Christmas Gifts #4: Picture frames are harder than I thought...

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Blog entry by HandyHousewife posted 01-04-2019 12:08 AM 1174 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Finished Toy Machine Shed! Christmas 2017 Part 4 of Christmas Gifts series Part 5: 2018: Oak & Laminate TV Trays »

My parents just moved into a new house, so for a Christmas/Housewarming gift I thought a pair of picture frames in purple heart (purple is my mom’s favorite color) would be just perfect. What I didn’t know was how difficult making a perfect set of frames can be. Nor how long it can take to make them.

Since I’m supposedly a millennial, I did what millennials do—watch YouTube videos to figure out how to make them. “Woodwork Web” and “Fix This Build That” each had a video that helped me figure out how to set up my miter saw to make cuts perfect and easily repeatable, and I built a spline jig for my table saw using the tutorial from the “Make Something” channel. Armed with that knowledge, I headed to the local lumber yard to see if I could find the purple heart that I was just sure was going to be as beautiful as the stuff I’d seen on YouTube. They had some in their “exotic” section in a warehouse across town, and while it wasn’t quite as pretty of a purple as the stuff on YT, I convinced myself it was just dirty and would look better once it was milled and sanded. (Spoiler: it wasn’t.)

I ran the 3.5 foot length I bought over my jointer and through the planer, cut it into strips the width I wanted for the final frame and did a bevel on the edge with a table saw and routed out a space for the picture/glass/backing, and then cut the pieces on the miter saw….And did you know that a 4/4 (I’m pretty sure that’s what they called it, it’s like a thick 1×6) at 3.5 feet is just barely enough to eek out two 8×10 picture frames? I had hoped to make an 8×10 and a 12×14 or thereabouts. It turns out there is an incredible amount of waste if you cut your bevels and stuff before you cut the pieces to length, so I had to make them both 8×10 and pray I could scavenge enough scrap to make the splines.

To make the spline slots, I used the jig (which worked pretty well, I’d recommend the method), and then tried to figure out how to cut such thin pieces out of the tiny odd shaped scraps I had leftover. First I tried our not-that-great bandsaw, but it was too hard to make even thicknesses out of the pieces (our bandsaw also doesn’t have a fence, nor a good way to Jerry rig one up—believe me, I’ve tried!). After thinking about it for a few minutes, I happened to notice the thin slivers we had cut off with the table saw still on the floor and wondered about how to run them through the planer. My planer gauge says it goes to “0”, but it actually stops at about 3/8”. Fortunately for me, I had watched another Woodwork Web video about making a quick and dirty jig for making dadoes with a router a while ago, and I spied the pieces of the jig in the corner. I popped half of that jig into the planer bed, and very carefully fed my thin slivers through until they made contact. I think it would have worked better if the wood from the jig would have been slicker, but the rollers managed to shove it through anyway and after a couple of passes I had my splines. I cut them into smaller pieces, glued them up, and used a flush trim bit to clean up the edges after I used the bandsaw to get a little closer to the edges (probably unnecessary, but oh well.)

At this point, I’d started to realize that my purple heart wasn’t going to be the pretty purple that I’d seen on TV, except for the parts where my table saw blade had scorched the wood that didn’t seem to want to sand out.

I was disappointed, but too stubborn to admit defeat, so I thought about it some more over a day or so. And then I remembered that I had seen another YouTube video where the guy had used a torch to scorch the wood, and after some googling I discovered it was a technique called Shou Sugi Ban. I called my husband, asked him to please bring home either a small torch or the weed burner from the farm and though he was confused, he brought both. I showed him a video, we tested it on a teensy scrap, thought it looked awesome, and went for it.

As a bonus, it helped to hide the saw marks and it really did bring out the purple, so it looked more like it did on TV. After locating some pictures of the ocean from our family vacation, the frames were complete. And, my mom seems to love them! Whew!

-- Striving for function *and* form, but settling quite happily for function. ;-)

3 comments so far

View robscastle's profile


8346 posts in 3536 days

#1 posted 01-04-2019 12:33 AM


1. Nice job, joints look good..
I dont think there is anybody who has cut purpleheart and not got saw marks somewhere on it.
2. As for being able to find some in a lumber yard wow! lucky!
3. You can just leave it out in the sun and it will darken all over naturally.
4. Yep bevels always generate waste, dont dump them though keep them for constrating splines later, Big Al will love you!
5. Fences on bandsaws again nothing new there.

Speaking of waste I had a bucket full after this pallet plank frame I made with my bandsaw.

Its all just rubbish pine so no big deal.

-- Regards Rob

View Artie623's profile


116 posts in 1192 days

#2 posted 01-05-2019 01:55 PM

Yeah…. what “he” said

View theart's profile


233 posts in 1886 days

#3 posted 01-07-2019 02:58 PM

“And did you know that a 4/4 (I’m pretty sure that’s what they called it, it’s like a thick 1×6) at 3.5 feet is just barely enough to eek out two 8×10 picture frames?”

Yes, but there’s a 50% chance I’ll forget it before I make another frame. I frequently catch myself calculating the inside perimeter of the frame instead of the outside. Laying out the miters before milling the rabbets and bevels saves a bit of length, but it fells like a lot more work. I usually end up making the splines out of a contrasting wood for… uh… totally aesthetic reasons.

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