How to Make a Picture Frame Out of Wood

How to Make a Picture Frame Out of Wood

Decorative moldings give your home character—baseboards where walls meet the floor, crown molding where walls meet the ceiling—you get the idea. These are big projects, and before you jump into cutting and installing hundreds of feet of intricate molding, it's worth practicing on some smaller projects. Like a picture frame—or ten. In this project, pay special attention to the tips and tricks that will enable you to miter cut molding—that is, beveling it so it fits snugly together at an angle—without chipping it. Being able to put a perfect end angle on a piece of molding is a skill that'll serve you well down the line.


• Measuring tape

• Calculator

• Miter box and handsaw, or miter saw

• 2 bar clamps

• 4 corner clamps

• Hammer

• Utility knife

• Safety goggles


• Picture frame molding

• Wood glue

• Backing board

• ½" to ¾" brad nails

• Sandpaper and stain or paint to finish (optional)

• Hanging or standing hardware

1 Measure the mat or picture to determine the interior dimensions of your frame.

How to Make a Picture Frame Out of Wood

2 Call ahead to frame shops to find out if they sell picture molding in lengths. Bring along to the store your measurements, a calculator, and an idea of the style you want.


1 First, order a piece of glass and a backing board sized to the art you want to frame.

2 Choose the style of picture frame molding that best complements your art. Keep in mind that the more intricately a piece of molding is patterned, the more prone it is to chipping and cracking. The width of the molding should be listed on the sample. If not, the store should assist you in getting an accurate measurement.

3 To determine how much molding to get, add twice the molding width to each length of the interior dimensions. For example, if your interior dimensions are 18" × 24" and you plan to use 2" molding, get two 22" and two 28" lengths of molding. The shop can cut the molding to length or you can add these lengths together, plus a couple of inches for scrap, and carefully transport the long length back to your shop. That said, there's a good chance a shop will have molding samples on hand, but not the actual molding. If you're in a hurry, ask to see only what's in stock. If you're not, plan on waiting to have the molding of your choice shipped to you or to the shop for pickup. The shop very well may offer to miter the molding for you. Don't let them. For the purposes of this project, that's cheating. But you can get the molding rabbeted. This will precut the inside groove that will hold your picture in place.

How to Make a Picture Frame Out of Wood


1 Cut the molding to length, if necessary (see Step 3).

2 Lay out your four lengths of molding and double-check that each is twice the molding width longer than the interior dimensions of your frame. Miter the corners to 45-degree angles before joining them to make your frame. First, make sure that your saw blade is sharp. Use clamps (not just the pressure of your hand) to hold the molding securely to the saw. Finally, position your molding piece in the miter box or on the saw molded-side-up, so that the visible edge is pressed against the top of the box or saw table. Now line up your cuts. Put on your safety goggles, turn the blade to 45 degrees, lock it in place, load your wood, press it tight against the saw's back fence, and make the exact same cuts on one end of all four pieces of molding.

How to Make a Picture Frame Out of Wood

3 Reverse the 45-degree angle of your miter box or saw and repeat, cutting the opposite ends of your molding. Be careful with the direction of your cuts—it's worth laying out the wood as it will eventually be assembled and drawing rough pencil lines showing the direction you want your angles. Mitering the mirror image of the angle you planned is a quick way to turn your usable molding into scrap.

How to Make a Picture Frame Out of Wood

4 Once you've mitered the corners, dry fit your picture frame, using the corner clamps to hold the molding in place. Remember, the picture and the glass should sit against the small ledge called the rabbet, running around the inside of the molding. If your frame pieces are slightly too big, unclamp the frame and miter again to shave the extra, being sure to cut exactly equal amounts from opposite sides of the frame. If your frame is slightly too small, cry, swear, and then start over from the beginning (or trim your art . . .). If needed, continue shaving your frame until your art fits into the rabbeted frame.

5 Glue the frame pieces together at the joints and hold them in place with your corner clamps. While the joints are drying, cut your backing board to the size of your art with a utility knife.

How to Make a Picture Frame Out of Wood

6 Once the joints are dry, reinforce them by carefully tacking them together with brad nails. This isn't the time to swing away and risk cracking your delicate project. Light taps with thin nails should do the trick.

How to Make a Picture Frame Out of Wood

7 If you like, sand and stain or paint your finished frame and, once it's dry, install the hanging or standing hardware on the back.

How to Make a Picture Frame Out of Wood

A Few Relevant Woodworking Terms

If you're going to be making your own bookshelves, stools, and wood frames from scratch, it's also worth learning to talk the talk. Here are a few basic vocabulary terms that will help when you're shopping for materials, making the project, or asking for help along the way.

Cross Cuts

These cuts run perpendicular to the grain of the wood.

Rip Cuts

These cuts run parallel to the grain of the wood.


A guide at the back of a tool (like a saw) that stops whatever you're cutting, keeping it a set distance from the blade.

Miter Box vs. Miter Saw

A miter box is a simple tool that has slats that helps you hold the saw at an angle and clamps the wood in place. Using a miter box, you can make angled cuts on a piece of wood with a handsaw.

If you want to upgrade to a power tool, consider a power miter saw if you have the need for a crosscut chopsaw that makes it easy to shave off bits of wood with precision. Some models tilt for bevel and miter cuts. Compound miter saws can make angled cuts to the edge and face of the board (you'd want that for crown molding).

Bevel Angle vs. Miter Angle

Although it may sound like these terms can be used interchangeably, they do have different meanings. The bevel angle is the tilt of the saw blade from vertical on the table saw, while the miter angle is the horizontal angle. Typically the maximum bevel on a miter saw is 45 degrees.


Cutting a deep groove or a notch into a wood so that you can fit and attach another piece to it. Rabbeting describes both the act of cutting the groove, and also fitting in the joining piece. A rabbet is also the name of the joint made thus. Rabbeting usually also includes gluing or fastening the grooved pieces.