Easy Picture Frames

Many of us have seen a print that we just had to have only to find that the cost for professional framing would be more than triple the price of the print. It is possible to make your own frames for a fraction of the price, and have an impressive end result.

Attractive and unique picture frames can be made with basic tools, for some only a saw and a square are needed. It is much easier to cut mitered corners with a miter box or trimmer, if the fit is not exact the angles can be fine tuned by sanding them. Often a cause of poor fitting joints is that the two opposite side pieces are not exactly the same length. A disk sander is a very handy tool to have to adjust the angles to fit, there are plans to build one here.

Miterless Frame

Make a base using 3/8" thick material as shown in fig.1, the inside dimensions should be standard photo sizes, 5 X 7, 8 X 10, 11 X 14, etc. For the top use strips 1/2" wider than base, use thicker and wider material for the corner blocks. Glue top pieces to the base as shown in Fig 2.

Rather than using corner blocks, cut strips 3/8" wider and glue on top of base lapping the joints as shown in Fig. 3.

Use a good brand of carpenter glue, Titebond is one of the best. It has been shown that a proper fitting glue joint will be stronger than the wood it is bonding so no other fasteners such as nails or screws are necessary.



Traditional Molding Profiles

Make Your Own Profiles

Even if you don't have a router or a shaper you can use stock pieces of molding to build your own profiles.

 Cutting Miters

Precise cuts are best made using a miter saw or trimmer, use a combination square to mark the cut position, you will have to extend the line from the inside of the rabbet to the outside of the frame.

For additional strength on larger frames use a spline to reinforce the joint.

There is a myth about compound angles being acceptable as long as the two angles add up to 90 degrees, you will get a square corner but it will look like this:

frame corner


Gift Idea!

sailboat patent print

VIntage Patent Prints are available
printed on 10 X 13 parchment paper
to put in your unique frame .



There are several ways to clamp your frames, perhaps the easiest way is to use a picture frame clamp. There are manufactured ones available or you can build your own. Masking tape will also work, simply lay a strip around each corner to hold it together until the glue sets. Rubber bands cut from innertubes can be used but it is difficult to keep the parts together while stretching it around the frame.

Special Tools

There are other tools made especially for framing in addition to saws and trimmers, a miter vise, brad pushers, point drivers and mat cutters are helpful additions to the serious frame maker.

Photo Mats

For a professional looking framed print it should be mounted with a mat which provides a border between the image and the frame.

Print Available from


photo mats

You can cut your own mats with practice or order them precut.

14x17 Lagoon Custom Mat with 10x13 opening size  

Mounting a Print

mat back

Using a t-square mark the position of the print on the back of the mat board.

Precut mats will be 1/2" smaller than the standard size of the print so register lines will be 1/4" from window.

Line up print face down with register marks on back of mat.

Run a 4" long strip strip of archival mounting tape, available from art supply stores, centered across the top of the print covering about an 1/8" of the top edge. Do not fasten print on other three sides as you want the print to float to prevent wrinkling.

Document Style Frame

boat patent

Print Available from


Document style frames are a less expensive, but attractive way to frame a print.



You can purchase glass cut to fit you frame, anti-glare glass is recommended, from any glass supplier. Photos for children's rooms are often done with plexiglass products to prevent injurys from broken glass.

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Picture Hanging Jig

To locate the exact spot for the nail to hang a frame drive a short brad or screw into a strip of wood so the point protrudes just a bit, hang the picture on the brad and holding the strip determine the location of the picture. Press the point into the wall to make an indentation. If you are using a nail insert it at this point, if you are using a hanger position the bottom of the hook at this point.

picture hanging level
This level offers four integeral slides to transfer mounting points from object to wall,
use to mount pictures, towel bars, shelf brackets.

Available from Rockler.com