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Double Picture Frame


This past summer, my wife and I went on vacation up to Tobermory, Ontario, and picked up a print as a memento of our trip.

I've built frames before, but this time we decided that we wanted a double frame -- so a frame within a frame. The inner frame would kind of serve as a matte for the print, so it would be a simple flat frame. We considered a few options for the inner frame including white and blue-grey. (My recollection was the artist in the gallery said that he used a lot of blue-grey frames for landscapes.) In the end it seemed that a black inner frame would look best. The outer frame would be cherry -- we have a lot of cherry in our house and quite like it.

The inner frame was to be about 1-1/2" wide (38mm), and the outer frame about 3" wide (76mm).

Thickness is a concern, as the print is already mounted and wrapped around a frame and is about 3/4-7/8" thick (19-22mm). I want the inner frame to have a rabbet, such that it slightly wraps around the front of the print. This means the inner frame needs to be at least 1" (25mm) thick to allow for this. And then then outer frame will also have a rabbet to wrap around the inner frame, so it will be thicker still. But of course aesthetics also come into play so I don't want it to be too massive!

Since the inner frame was to be painted, I was at first going to just use some pine for the frame, but we don't have anything thick enough, so I'd need to laminate some pine to make it thicker. Instead I found a well seasoned piece of 2x6 construction lumber in the corner of my shop. (This is Spruce) I checked the moisture content with my moisture meter and it shows 9%, which is the same as the pine, so it should be fairly stable. This should save some time, since it is already thick enough for use.

I jointed and planed the 2x6 lumber, and ripped it down to the desired 1.5" (38mm) width. I then ripped a rabbet on it. You can make rabbets in a number of ways. I chose to do so on the table saw. I clamped a piece of plywood to the fence to be a sacrificial fence, and then started the saw and raised up the blade so it was partially embedded in the sacrificial fence. I then set the needed height and ran the stock along the fence to cut a rabbel. I moved the fence over a little bit after each cut and made another cut until the desired width of the rabbet was achieved.

I used my 45-degree miter jig to cut the pieces to length and miter the ends. I built this jig a few years ago based on a youtube video by Steve Ramsey. It works fairly well. However, if I were to make a new jig, I would probably follow the version designed by David Piccuito of as I think it has a lot of useful extra features.

The frame is then glued and clamped using a strap clamp. You don't need a strap clamp, and I do find it a touch pricey, but it does make clamping up a picture frame to be very easy to keep everything square and aligned.

Unfortunately, I managed to mess up the dimensions when cutting the frame pieces to size, and our picture would not fit inside the inner frame. Rather than try to hack the frame to fit, I just quickly made up a new frame, this time using some maple that I had on hand.

But then, as sometimes happens, I overcompensated in the other direction, and the new frame was a touch too large for the print. This is a much easier problem to fix. I ripped some thin 1/16" strips of maple and glued and pinned them into place inside the frame rabbet. These spacers closed up the space and the print now sits nicely in the inner frame.

The inner frame was next painted black.

I then moved on to working on the outer frame. My problems had not finished! As mentioned above, we wanted to build this out of cherry. Unfortunatley, my stash of cherry was getting down to near empty. I had two boards that were 6/4 thick though, and I thought to use them for the frame. I ripped the first one in half on the bandsaw, and then discovered that the boards were essentially potato-chip shaped. There was such a serious bow in the wood that by the time I planed it out it would be lucky to be 1/2" thick.

I only had one cherry board left, and it was only 4/4 thick. But I had no choice. I ripped it into 3" strips, and then jointed and planed the wood flat. I then had to laminate the boards together in pairs to make pieces thick enough for our needs

I really did not want to have visible lamination lines, which is why I really had wanted to use single solid pieces of wood for this. Fortunately, I was laminating for thickness, rather than width. So the lamination line will be on the side of the picture frame and not the face. I still tried to make sure that the stock was very well matched, very well glued, and very well clamped!

The next day I could joint and plane the pieces down to the desired thickness...

... and rip to the desired width.

All this work was just to bring me to the point of having dressed wood that was the right width and thickness in order to make a nice picture frame.

I have developed a style of picture frame that I have now made several times. (See some of the linked articles below for some previous articles about making picture frames.) I start with ripping a couple of shallow dados on the table saw, just the thickness of the table saw blade.

I then move to the router table (next two photos) and first I make a roundover on the outside of the picture frame stock, and then route a cove along the inside corner of the stock.

Here is the finished raw picture frame stock.

I then go back to the table saw and again rip a rabbet along the inside edge of the picture frame. This rabbet needs to be deep enough to wrap around the inner frame. I kept it quite skinny, as we just need it wide enough to wrap around. So it is only about 3/16 to 1/4" wide (5-6mm).

Now again with the 45-degree miter sled to cut the pieces to size.

I have taken to marking the pieces as they are cut with an "R" or and "L" to indicate if they were cut from the Left or Right side of the jig. Then, as I sort out where each piece will go around the frame, I also add a number to keep things organized. You want to be sure that each joint has a matching R and L piece, to ensure a perfect 90-degree corner.

Also, since I'd had issues before with the inner frame being too small, I was extra careful when cutting the outer frame pieces to length. I first cut it too long, and then positioned it against the inner frame, and then marked where it needed to be cut, and "snuck up" on a perfect fit by taking several cuts on the table saw, each time bringing it closer and closer to that line. Once satisfied, I used the one piece to determine the length of the matching piece.

A glued miter joint is not terribly strong, as it is almost an end-grain to end-grain joint. It doesn't need to be that strong, since it is just a picture frame. But I still like to reinforce these joints. On the inner frame I just used some brad nails into the side of the joint, as it was being painted and being wrapped by the outer frame.

For the outer frame I flipped it over, and used my biscuit joiner and plunged a slot into the back of each joint, crossing the joint at 90-degrees.

A compressed beech biscuit was then glued into each slot. These should swell from the moisture in the glue and help lock the joint firmly together. The excess part of the biscuit was cut off flush once the glue was all dried.

Just for curiousity, here is the back of the frame, showing the biscuit slot/joint in the back, and also the back of the inner maple frame, and also the back of the picture print. This illustrates how everything fits together.

But of course the front is what we want to see.

The print fits beautifully in the inner frame, which in turn fits beautifully in the outer frame. And we think the whole thing turned out exactly as I was hoping. Here below are a few more photos

Some of the Tools/Supplies Used In This Project: (Affiliate Links)


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See Also:

Designing Picture Frames

Picture Frames Build

Hello Internet Nail and Gear Plaque

Spaceman Spiff Picture Frame

How To Enhance Your Picture Frames