framing

This is a tutorial on creating flush-mount miter cut frames for large canvas paintings.

Let me start by saying I am in no way an expert wood worker. I feel like an amateur when it comes to framing, but I've had some interest in my frames lately, so I thought I'd share what has worked for me. I am a professional artist, not a professional framer. I think the painting should be the focus, not the frame. That's why I use inexpensive wood. By all means use better wood if you can afford it. If you are an expert, constructive criticism is very welcomed.

Disclaimer: I am not going to teach you how to use a saw, a nail gun or a drill. There are plenty of tutorials and reading materials out there for that. Make sure you are in a well ventilated area or outside. Wear safety glasses while operating power tools. If you use these power tools, educate yourself and please be very careful!!! 

These are the tools and materials that work for me. I have also listed some alternatives.

  • Ridgid 12" miter saw Alternative: miter box set OR cut butt joints instead of miters.

  • Senco brad nailer and finishing nails. Alternative: hammer and glue

  • Ridgid cordless drill No alternative for a drill. Get one! You'll use it more than you think.

  • 1" x 2" x 8' select pine boards Alternative: any type of hardwood labeled finishing. 2" will give a lower profile, 3" will give a chunkier look and come off the wall a little more. 

  • CLAMPS: Right angle, clutch bar No alternative. They are cheap. 

  • measuring tape

  • large drop cloth

  • 2" wood screws (may vary based on the thickness of your canvas stretcher bars)

  • wood filler & wood glue

  • sandpaper: medium and fine grit

  • wood stain, gloves, old t-shirt, q-tips

  • spray gloss finish and/or brush on clear coat finish

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Getting started

Gather all your tools and the painting you are planning to frame.

First lay your painting face down on a clean drop cloth. Measure your canvas (even if you think you already know the measurements). Mine is a 36" square. The dimensions were pretty spot on except for one side that was off by about a 16th of an inch. This matters. You'll see why later.

Cutting the wood

The measurements can get tricky. Start by cutting one end at a 45 degree angle miter. Measure the length of your canvas (36") plus the thickness of your wood x2 (in this case 3/4" x 2 = 1 1/2"). That means the total length of the cut will be 37 1/2". Continue cutting all sides. Hold up the cut wood to your painting making sure that it is exact. Do this after every cut. I always start a little longer than my measurement (you can shave off a little more, but you can't add more to a short cut). 

Staining the wood

Now you should have all your wood cut and double check that it will fit the canvas flush. This next step is easy. Stain your wood on a different surface far away from your painting. I prefer using dark stains since I don't use very high quality wood. The stain hides imperfections. If you prefer the natural wood look I suggest that you seal it so it doesn't warp or discolor. After you have stained your wood make sure to seal it with a spray finish or a brush on finish. I use both. I use one coat of a semi-gloss spray on the edges and sides facing out. On the inside part that is touching the canvas I use two coats of an archival (won't yellow or affect your painting over time) brush on clear coat finish. I do this to make sure none of that wood stain seeps onto the canvas. I don't know if this is necessary, but it gives me peace of mind. Let this dry completely (usually only takes an hour).  

Assembly

The next step is assembling the frame. Glue two corners together and use the right angle clamps to get them straight. Nail these in place. If you don't have a nailer, just make sure you use a lot of glue so nothing slips while you are using the hammer. I recommend getting two right angle clamps so you can do two at a time. Now you should have two corners (Ls).

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right angle clamp

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two corners (Ls)

Go back to your canvas placed face down on the clean drop cloth. Place your two assembled corners on either side of the canvas. Glue and clamp the two remaining corners in place with the clutch bar clamps, then nail. At this point you can stand the painting up and it should wiggle slightly inside the assembled frame. Make sure it looks good and there are no gaps. If there are gaps in the corners, no worries. I will show you how to fix this. But you shouldn't be able to see light coming through the straight edges. 

Attach

Next you need to attach the frame to the canvas. Lay the painting and assembled frame back face down on the drop cloth. Clamp one side of the frame to the canvas with the clutch bar clamp and drill pilot holes. For this size piece I drilled two holes evenly spaced on each side (8 total). Move around the canvas with the clamp until all your holes are drilled. Depending on the size of your frame you may need to drill more holes. Go back to your holes to drive the screws into place. Make sure to use the clamp AND make sure your screws aren't too long and won't stick out the other side of your frame.

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clutch bar clamp

Fixing gaps

Sometimes if your canvas has a wonky side, is warped or you accidentally made a cut too short you can have gaps in your miters. A professional would never let this happen, but like I said I'm an amateur. It happens to me at least half the time. Here's how to fix it...

Make sure to be very very careful with the wood filler and stain so close to your painting. Use the pointy q-tips. Also make sure to sand the wood filler smooth before you stain. I left that step out of the pictures. Finish by adding heavy duty screw eyes and wire to the back so it will be properly supported while hanging.

I hope all of this made sense and is helpful. It was hard taking pictures while working. Sorry, I left out a few picture steps.

Comment here with any questions. 

All done!

 "Sometimes Less Is More" 36" x 36" acrylic and copper leaf on canvas, framed in espresso stained pine   FOR SALE

"Sometimes Less Is More" 36" x 36" acrylic and copper leaf on canvas, framed in espresso stained pine

FOR SALE