Rustic Picture Frames

Making rustic picture frames out of old fence boards is a much better use of seasoned wood than tossing it in the landfill. Since fence boards are naturally weathered, they make an excellent material for creating rustic home furnishings and other small woodworking projects.

Cedar Picture Frame
Rustic Picture Frame (cedar)

The goal of this project is to build a rustic cedar picture frame around a 12" x 18" enlarged photo. The finished picture is shown above.

The only materials required are:

The tools that I used to build my frame are as follows:

Pick out a couple of straight used fence boards. When making picture frames from fence boards, the used ones are the best. They have much more character than the new ones, and using them for another purpose after they have served their usefulness on the fence, provides continued value.

Making Rustic Picture Frames

Using your table saw, rip both of the fence boards at around 2 inches. Both pieces of the rip will be used to build the frame. You should end up with one piece about 2 inches wide (the inside part of the frame) and the other piece about 1.5 inches wide (the outer part of the frame).

Ripping Fence Boards
Ripping Fence Boards with a Table Saw

Insert a .25" rabbet bit in your router, and adjust the depth to .25". I use this size rabbet cut when making picture frames because of the thickness of a 1/8" thick piece of glass and picture (which hardly has any thickness), and cardboard backing, when inserted into the frame, is almost flush with the back of the frame. You'll see this come together in some later steps.

Craftsman Router
Router with .25" rabbet bit adjusted to .25" depth

Make a rabbet cut along the entire length of both 2" wide rips (see image below).

Rabbet Cut
2" ripped fence board with .25" rabbet

The rabbeted board will form the inside part of the frame. The glass, picture and cardboard backing will fit into the groove.

Picture Frame Parts
Picture Frame Pieces

One of the most important steps in making rustic picture frames is to cut the frame the exact size that you want it. The key is to measure the frame parts from the points indicated below. First, determine the exact dimensions of the glass - you can cut the picture and the cardboard backing if needed, but the glass would be more difficult.

Assuming that the glass is exactly 12" x 18", measure and mark your frame parts 12 1/8" and 18 1/8". Using a miter saw, cut a 45 degree angle on each end of each piece (see diagrams).

Picture Frame Joint
Measure frame parts from point shown above

Once you have the pieces cut, assemble them on a flat surface and, before permanently attaching them together, lay the piece of glass in the rabbeted cut to make sure your frame is the correct size. If it is a little bit larger - that is good, but you don't want it to be too large. If the glass, when slid off to one edge leaves a gap on the other side of the frame, the frame is too large. Cut a little off of the frame parts as needed to give a nice fit, but not snug. You don't want to force the glass in the frame. It will break... trust me... :-/

Once the frame pieces are the size that you want them, attach them using a finish nailer, such as the one shown below.

Fastening Picture Frames
Attach the pieces with a finish nailer

Next, using your miter saw again, cut the outer part of the frame (the 1.5" part). It should wrap around the inner part as shown below. Attach with the finish nailer.

Finished Joint
Detail view of a finished frame corner

Once completed, the frame should appear as shown below. If both sides are the same length and the top and bottom are the same length, the frame corners should be square and the 45 degree joints should be tight.

Picture Frame Completed
Assembled picture frame

Next, cut a piece of cardboard to use as backing for the picture. The purpose of the backing is to hold the photograph tight against the glass, so that there are no ripples in the picture.

Picture Frame Backing
Picture frame with backing cut to size

Next, insert the cleaned glass, picture, and backing into the rustic picture frame. Secure the backing with another layer paper backing (not shown) and staple in place around the edges. Install picturing hanging hardware as desired. As you can see, making picture frames is easy!  :-)


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