Picture Perfect Frame
After making a couple of frames and trying to remember the order in which to do things, I wrote down a sequence which helps me do them right every time. A repeatable process - sounds like something I strive for in software.
I first start out with a formula to calculate the raw sizes of the boards that I will use. I start with planed boards that are sized to the final width. I also use boards of the same thickness and width - it's easier. A small note about slop: Sometimes I use 1/16" as slop, but most of the time I use 1/8" as slop. Some precut glass is about 1/8" oversize. Sometime 1/8" seems like too much slop. I have built a frame with no slop before. I then had to take a chisel and widen each side of the rabbet after the frame was built because the glass would not fit. You decide.
length = picture - rabbet - rabbet + board width + board width + slop
Picture: 16" x 20"
board width: 3"
top and bottom = 16 - 3/8 - 3/8 + 3 + 3 + 1/8 = 21 3/8"
sides = 20 - 3/8 - 3/8 + 3 + 3 + 1/8 = 25 3/8"
- Cut boards to length.
- Cut rabbets. If you use a table saw (I do), don't forget to adjust fence for blade width. Test cut a sample board and measure with dial calipers. We will use the scrap pieces as risers for the drying frame.
- Cut 45 degree angles on each corner.
- Grain match boards, and dry fit. Label corners (A - A, B - B, C - C, D - D) so that we can match them up again.
- Label the mid-point of the corner. Cut biscuit joints into each corner. You could also do splines. I prefer biscuits.
- Dry fit upside down (front of frame down).
- Glue and clamp. I use a band clamp, which I got at an autoparts store. It is a ratchet tie down which makes a loop.
- Lay the clamped and glued frame on two scrap rabbet pieces (about 1/4" x 1/4" and the exact length of the frame - how about that!) so that it is elevated and level. I also check the fit of the front joints, and move them as necessary to get a decent flush front. Sanding will fix any imperfections.
- After the frame is dry, rough sand. I use 80 grit on my Porter Cable random orbital palm sander (one of the best $60 I have spent). I really only go after the front and back joints.
- Route the outside edge. I have used roundover and roman ogee. Use a bit that has a bearing, or you will have more sanding to do. Sometimes the bit will burn the wood - you can sand or stain it away.
- Final sand. I use 120 grit, and then 220 grit with my random orbital sander.
- Clean with a damp cloth. Finish with you choice of finish. My favorite is Tung Oil, followed by paste wax. You can make use of the 45 degree scrap blocks by driving a same size screw or nail through them and using them to prop the frame up while finishing.
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