Gallery Frame Construction

Inexpensive DIY from lumber; classic and clean finished look for paintings

Simple, clean, uniform gallery frames show a professional finished look and can be replaced by whatever the collector desires or left as-is. Shown here are 1/2w x 1 1/2d” frames cut from 2 x 8″ lumber.

You’ll find clean #2 fir or pine at a lumber yard (not Home Depot). I look for 2 x 6″ or 2 x 8″ to rip 1/2″ strips from. My framing example here is a 30 x 30″ painting so knots outside the 32″ lengths I need do not disqualify a board.

Cut the lumber to length you need plus a little extra for the mitering you’ll be doing later. For 30 x 30″ paintings, I cut this board to 32.”

I first rip about a 1/8 strip to remove the corner radius from the mill (Not shown). Then I rip 1/2″ lengths. NOTE: If you are not used to table-saw ripping of narrow strips, find someone who is; there is danger from kick-back and this is a somewhat skilled task. It also helps to have a fine-tooth blade to reduce future sanding.

Ripped lengths ready for mitering.

Calculate the frame size needed for your painting and miter to size + about 1/8″ to allow for some play in the stretched canvas. If I am making several frames the same size, I make one master then use it as a jig to make the matching lengths.

My inexpensive miter saw has a laser which makes precise cutting easy. Here I’m cutting based on the master. I’m making a bunch of frames to the same size so the master is helpful for production efficiency.

In a previous tutorial I showed this shop-built frame clamp. Position the corner clamps to accept the size of frame you are making.

Spread glue on both ends of the miter.

Be sure the turn-buckle is in loosest position to allow for tightening. When clamping, tighten it with a small screwdriver or flat blade.

After the glue has set, sand and finish the frame. I recommend a softwood conditioner/sealer and then wipe-on poly.

When ready for framing I set the painting on an undersize 1/8″ panel to slightly recess the painting from the frame.

The frame is slightly oversize to fit the canvas. Shim the painting from the frame so the painting is centered within the frame.

I use a small piece of wood to attach the frame to the canvas. If you have a brad nailer, great! If not, do it by hand.

I use eye-screws for attaching hanging wire. Punch a pilot hole (you can put tape on the punch for depth). NOTE: if you always use the same distance from the top for your wire, hanging a show is much easier.

Attach the wire.

Voila! And Bob’s your uncle! (As the Ausies say)