Framing a picture

Here is a picture frame I just made. It won’t win any awards but I wanted to make one just to learn the process and know how to make a frame to suit the photo as opposed to filling the frame. Making stuff on your own gives you the flexibility to make what you want, customized to your whim.

I like to take photos and find it compromising to try to print out photos to suit a prescribed size of 8×10, 11×14 or 16×20. Photo paper comes in 8-1/2 x 11 and I have some at 13×19. Also, the aspect ratio of cameras themselves are 4:3 or 3:2. Learning to shoot photos, the advice I received was to fill the screen but now I just leave some space around the edges and crop to fit.

Here’s the original photo I took of the Very Large Array in New Mexico. (Here’s a link Very Large Array). The image’s aspect is 3:2. This has been resized to 900 pixels wide to fit on this screen.


Cropping this to a standard 8×10 photo frame this would look something like this:


Or if I wanted to blow it up to a 16×20 frame the photo would look like this:


These standard sizes looked a bit too top-heavy to me. I wanted a more stretched out version of the photo that would heighten the distance covered by the telescopes. This is a Very Large Array, so I wanted to show how large it was.

I cropped the image to 10in x 18in. Here is the same image reduced to size on this screen at 900 pixels x 500 pixels. A quick calc tells me it is a little longer than 16:9, which is a widescreen TV or laptop ratio. It  looks right to me.


I printed out the photo on a 13×19 sheet and trimmed it down to 10×18. Then I had to learn how to cut a mat to size and also learn how to cut a pane of glass to size. Lots of learning in one little project.

A friend of mine left me her mat cutter and I gave it a go on some small mat stock. I cut out a mat at 12×20 with about 1-3/8 of a border.

The glass I got out of another picture frame. Cutting it was surprisingly easy. I cut the glass also at 12×20.

So, that being done, I had to figure out how to make a custom frame.

I ripped up some scrap pine and cut rebates along the length. Each piece was cut to length and cut 45 degree angles on each end.



I also modified a shooting board I had made by adding a 45 degree angle fence to augment the 90 degree fence it already had. This was something I needed to do anyways, so I figured no time like the present.

I used the 45 degree fence to trim the ends of the frame segments.


With the corners trued up, I glued the joints and followed Paul Sellers’ method of cutting in splines while the joint is gluing up. This has the handy benefit of being a method of joinery that doesn’t rely on clamps to hold the lot together.


With 2 corners done I then joined the remaining corners.

With everything all glued up, I trimmed off the excesses from the splines and then planed the faces and edges etc. I also filled the holes and dings on the pine and then sanded the lot smooth.


I then set the frame on the finishing booth: a cardboard sheet with some carpet strips to keep the object off the surface. I gave the frame coat of shellac and then gave it a couple of coats of latex.


With the lot done, I sandwiched the frame with the mat and photo. I added a sheet of cardboard to the back and nailed the lot secure with some pins that I had.

I’m pretty pleased with the result and will likely do more. Now I can make a frame to suit the photo as opposed to cramming a photo into a prescribed size.



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