Spooky Frame [for Christmas]

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Project by Olaf Gradin posted 12-27-2007 06:13 PM 4711 views 7 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Albeit a non-traditional gift, let alone one given at Christmas, I had monster portraits created for my family this year. I wanted to build just the right frame for such a project, so I sought out the nastiest looking pallet I could find still intact.

It took me longer than it should have to get the pallet, but I finally found one and commenced with the destruction of it…in a nice way. Turns out, rusty old nails hold really well to pallet stock – or simply break off. I dropped the nice act and went to full-on anger to get the slats off and nails removed. I knew I would destroy a couple of pieces of wood in the process, but luckily a frame only has four sides.

After picking the best pieces remaining with enough length for the job, I realized I had a mixed bag of cherry and something else. Light weight, but very stiff. The design I had imagined was simple enough and allowed for the greatest amount of variance in the flawed wood. I made a sample piece to work out the problems first (seen in the lasts picture). In the end, I changed from the bridle joint to an over-extended lap joint. I put pins in for looks, as the frame didn’t need the structural rigidity they provide. Each lap section was unique to fit the wood’s profile. I used the table saw to slice out sections and then chiseled out the waste. I also chamfered the edges where there was curve the wood’s edge for a compression fit. I knew I couldn’t dado a wavy line, so I opted for this brute force trick to make the fit.

The check you see in the close-up picture is not a result of this, it was actually from the pallet disassembly. I didn’t worry too much about it, as it helps out the overall look.

After making the laps, I simply glued it up with clamps and squared it (inside) before locking them down tight. The next day, I put the frame on my router table and cut a rabbet for the glass, mat, art, and backer. I waited until the end because I knew the piece was not going to be uniform thickness. The router table helped me negate the unevenness of the back. I used chisels here to square the corners. I also used the Lie-Nielsen large router plane to expand the rabbet to accommodate larger glass and mat – between glue time and finish, I got a call from the guy doing my mat for me. He gave me the bad news that his original dimensions were wrong. That’s why I had to unexpectedly cut a larger rabbet.

I drilled out the pin holes and chiseled the waste to make square peg holes for the pins. I might have been able to hammer the pins home through a round hole as I did in the softer Douglas Fir in my sample, but I didn’t want to risk splitting wood at this stage. The old wood offered no resistance to my sharp chisels. This is the first time I’ve ever done ebony pins, so I’m still a little unhappy with the results. However, this project allowed for some sloppy work. I used a block plane to chamfer the square pins after putting them in the frame. This had pretty good success, but it probably would have been better to have created the points beforehand. Especially since I wasn’t going to be hammering them forcefully into the frame.

I didn’t finish the frame with anything – it’s a nasty looking frame and I only expect it to get worse…or better (depending on how you’re looking at things). My wife loved it, so it was a wonderful success! It took me about 8 hours over two nights – in secret – to complete this framing project. It’s also the first framing project I’ve ever done with 90° joints. Every other one has had traditional 45° miters, even the rustic pallet wood versions.

Oh, I had the portraits done at Len does excellent work and can create your monster from photos, as I requested, or design a monster from his own imagination.

-- It takes a viking to raze a village. &mdash Blog'r:

4 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5497 days

#1 posted 12-27-2007 07:35 PM

haha how wonderful. Definitely unique.
lol I laughed out loud at the “dropping the nice act”... hehehe I can just imagine.

Well done!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14193 posts in 5320 days

#2 posted 12-29-2007 07:55 AM

cool posting .. I checked out the artist’s website. .... Fun stuff !

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 5211 days

#3 posted 12-30-2007 07:44 PM

Very cool! What a unique idea!

-- Happy woodworking!

View WistysWoodWorkingWonders's profile


12854 posts in 4494 days

#4 posted 02-27-2010 12:39 AM

neat idea… well done…

-- New Project = New Tool... it's just the way it is, don't fight it... :)

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