Realizing that we have nearly no photos of each other framed around the house, and wanting to gift our current gallery wall prints to Grace’s sister, our hallway gallery was due for a little refresh.
We’ve made it a habit to take an Instax Polaroid camera with us on our travels. The 2×3 photos are a fun size, and Grace had the idea of matting them into 12×12 frames. Fortunately, I had plenty of leftover red oak scrap from our ceiling beam project that was perfect for making some simple frames.
Wood — We used red oak. I recommend any hardwood (vs softwood) for this project
Wood finish — (stain and/or sealer, we used boiled linseed oil)
Nice to have
Rip the stock and cut the rabbets and miters
I started out ripping various lengths of scrap 3/4” thick red oak down to 1-inch width. I estimated that I could get about two sides of a picture frame out of each length based on our dimensions (12×12 acrylic and mat board, so ~13 1/4” on the long side of the miter). With all of this stock cut down to width I then set up my table saw to 1/4” depth of cut and 1/4” from the fence to the outside edge of the saw blade. I ran each piece of stock through the table saw twice – once to cut a groove, and then rotated the stock for a second run that cleared out the corner to form the rabbet as pictured.
I then cut 45-degree miters making each side of the frame 13 1/4” on the outside measurement, making sure that I oriented the saw consistently to the outside edge with the front of the frame piece facing down against the miter table and the rabbet facing towards the fence. This ensures you won’t get confused and miter things wrong!
If I had to do this again I would cut the miters first and then cut the rabbets in each mitered piece, as I had to tune up the rabbets with my shoulder plane and I noticed some deflection when cutting the rabbets on the table saw.
Glue up the miters
Once all of the miters were cut, and the acrylic was dry-fit inside a taped up frame, I laid down painter’s tape matching each joint square to the outside corners and applied wood glue to each joint. Here is where you can take care to match each opposing side’s grain if you so desire. Simply folding each frame together and taping the corners square finishes this step. Follow your glue’s direction for drying time before proceeding to the next step or just leave overnight.
Add reinforcing splines
The resulting joint is end-grain to end-grain, and is not particularly strong. While frames seldom experience rough use, this step is a quick way to make sure your frames won’t easily break apart if they fall off the wall.
The first step is to make a jig to make your splines. Since my table saw’s miter slot is terrible, I made a jig by gluing mitered scrap wood glued to and MDF board that can ride square along my table saw’s fence and holds the frame joint perpendicular to the fence. Clamping a positive stop at the output end of the table saw completes this jig for cutting quick spline slots. Depth of cut should be slightly less than half of the thickness of the thickest part of the frame, and be cut roughly 1/4” above where the rabbets meet at the mitered corner. I cut slots in all four corners, rotating the frame 90-degrees before each pass.
I then made splines from scrap by setting up the table saw to cut strips of red oak with ~1/32” interference fit with the slots, and glued the splines in place. After the glue set up I used a flush-cut saw to trim up the splines flush to the frame.
Clean up and finish the frames
I smoothed out any imperfections on the miters with a smoothing plane, and then sanded the frames down to 400-grit. I applied a boiled linseed oil finish, which gave the red oak a warm matte finish. I hammered in two finish nails halfway on the top and bottom of the frame to hold the mat board and acrylic inside the frame.
Grace matted the photos and we peeled the protective film off the acrylic taking care not to get fingerprints on the inside. We fit the acrylic and mat board in the frames, folded over the nail to hold it all in, and then hung them on our gallery wall in a 9×9 grid.