How to Miter a Picture Frame


Picture frames fit together with tight, mitered angles look better and hold up longer than other frames. For larger, bulky frames, mitered corners reduce a little of the weight, making it less likely that the frame will come apart over time through the simple force of gravity. Angles are much stronger as contact points. The rail and stile construction typical of theater flats and window frames is not effective when gravity is constantly pulling at the bottom of the frame.

Things You'll Need

  • Back saw, miter box
  • Carpenter's square
  • Chalk line or carpenter's pencil
  • Desired piece of 1/2-by-2-inch framing wood to miter
  • Carpenter's glue
  • C-clamps
  • Tack hammer
  • 1/2- or 3/4-inch brass finishing tacks
  • Decide what size frame you need. Usually, the frame will be as small as possible while still fitting the photo or artwork. Making the frame as small as possible saves stock and enhances the photo. A photo or piece of art in too large a frame can become dominated, lessening its visual impact.

  • Measure twice the length of each rail, which are the vertical pieces, and twice the length of each stile, which are the horizontal pieces. Place the rail piece in the miter box at the correct length for one rail and set your cutting angle. Place the back saw in the correct angle slot and begin cutting. Draw saw back across the wood, then push saw back and forth rapidly until it severs the wood.

  • Measure the two pieces you just cut to be sure they are identical. Sand away any burrs. Use coarse, medium, fine and extra fine sandpaper to give both pieces a smooth finish.

  • Repeat Steps 2 and 3 to cut the two stiles. Place all four pieces so that the mitered corners are touching. Apply carpenter's glue to the mitered angles of each piece and allow the glue to dry until it is tacky. Push all four pieces together firmly. Use a C-clamp to hold the corners tight against each other until the glue dries overnight.

  • Use a tack hammer and brass finishing tacks to secure rails to stiles. Hammer tacks into each side, approximately where the center point of the top and bottom piece would be. It should not be necessary to hammer tacks from the top and bottom unless the picture will be particularly heavy. If the framing wood you are using is heavier than 1/2-by-2-inch stock, use correspondingly larger fasteners instead of 1/2-inch tacks. For the largest stock wood, use wood screws with countersunk holes.

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  • Photo Credit Jane Smith Frame Construction 2009,
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