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Picture framed by mitered molding

: I have a nice picture that I want to hang on the wall, but I don’t want to spend a fortune on a nice frame. Is it difficult to make a frame myself?

A: As is frequently the case, the level of difficulty depends on the look you’re creating. You can use moldings for the frame and generally these are finished by either painting or staining and varnishing. As far as the molding material, you can choose regular base molding or crown molding. The latter will give the picture some depth.

The size of the picture will dictate the frame’s dimensions. For example, if you have a 5×7-inch picture, you don’t want a frame that is 6 inches wide, as it would look disproportionate and overwhelm the image. Choose a width and style that will accent the picture, but not steal its thunder.

You will also need some specialized tools. A router, for example, will cut a groove in the back of the frame to accept the glass, matting and picture. A biscuit jointer will cut a slot in the mitered corners to lock them together, and special clamps will hold the frame together until it dries.

When you choose the frame’s material, buy a single length of molding. This is important if you will be staining the frame to accent the grain of the wood. When you cut the mitered corners, you will start at one end of the molding and cut along the length of the piece, following the grain around the frame so that it looks like the grain is one continuous segment of wood.

Before you cut the corners, grab the router and cut a rabbet (a groove) using a rabbet bit with a pilot bearing. The rabbet will hold the glass and picture and make it so that it is recessed into the back side of the frame.

Run the router from left to right on the inside edge of the molding. Make sure the molding is clamped to your work surface and slowly move the router.

Wear eye, ear and breathing protection as you use the machine. You can rent a router for less than $20 or you can buy one for about $60.

Now you can cut the mitered corners. You will have four lengths of molding with a 45-degree cut on each end. Make sure you measure correctly.

Then, using a miter saw, cut the angles to length. Dry-fit everything together and make sure your corners contain no gaps.

To connect the mitered corners to each other I prefer a biscuit jointer, as it cuts a slot in each edge of the miter. You will slather a football-shaped “biscuit” with glue and it will sit in the slot.

Mark the midpoint of the edge and cut the slot on each miter. There are different sized biscuits, but use the smallest one necessary. Cover the biscuit with yellow carpenter’s glue as well as adding glue inside the slots.

Place the biscuit inside the slot and bring in the other side of the molding to form the corner. The biscuit will slightly expand as the glue dries, helping produce a rock-solid joint.

As the glue is drying, you will need to clamp everything together to keep it nice and square. There are clamps made specifically for picture frames that use rods you can adjust to square up the frame.

You also can use corner spring clamps or a band clamp and cinch the frame tightly. Wait at least 24 hours before you remove the clamps.

After everything has dried, you can install a piece of glass, the matting and the picture. Then just install a picture hanging bracket on the back of the frame, and you are ready to start admiring your work.

By the way, if you are looking to add a dramatic look to the room, I can send you my old high school picture. It’s as dramatic as they come, especially when you see my hairstyle.

Michael D. Klimek is a licensed contractor and president of Pro Handyman Corp. Questions may be sent by e-mail to: questions@pro-handyman.com. Or, mail to: P.O. Box 96761, Las Vegas, NV 89193. His Web address is: www.pro-handyman.com.

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