Everyone I know has a drawer stuffed
with photos that are waiting to be framed.
What often keeps us from getting those
treasures up on the wall is the high cost
of professional framing.
If you’ve ever tried making picture
frames, I’ll bet you got frustrated cutting
the miters and clamping the corners.
We’ve got the perfect solution.
We’ve designed a great looking two-part
frame that’s downright cheap and easy to
make. The pieces are small, so you can use
up some of that scrap wood you’ve been
unable to part with. Plus, with our surefire
mitering and clamping jigs, you can make
frames by the dozen.
The frame and jigs shown here are set
up for 8 x 10 or smaller photos. By using
different mats, you can use one frame size
for different-size photos. You can also
make the frame and jigs larger or smaller
to custom-fit almost any size picture.
Tools and materials
To make the frames you will need a
tablesaw, a router and router table, plus a
dado blade and router bits. To build the
jigs you will also need a hand drill, jigsaw,
hacksaw and a few spring clamps.
Making and using a miter sled
This tablesaw sled makes perfect miters every
time. You’ll be able to quickly cut accurate multiple
frame parts. Start by cutting all the parts
for the sled (Fig. D). You’ll have to
size the guide rails to fit your tablesaw because
slot sizes vary between saw brands. Make the
guide rails so they slide freely, yet have minimal
side-to-side movement. Make them about 1/16"
thinner than the depth of the slots in your
tablesaw. Also make a pair of 1/8"-thick spacer
strips to use when gluing the guide rails to the sled board (Photo 4).
After attaching the guide rails, add the front and rear fences.
Put the sled on your tablesaw with the blade raised about 1"
Now slide the saw sled into the blade until the plywood is cut
to about half of its width.
Next, make the plywood triangle. Start with a
16"-square piece of plywood and cut it diagonally with a jigsaw.
Don’t forget to rout the dust bevel on the bottom side of
the triangle. This bevel helps prevent sawdust from building
up against the triangle and causing miter-fitting problems (see
Center the triangle on the saw kerf and attach it to the sled
base with screws (Photo 5). Complete the saw sled with the
addition of the T-track, adjustable stop block and the safety
shield (Photo 6).
Cutting frame parts with this miter sled is a simple two-step
process (Photos 7 and 8).
Making and using the clamping jig
This clamping jig takes the pain out of gluing and clamping
miters. Unlike the old one-corner-at-a-time clamps, ours takes
care of all four corners at once!
The clamping jig shown here is made specifically to fit our
frame sizes. You can clamp other size frames by making the
clamping jig larger or smaller.
To make the jig, cut the parts according to Fig. E. Drill
3/4" holes, then cut out the glue drip slots with a jigsaw. Next,
drill for the threaded inserts (see Sources, below) and screw
them in place. Now glue the sides to the base. To ensure
perfectly square frames, the jig sides that don’t have threaded
inserts must be perfectly square to each other (Photo 9).
To complete your clamping jig, make the filler boards (Fig.
F). These boards keep the frame centered in the jig, help distribute
the clamping pressure evenly and protect the frame from
the ends of the clamping bolts.
Follow the steps in Photos 10 through 12 to clamp up your
frames. It may take you a couple of frames to get the hang of
clamping all four corners at the same time, but once you do
you’ll be amazed at how fast you can make perfect frames. After
the glue dries, sand the frames. The inner and outer frames
can be glued together before finishing or brad-nailed together
after finishing. If clamping one frame at a time seems too slow
for you, make several clamping jigs and you’ll really be in the
Sawdust buildup can keep your frame material from
laying tightly against the triangle fence. This causes
miter-alignment problems later on. We learned this
the hard way when we built our prototype miter sled
(photo, above). That’s why it’s important to bevel the
bottom of the triangle fence to give the sawdust a
place to go.
(Note: Product availability and costs are subject to change since original publication date.)
Rockler, rockler.com, 800-279-4441, 2' Universal T-track, #22104;
5/16" x 18 x 1-1/2" T-slot bolt, #83311;
5-star jig knob, #23812;
2" T-knob, #71514;
5/16" x18 threaded inserts, #28811.
Rust-Oleum, rustoleum.com, 877-385-8155, American Accents, available at
hardware, paint and discount stores nationwide.
Fig. A: Outer-Frame Profile
Fig. B: Inner-Frame Profile
Fig. C: Miter Sled
Fig. D: Adjustable Stop Block
Fig. E: Clamping Jig
Fig. F: Clamping Jig Filler Boards
This story originally appeared in American Woodworker October 2002, issue #122.
October 2002, issue #96
Purchase this back issue.
Click any image to view a larger version.
Two small photos mounted with
a twin mat in a walnut frame.
4 x 6 photo mounted with a double
mat in a mahogany and walnut frame.
5 x 7 photo mounted with a vertical
mat in a maple and walnut frame.
8 x 10 photo mounted without a
mat in a cherry and walnut frame.
Our frame design has two parts, which can be made of different woods or
even used as two separate frames!
1. Rout the frame profiles on your router table. Keep things safe by using
featherboards and push sticks.
2. Cut the rabbet in the inner-frame material with a dado blade.
Use a zero-clearance insert to fully support the frame material
and featherboards to keep the material against the fence while
making the rabbet.
Caution: Blade guard must be removed
for this cut.
3. Cut the rabbet in the outer-frame material. Adjust the outfeed
featherboard so it rides inside the rabbet.
Caution: Blade guard must be removed
for this cut.
4. Make a miter sled for cutting the frame pieces. Begin by gluing the
guide rails to the sled board. The 1/8" spacer strips hold the guide
rails slightly above the top of the table. Use a piece of tape to mark
the center of the saw blade and align the center of the sled board
with this mark. Flush the edge of the sled board with the table edge.
Add some weight to the top and allow the glue to dry.
5. Center the tip of the plywood triangle with the middle of the
saw kerf and against the rear sled fence. The dust bevel on the
bottom edge prevents dust buildup.
6. Screw the T-track and the safety shield in place. Add the stop
block and the sled is ready to use.
7. Cut the first miter with the frame material on the right side of
the miter sled. We marked our miter sled to remind us of the
8. Cut the second miter with the frame material on the left side
of the miter sled. Set the adjustable stop block for the required
9. Make a clamping jig to help assemble the frames. Glue and
clamp the sides to the jig base. Make sure the inside of the sides
without threaded inserts are perfectly square to each other.
10. Rub glue on the end grain of your frame parts. Let it dry about
10 or 15 seconds. If it seems to soak in a lot, add a little more glue,
rub again and let the parts rest for another 5 or 10 seconds. When
the glue seems a bit tacky (no longer runny) you can put the parts
in the clamping jig. Note that the filler boards are already in place.
11. Assemble the frame in the clamping jig one part at a time.
Start with a long side (part 1) and add parts 2, 3 and 4 in order.
Line up the miters and you’re ready to apply clamping pressure.
12. Apply clamping pressure a little bit at a time. Turn each clamp
lightly at first. Double-check that the miters are still lined up
and then apply more pressure. When the risk of slippage seems
to be gone, apply firm pressure to the clamping bolts. Don’t
13. Finish your frames. A spray-on finish is the easiest. We bevel-cut a 2x6 in half and
screwed on a piece of plywood at both ends to make a simple finishing rack. The
open design allows the overspray to blow through rather than bounce back onto the
frames. Replace the masking tape when it gets covered with finish.