lightly stained the surface brown. Emphasis on the lightly. If he used too much stain, it would stain right over the white in the cracks and defeat the whole purpose. So Bradley used a cheesecloth and barely dipped it into the stain. He also took care not to apply pressure at all. Just a light swipe of the cloth gently across the surface.
We really dig the result:
We ordered the glass and it showed up a week ago. Next on our to-do list? Cut mats with our new mat cutter:
Then we’ll be ready to hang up some art. Kinda. We still have to redo the walls in most of the house before we can hang anything. Minor details.
We’re spending our weekend plastering and working on tree trunk side tables, so we’ll be back with more updates soon. Stay tuned for more DIY dorkery!
We weren’t paid, perk’d, hugged or high-fived for any of the brands we mentioned in this post. We do it just because.