02 August 2010

Making a Frame With Hand Tools? Nuts.

Been a bit under the weather for the past 3 weeks, and still not quite right this morning, but life moves on anyhow and I needed to frame the Pilgrims for the Loo Gallery show that I told you about in the previous post. I personally like to look at prints without any glass, but since these prints will be in a bathroom and thus near water they need glass/plexi for sure.

The Dreamaway Lodge in Becket is full of funky and eclectic decor, including a lot of antiques and kitschy old art in kitschy old frames, so I decided to look for some kitschy old frames at local flea markets. Jackpot! I got almost all of the sizes I needed (I have an unfortunate habit of making prints in strange and varying sizes) for pretty darn cheap. No problem that many of them had no glass. I could get some plexi cut for me at Lowe's. (Yes I tried cutting plexi myself; no I was not successful and will not try it again.)


But I did have a couple of odd sizes missing, so with continuing on-the-cheap spirit I decided to try making an old-fashioned-looking frame from scratch.

Gotta love my own naiveness. It makes me do stuff I have no business doing. Like making frames even though I have no power tools. Now that I've tried this, I do NOT recommend actually doing it, but I will show you the torturous steps one by one.

Ideally one would use a router to either bevel the inside edge of a nice piece of moulding to hold glass plus mat plus backing, or even to make the whole frame out of a plain board, but I have no router. So instead I spent hours at a hardware store looking for two pieces of moulding that would overlap to make the right kind of lip for all the stuff I needed to put inside and still make a good-looking frame. The photo below shows the roughly 1/4" overlap that I achieved with the 2 pieces I chose.


I used wood glue plus a few well-placed brads to hold the two pieces together:


and let them dry:


Then came the ridiculous part. I used a miter box and hand saw to cut the 45° bevels. It was a disaster in measuring. I can't even describe the mathematical reason why, but there was no way to measure and cut to get the proper length inside the lip. I finally did a workaround that involved pieces of mat board cut to size with 45° bevels. I'm not even going to show you because it was such a cobbled-together solution, but here's the miter box:


I finally got four pieces cut, although inaccurately, so then I glued them together and used this clamping device to hold the frame while the glue dried:


There were some (pretty big) gaps I had to fill at two of the corners:


And then it was ready to paint:


Thank God paint is very forgiving. Once I scuff this thing up a little nobody will notice how badly crafted it is. I'm really glad this isn't for a museum :)


Celia Hart said...

I've always kept quiet about my inept framing skills - I feel at one with you Annie! I can cut mounts (mats) but resort to frames I buy from a mail-order supplier and they get delivered in BIG box.

The vintage frames look cool!

And I love the idea of the 'loo art' it's giving me ideas...

Hope you're soon feeling much better.

Unknown said...

Been there. Done that. Only difference is I had power tools and had no better luck!

Annie B said...

You guys are making me feel so much better -- thanks!

Melody Knight Leary said...

Oh yeah, I feel your frustration. Framing has always been, for me, a necessary evil and takes TONS of patience (and accuracy)!

Decades ago I bought a book on picture framing and just took it from there learning the ins and outs and I still find it frustrating at times.

The way you approached it is actually the basic way to put together a frame using molding. Anyway, your work looks great and finding those old frames was a perfect solution to getting a lot of pieces framed without spending days in the wood shop.

Good luck with your Loo Show.

Lynn said...

Hey--at least it wasn't duct tape! (which is what your dad would have suggested). To everyone: I wish you could see the line-up of these prints along the basement wall. Like a discovered trove in someone's great-great-great grandparents' stash. Seriously. And I get to live with it. Pretty sweet.

starkeyart said...

Wow, Annie! These look great in the vintage frames. They work so well with the prints. And believe me, I understand your do-it-yourself, on-the-cheap attitude. I'm going through it right now trying to get ready for an art fair this weekend... Oh, the struggle to figure out a way to present ready to hang prints and still make a profit!! Good luck with the Loo Show!

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Maybe this is why you've been under the weather. But seriously they look great, just super good. When I read the title I was afraid you were carving them by hand.....

Ellen Shipley said...

Wow, what guts. I'd never have tackled it myself. Tho it does give me some ideas to throw my husband's way. I think he has a miter box somewhere. ;-]

It really makes the prints look great.

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Also a good reminder to buy frames at yard sales if you see 'em you just never know when they might come in handy.....

Anonymous said...

Well done for trying anyway, and you've come up with a workable frame. I'm sure I couldn't. I love old frames from junkshops, too, you have some lovely ones!

Leslie Moore said...

I wish I could loan you Tom. He makes custom frames for all my odd-shaped pieces. I do admire you, however, for plunging into this process with your usual verve! Can't wait to see the framed print.

Andrew Stone said...

Very nice vintage frames--we get ours at the local goodwill/salvation army--
and another kudo for the do it yourself spirit.
Between you and Dave I may have to start growing my own mulberry trees and making my own paper.!

Anonymous said...

there are some excellent hand miter boxes, you may want to upgrade.