Frame with Piping

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A twice-passed beading bit creates a detail borrowed from the upholstery trade.

Of all the picture frames I’ve built in my career, this remains one of my favorites. With its lovely but understated detailing, it conveys a simple elegance that respects a photo or painting without clamoring for attention itself. I particularly like the tube-like rounded detail that runs around the outer perimeter. Created by feeding the stock’s edge—and then its face—against a specially set up beading bit in a router table, the shape mimics piping, the decorative edging often found on upholstery cushions and pillows. To complement the piping, a small chamfer runs around the inside edge of the frame, stopping just shy of the corners to create a subtle detail that delights the eye.

As for joinery, corner splines ensure that this piece will last for generations. For this frame, I used Santos mahogany, which suits the purpose due to its rich color and mild figure. Any wood will work, but I’d avoid wild grain for best aesthetics. The splines here are ebony for an attractive accent. You can amend the proportions of the frame members if you like, but the 1-1/4" width works well with the detailing, as does the 1" thickness. Also, 1" is deep enough to accommodate a painting canvas stretched over a typical 3/4"-thick frame.

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