I knew what I was going to be making for at least one present several weeks earlier, when I was requested to take a nice picture of my kids. Well that got accomplished thanks to my dad, and I figured I’d try my hand at something unknown heretofore to me: a picture frame.
After stopping by Michael’s to pick up a glass kit and matte (for sizing purposes more than anything), I hopped over to my favorite lumber yard and perused what they had available. Since I was in my personal car, I couldn’t purchase a large piece of stock. Fortunately, they had some reasonable length of jatoba for about $5/bf. Never having worked with it before (nigh even seeing it in person), I decided to give it a try. It was a striking wood without any enhancement added.
In the workshop I started out by attempting to joint two sides on the jointer. Unfortunately I assumed that it was still set up properly and I went at it. No, the outfeed and infeed tables dropped in the extended period of time since I last used it and I had some bad snipe. I made the proper adjustments and got two sides proper without trying to take out the large amount of snipe – easier and more resourceful to cut off that end than to take off so much material. I ran it through the table saw a few times to get pieces about 1.75″ square.
Once I had some equal sticks, I installed a rabbeting bit with bearing in my router table and proceeded to make the rabbet for the glass assembly. It took a few passes, because each time I thought I had the right depth a test fit wasn’t quite there. I then installed a bolt in the plate (because I don’t know where my starter pin is) and installed a large Milwaukee raised panel bit in the table. I wasn’t exactly sure what it would end up looking like, but I bought it two years ago and never used it. I figured now was as good a time as any to see how it cut.
The answer, was beautifully. Since I didn’t have the room I wanted with these long pieces, I maneuvered the router table outside and continued the tedious process of trying to route this profile without stalling the motor (and because jatoba was everywhere inside, up to four inches deep). I wasn’t that successful – I stalled the motor out several times. My router in the table is probably a bit underpowered in general, and certainly to use such a large bit in that capacity. We’ll see what the long-term ramifications are, but right now it works fine.
After routing the raised panel profile in all my pieces, I had to head over to the table saw. The width of the bit precluded it from being flush with the table, so I had a sliver that needed to come off and doing a rip cut at the table saw cleaned it up, and gave me a nice decorative lip at the exterior of the frame. I also did a rip cut on the inside to clean up the inner edge.
Moving over to my miter saw, I cut the 45º miters to assemble the frame. I didn’t know it then, but this thing cuts pretty darn accurately. I sized up the size by sight – I took the cardboard backer and simply got it close to what I needed. I was going to glue the frame together by using the 45º cutoffs glued to the frame pieces, but as soon as I did it I didn’t feel comfortable. I headed to Harbor Freight and picked up a couple of corner clamps and proceeded to do two corners at a time.
The frame came together very well, only some minor issues with the corners which I think were due to alignment issues. I took some sawdust and glue and filled the one joint that was naughty. The rabbet on the back and my length of cut turned out perfect. Just some minor errors having to do with the bearing on the bit and some tearout along the interior of the frame. I took 120- then 220-grit and finished it with shellac with a 220-grit pass between the two coats. I was really pleased with how it came out.
I was so pleased in fact that even without too much time to go on Saturday attempted another one. I used a piece of poplar because the maple I wanted to use was bowed and did not have time to correct. I used a slightly smaller profile, between 1.25″ and 1.5″. Process was the same, but I used an ogee on the interior of the frame, and a roundover on the exterior. Not sure how it was going to look, but I went for it and it turned out well. Miters on this one were nice and tight, supporting my belief that the miter saw is dead on. Sanded, but left plain for future paint. As with the other one, cut to a 11×14″ spec to use a matte to bring it down to an 8×10″.
I’m extremely happy. I was able to give two presents that were made by me and turned out well. I think I’ll be making many more of these, and it might be a foray into finally selling something. I don’t know what someone would pay for these, I don’t know what frames normally go for. I would certainly have to make a profit for materials, if not time. I would also have to find a good place to store the finished product.
The bottom photo is a closeup on perhaps the worst joint. No error in angle, just not aligned properly. Sorted out on the second frame.