How to Make Your Own Wooden Frames

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Custom framing can be expensive — really expensive — but you can learn to do it yourself. With a few simple tools you can custom frame a canvas for a fraction of the cost of having it done in a shop. This tutorial focuses on a float-mount frame, the kind that leaves a small gap between the edge of a canvas and the frame around it.

Custom wooden float-mount frame
Custom wooden float-mount frame (Image: Jennifer Bridgman)
Materials
Materials (Image: Jennifer Bridgman)

Things You'll Need

  • One-by-two poplar boards
  • One-by-one poplar boards
  • Tape measure
  • Miter saw
  • Wood stain (for inside wood pieces)
  • Rag or paper towel
  • Paint or stain (for outside wood pieces)
  • Paintbrush
  • Spring clamps
  • Band clamp
  • Electric drill and 1/16-inch drill bit
  • 1 1/2-inch finishing nails
  • Hammer
  • Small eye hooks
  • Hanging wire
  • Hanging hardware

Step 1: Measure and Cut the One-by-Twos

Measure the length and width of the canvas you're framing and add 1/4 inch to allow for the gap between the canvas and finished frame. Set the miter saw at 45 degrees and cut the ends of the one-by-twos.

Cut one-by-twos at 45 degrees
Cut one-by-twos at 45 degrees (Image: Jennifer Bridgman)

Tip

  • The measurement of your canvas (plus 1/4 inch) should match the distance between the shorter sides of the 45-degree cuts.

Step 2: Measure and Cut the One-by-Ones

Set the miter saw to make straight cuts (0 degrees) and cut the one-by-ones to match the inside dimensions of the one-by-twos (shorter side to shorter side). It's fine if these are a little shorter than the inside measurement of the one-by-twos.

Cut one-by-ones at 0 degrees
Cut one-by-ones at 0 degrees (Image: Jennifer Bridgman)

Step 3: Paint the Wood

Use a rag or paper towel to apply wood stain to the one-by-ones. Paint or stain the one-by-twos as desired. For this project, gold leaf paint was used.

Paint and stain wood
Paint and stain wood (Image: Jennifer Bridgman)

Step 4: Attach the One-by-Ones to the One-by-Twos

Line up the edges of a one-by-one and a one-by-two of the same length. Clamp together and drill pilot holes, then hammer 1 1/2-inch nails into the pilot holes to attach the one-by-one to the one-by-two. Repeat for the remaining one-by-ones and one-by-twos.

Attach one-by-one to one-by-two
Attach one-by-one to one-by-two (Image: Jennifer Bridgman)

Step 5: Clamp the Frame Sides Together

Lay the attached one-by-ones and one-by-twos together to form the frame, and use the band clamp to firmly hold them together. Drill two pilot holes in the corners of the frame and hammer 1 1/2-inch nails into the pilot holes. Use nails on every corner to ensure the frame is strong.

Construct frame
Construct frame (Image: Jennifer Bridgman)

Step 6: Position the Canvas

Set the canvas into the frame. It will sit on top of the one-by-ones that are recessed in the one-by-twos. Carefully position it so the gap between the edges of the canvas and edges of the frame is the same all the way around. Clamp in place to hold the positioning.

Clamp canvas to frame
Clamp canvas to frame (Image: Jennifer Bridgman)

Step 7: Attach the Frame to the Canvas

Carefully flip the frame over and drill pilot holes through the back sides of the one-by-ones. Hammer 1 1/2-inch nails through the pilot holes to attach the frame to the canvas.

Attach frame to canvas
Attach frame to canvas (Image: Jennifer Bridgman)

Step 8: Attach the Hanging Hardware

Screw small eye hooks into the back of the frame, about a third of the way down from the top of the frame on each side. Twist hanging wire from eye hook to eye hook, and hang on the wall with an appropriately sized hanging hook.

Hang finished frame on the wall
Hang finished frame on the wall (Image: Jennifer Bridgman)
Float-mount frame
Float-mount frame (Image: Jennifer Bridgman)

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