Arts & Crafts Picture Frame

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This article is from Issue 58 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Picture Frame

Keep a loved one close at hand with this wall hanging or stand.

Overall dimensions: 83 ⁄8"w × 17 ⁄8"d × 103 ⁄8"h

 This frame, with its lap joint construction, features several signature elements from the Arts & Crafts era. They include the overhanging beveled cap, tapered stiles, decorative square buttons, and quartersawn white oak. Sized for a 5×7" photo or piece of art, you can build it to stand on its own or hang on a wall.

Picture Frame

Rout a rabbet along the back face of the frame, moving the assembly in the direction shown by the arrows.

Start with the frame members

  1. Cut the stiles (A), bottom rail (B), and top rail (C) to the sizes listed in the Cut List.
  2. Lay out the 1⁄4"-deep rabbets and dadoes on the back face of each stile (A), using the dimensions in Figure 1. Install a dado set in your tablesaw, along with a miter gauge, auxiliary fence, and stop. Raise the dado set 1⁄4", and make a test cut in 3⁄4"-thick scrap to verify the depth. Now, cut rabbets and dadoes in the stiles, setting the stop as needed. Cut the mating 1⁄4"-deep rabbets on the front faces of the top and bottom rails (B, C). Dry-fit the pieces to check the fit of the lap joints. The back surfaces of the mating parts should be flush. Sand them smooth for a good fit at all four joints.
  3. Glue and clamp the rails (B, C) to the stiles (A), checking for square. Wipe off any glue squeeze-out with a clean, moistened rag.
  4. At the router table using a rabbeting bit, rout a 3⁄8" rabbet 1⁄4" deep along the back inside edge of the frame, as shown in Photo A. This is for housing the glass pane, photo, and backing. Rout the rabbet in two passes to minimize chip-out. The rabbeted opening is sized 1⁄8" larger than a 5×7" photo. Square the rabbeted corners with a chisel.
  5. Mark the locations of the button mortises. Then, at the drill press, drill a 3⁄16" hole 3⁄8" deep at each hole center. For an equal protrusion of the buttons later, keep the mortised depths consistent by using the tool’s depth stop. Square the round openings with a chisel (Photo B).
  6. Referring to Figure 1, mark the tapered outside edges of the frame, and cut the taper using a bandsaw. Cut just outside the line, and then sand to the line to remove saw marks.
Picture Frame

Use a 1⁄4" chisel, held vertically to square the holes, for the walnut buttons.

Add the cap, support, and buttons

  1. At the tablesaw, cut a 3⁄4"-thick oak workpiece to 6 × 95⁄8" for the cap (D). Install a zero-clearance insert, and prepare it for a 30° cut. With the blade raised and angled at 30° from vertical, slide the fence over 1⁄4" from it. Make Cut 1 and Cut 2, shown in Figure 2, using a sacrificial pushblock for safety. Tilt the blade to vertical, adjust the fence 17⁄8" from it, and rip the cap to width (Cut 3).
  2. Cut a 1⁄8"-thick hardboard or plywood back (F) to fit the rabbeted opening.
  3. Drill four 1⁄16" pilot holes in the back of the frame for mounting the turn buttons around the rabbeted opening. (I located the holes 3⁄8" from the rabbet.)
  4. Sand the frame (A/B/C) and cap (D) through 220 grit. Center, glue, and clamp the cap to the top edge of the frame with the back edges flush.
  5. To use the frame for tabletop display, cut the support (E). Start with a 1⁄2 × 6 × 61⁄2" workpiece for safety. Install a zero-clearance insert, and angle your tablesaw blade 30° from vertical. Adjust the fence 1⁄8" from the blade. With the workpiece on edge and against the fence, use a sacrificial pushblock to chamfer the support (Cut 1 in Figure 2). Angle the blade 20° from vertical. Move the fence 21⁄4" from it, and, with the workpiece flat on the table, bevel-rip the support’s opposite edge (Cut 2). (See the profile in the Side View in Figure 1.) Miter-cut the ends of the support at 10° (Cut 3). 
  6. Carefully locate and glue the support (E) in place so the frame leans down at 20°. (I used masking tape to hold the piece in place.) For a wall-mounted frame, fasten in place a sawtooth picture frame hanger after finishing. Center it on the top rail (C).
  7. Finish-sand and stain the frame. (I used General Finishes Black Cherry thinned 30% with water. I then applied three coats of Watco Lacquer, Satin, Spray.) 
  8. To create the buttons (G), rip a strip of walnut to 1⁄4 × 1⁄4 × 8". Check for a snug fit of the strip ends in the square mortises. Lightly bevel-sand four 45° chamfers on the ends of the strip, as shown in Photo C.
  9. Crosscut a 1⁄2"-long button from each end of the strip, and repeat for all six buttons. (I used the Olson 35-231 saw and minimiter box set, but any miter box and fine-tooth saw will do. Set up a stop for consistent button lengths.) Glue the buttons in place. The buttons are sized to “stand proud” of the frame surface 1⁄8". Add the turn buttons to the back of the frame. Insert the glass, picture, and back. 

Use a simple plywood jig with a hardwood arm angled at 45° to support the button stock when disc-sanding the chamfers.

About Our Author

A founding member of the San Diego Woodworking Association, Marlen Kemmet’s career in woodworking and woodworking publications stems back to the early 1980s.  He likes building furniture and home accents in the Greene & Greene style for his home in rural Dallas County, Iowa.


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