Walnut & Maple Frame - and a story behind the wood!

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Project by sras posted 01-31-2014 03:15 PM 3583 views 10 times favorited 32 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Well, it all started with a picture. I took this shot in 2008.

It is of Officer’s Row Park here in Vancouver WA. It doesn’t snow here often and I happened to be able to get a picture of the park with several inches of snow. It was a fun shot to take and play with and I even printed out a nice sized 10×40 inch print. But the gray overcast made me set it aside.

Then, last year a friend of mine mentioned he had some maple harvested from trees that had to be removed – wait for it – from the same park! The row of trees on the right of the photo are the maples still standing. He wanted to know if I would like some to work with. Well – yeah I sure would!

When I picked up the wood, I could see I had a challenge. The pieces were trim cuts from squaring up larger pieces. They tapered to zero thickness in some places, were very rough and not the color one expects when they think of maple.

But the biggest challenge was – they were shorter than my picture!

On the plus side, one of the pieces had some spalting (I think it is the one on the right). I just needed to figure out how to make these boards longer. I was definitely NOT going to try to just splice two pieces together – the color and grain variation would never look right.

I ended up using the spalted wood as an inserts that I set off with a series walnut and maple bands. There are three different sets of bands – each one with unique patterns and/or widths. One of the glued up strips is balanced on top of the clamp handles.

I did some math to make sure I had made the strips long enough. I did, but two of the strips had exactly zero waste – sometimes lucky is good enough.

I even managed to get the spalt lines to follow the color lines in the main boards.

I then ran the assemblies through a cove cut set up.

At the same time, another friend offered up some walnut that had been harvested in Silverton, OR. I used that to create elements on each side of the maple strip.

A beveled strip of walnut finished off the inside of the frame. These pieces need another cut – each side represents one piece…

The outside was more of a challenge. This was a project where I had to design as I went along. This was my first large frame and I had trouble getting proportions balanced. I went through several attempts in CAD to get the final layout.

The outer strip is a combination of a cove cut and roundover. Here is the cove set up and resulting cut.

The round over cut took a 45 degree fence for my router table.

Here is a shot of the 2 shaping cuts. I am just getting started with the trim cuts to get the correct orientation for the frame.

Gluing these complex shapes together was another challenge. Each time, I tried a different combination of tape & spring clamps. More tape and fewer clamps seemed to work the best…

The difficulties with this glue up led to new challenges. I was not able to get a clean joint and had some gaps. I used paper thin strips of walnut to fill the gaps.

Next up was miter cuts. I had to add blocking to the back to get the assemblies level. It took a few trim cuts to get the miters right. The glue up was the next challenge. There were no square edges to clamp against. The small lip on the outside just twisted the pieces up and out of alignment. I ended up smearing glue on the joint and holding the joint tight for a few minutes by hand. That gave me a strong enough joint to handle the frame. I then added plywood reinfocing to the corners. The result is a very strong and stable joint.

But wait! It turns out I am not done! One corner of my hand held joint had slipped just over 1/8 of an inch. I am at the point of no return, so it is time for some repair magic. I cut out the mis-matched overlap and inserted the correct color. I also had to get out my carving tools at clean up the edge mis-alignments as well.

The final result was clean enough that most people can’t find the problem corner.

I used a french cleat to hang the fairly heavy frame.

All in all this was a great example of how a project can be a progression of one problem to solve after another.

The final frame is 27×57. The frame itself is about 6 inches wide.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

32 comments so far

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 4994 days

#1 posted 01-31-2014 03:49 PM

Well, wow! That came out really cool.

Good for you for not letting the muse beat you. It seems like you took every challenge and met it head on. Your persistence paid off.

Well done Steve,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View sras's profile


6169 posts in 4242 days

#2 posted 01-31-2014 04:05 PM

Thanks Steve!

In my early years, these kind of problems would have been met with emotion. Now, it’s more like “Huh, I did not see that coming…”

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View thesoninlaw's profile


97 posts in 2897 days

#3 posted 01-31-2014 04:06 PM


View steve_in_ohio's profile


1195 posts in 2723 days

#4 posted 01-31-2014 04:06 PM

Wow, the frame looks amazing, Very cool that you could use the wood from the park, great work

-- steve, simple and effective

View maplerock's profile


529 posts in 2912 days

#5 posted 01-31-2014 04:08 PM

Great frame and great story! That is how a craftsman solves a problem. Well done!

-- Jerry... making sawdust in the Knobs of Southern Indiana

View paxorion's profile


1107 posts in 3158 days

#6 posted 01-31-2014 04:11 PM

Very nice

-- paxorion

View shipwright's profile


8726 posts in 3910 days

#7 posted 01-31-2014 04:17 PM

That is amazing Steve. The wood source alone is reason to be pleased but the design innovations and assembly make it really special. The result is an absolutely gorgeous frame for an equally special photo.

You really have to get into hide glue though. Your life would have been so much easier. ..... :-)

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View lew's profile


13366 posts in 4868 days

#8 posted 01-31-2014 04:19 PM

Oh, My, that’s nice!

Dumb question, Steve, but how did you make the “inside” V cuts?

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View sras's profile


6169 posts in 4242 days

#9 posted 01-31-2014 04:29 PM

Thanks everyone!

Paul – yes I know (sigh … ;) I guess I need a private training session on hide glue ;)

Lew, I made the cuts with the band saw and use a flat file to true them up

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View summerfi's profile


4385 posts in 2800 days

#10 posted 01-31-2014 04:41 PM

That is one beautiful frame and a great story. Sounds like it was an exercise not only in building a frame, but also in building patience.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works -- ~Non multa sed multum~

View ellen35's profile


2749 posts in 4545 days

#11 posted 01-31-2014 04:55 PM

Awesome! The wood is just beautiful and the frame is too.

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View deon's profile


2522 posts in 4138 days

#12 posted 01-31-2014 04:58 PM

Great post and great frame

-- Dreaming patterns

View Andrew's profile


39 posts in 3476 days

#13 posted 01-31-2014 05:14 PM

Fantastic, I love all the pictures.

I always like seeing how things are done, not just the final outcome. I wouldn’t doubt I speak for more than just myself on that one.

-- If you don't start building your dreams, someone else will hire you to build theirs.

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4447 days

#14 posted 01-31-2014 05:37 PM

You turned a challenging problem into a wonderful solution Steve. Very beautiful frame for a special photo and with a great story behind it.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View sras's profile


6169 posts in 4242 days

#15 posted 01-31-2014 05:57 PM

Thanks Mike! Good to hear from you!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

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