Picture Frame: DIY “Built-Up” How-To

It’s easy to create a DIY picture frame with our 5-Piece Picture Frame Router Bit Set and the Merle Band Clamp! You can build simple frames with one profile, or combine profiles to produce “built-up” frames. Here’s a look at our technique of making a built-up frame with two router bits (165-0305 and 165-0205) for a ¾” thick piece of artwork.

Measuring the art for a DIY picture frame project.

1. Measuring for Your Picture Frame

First, measure your artwork and decide how much the inside of the frame should overlap it. The inside opening of the frame should be slightly smaller than the art itself so that you don’t see any gaps. For example, if you want to frame a 16” x 20” painting, you might want to make the frame’s opening 15” x 19”. This gives you a ½” overlap all the way around, which is more than enough.

Multiply the width of the frame stock by two. Then add that number to the desired inside opening dimensions. For 1-½” wide stock and an inside opening of 15” x 19”, you should come up with 18” x 22”. That means the short sides of your frame will be 18” and the long sides will be 22”. Cut your frame stock to rough size, making each piece several inches longer than its finished size. You could cut the short pieces to 22” and the long pieces to 26”.

2. Prepping to Rout Your Picture Frame

Now install the first bit in your router table and use a piece of stock to set the height. Place the stock on its edge and adjust the bit until the top of the cutter is flush with the top edge. Now adjust the fence so that it’s flush with the bearing on top of the router bit. Place a straightedge against the bearing and pull the fence forward until it’s flush.

Setting the bit height for your DIY picture frame project.

Setting the fence for your DIY picture frame project.

Routing the stock for your DIY picture frame project.

3. Routing Your Picture Frame

Install a featherboard to keep your stock pressed firmly against the fence during routing. Alternatively, you can use a Boomer bar clamp. Put a piece of stock on each side of the router bit, butt the clamp against the stock and lock it in place. Rout all four pieces of the frame.

4. Clamping Your Picture Frame

To use the Merle band clamp, release the strap lock and pull out enough of the band to wrap around your frame. Because this project has 90° joints, you should remove the flexible jaws. Place the frame on your bench and position the four clamping corners without tightening the clamp. Apply a thin bead of glue to each miter, assemble the frame and pull the clamp’s strap taught. Lock the strap and use turn the clamp’s handle to apply pressure to all four corners. Let the glue dry and then remove the Merle band clamp.

To provide additional strength to the joints, flip the frame over and install fasteners in each corner. You can use narrow crown staples, corrugated staples, v-nails or picture frame fasteners. After installing the fasteners, flip the frame over again and sand it.

DIY picture frame clamping with the Merle Band Clamp.

A clamped DIY picture frame after routing.

5. Finishing Your Picture Frame

Because the stock is the same thickness as the artwork, you need some way to keep your painting in place. To do this, make a second frame with an inside opening that’s equal to the artwork dimensions but wider than the first frame. You can route a decorative profile around the larger frame’s edges with our 165-0205 bit. Then glue the two frames together. This essentially creates a rabbet to accept the artwork. With thicker stock or thinner artwork, you can simply make one frame and route a rabbet into the back.

Picture Frame Gif

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DIY Picture Frame bits from Eagle America.

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