One of the most satisfying things about woodworking is being able to begin with rough lumber and make just about anything I want. Over the last 7 years, I've probably built around 100 picture frames, saving lots of money along the way and ensuring quality preservation of my artwork.
The frame building process begins after the dimensional lumber is ripped into strips of the appropriate width and thickness and mitered to length.
After mitering, I glue up the frames in special clamps that apply pressure in such a way as to ensure the corners of the frame are tight and aligned.
I try to let my frames sit glued in the clamp overnight, but if I need to take them out I can after about 4 hours. Once the glue is dry I can reinforce the corners with 1/8 inch strips of wood, giving me one of the strongest picture frame joints possible. A simple miter joint by itself is not very strong, as one is essentially gluing end-grain to end-grain. Anything you buy at a store or even frame shop will have corners that open up over time due to the weight of the glass and artwork. The frames I've built with this type of corner reinforcement don't open up. The glue bond itself is stronger than the wood, so the wood will fail before the glue does.
The strongest glue bond results from having wood fibers aligned parallel to each other, which is achieved by inserting the reinforcing splines into the corners. I make the slots with a special jig I built. Once cut, the strips are glued and tapped in, then clamped in to maximize surface contact.
On these frames I trimmed the splines with my miter saw, and later finished bringing them flush with the frame side, using a block plane.
Given the fact that the grain of the splines (strips of wood) and the frame sides usually run in different directions, I have to be careful when trimming to prevent tear-out on the frame (see below).
I'm building three frames right now, one for a client (the walnut) and two curly maple frames for some recent pastel drawings. A future post will be dedicated to these finished works, so check back soon.
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.