Nearly any species of wood can be used to make a picture frame. Different woods—depending on their grain, texture, and color—will produce different effects and be appropriate for different levels of formality or elegance. Some species are easier to work with than others, with highly figured woods presenting more of a challenge for planing and finishing. For very large frames, weight differences between species may be important.
Walnut is a dark brown wood with a subtle grain that takes a finish nicely. It is also appropriate for carving, and was used for many ornately carved frames in the nineteenth century. Walnut is a deciduous hardwood that grows throughout a wide area in North America.
Cherry is a popular wood for picture frames due to its pleasing grain and deep color. Cherry darkens in color over time, beginning with a tone that is almost pinkish and deepening over decades to resemble mahogany. Cherry is a hard wood with a closed grain and takes a finish well.
Pine is an inexpensive and widely available species of wood that is light in weight and can be used for framing. Pine is usually associated with rustic or simple themes. It can be left natural, finished with a clear finish, stained to resemble other woods, or painted.
Mahogany is a tropical hardwood with a tight, textured grain that takes a finish beautifully. Mahogany has been a victim of its own success; due to decades of overuse, some sub-species of mahogany are now endangered. Mahogany can be acquired from sustainable sources, and is a truly beautiful wood for framing.
Certain trees will grow in such a way that they create figures and patterns within their grain. These specimens are highly prized by woodworkers for their beauty when planed and finished. Some examples are tiger or curly maple, birds eye maple, spalted maple and flame birch. Some trees also exhibit large, round growths on them called burls. These burls can be processed for lumber and used to create very unusual effects. Burls are frequently found on walnut trees.
For a rustic effect, you can make a frame out of barn board. Barn board is any wood that has weathered naturally, usually making it very dark and emphasizing the texture of its grain. Barn board frames are often used to frame paintings and photographs of similarly themed subjects, such as country landscapes, vintage photos, and paintings of farms.
- Photo Credit frame. finished gold frame image by L. Shat from Fotolia.com
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