Create Your Own Rustic Picture Frame
Put that reclaimed wood to use, and make a gorgeous statement piece for your own home.
Rustic design is the perfect marriage of old and new, and offers a special appeal to those who appreciate the natural. The warmth of wood used in rustic decor pairs organically with upcycled and found items, and for many, its ability to adapt makes for an easy approach when styling a home.
I'll take all of the weathered barnwood that I can find for projects. If you're searching, you might have luck looking through salvage shops that collect materials from demolitions; I’ve even had luck on Craigslist, from businesses and homeowners who disassemble old structures and recycle and distribute the lumber for others to enjoy. Old lumber makes a beautiful shelf or tabletop, and over the years, I’ve gifted many custom barn wood picture frames like the one shown above.
To make your own frame, you’ll need these tools and materials:
- wood boards
- tape measure
- speed square
- miter saw
- palm router with rabbet bit
- wood glue
- biscuit joiner and wooden biscuits
- mending plates and hanging hardware
Decide on a size for your picture frame. I like to choose a common size for a few reasons – you can find a cheap frame at a thrift shop, and repurpose its glass pane. And, when it’s a standard size, it’s easier to find artwork to fill your frame. That said, if you have a custom-sized piece of art to frame, it’s always handy to know how to make your own picture frame for it.
It’s easiest to try and cut all four sides from a single board. If you must use two boards (for a large frame, perhaps), make sure the boards are exactly the same width and depth for symmetry, and so that the mitered corners match.
You’re going to mark each of the pieces of your frame on the board using a speed square with a 45-degree angle and a tape measure. The shorter end of each section will be the inside of your frame and the same size as your desired artwork/piece of glass; the longer will be the outer edge. This photo (that I marked up a little in Photoshop) should help you understand how I planned out one board to create a simple 8”x10” picture frame.
Use the miter saw to make these cuts. The saw blade will take an extra 1/8” off at the cut mark, so be sure to remeasure your board before each subsequent cut so that the inside edge of your board measures exactly to the desired size of your frame opening.
When you have all four boards mitered to have 45-degree angles, do a dry fit to be sure that they fit together as expected.
At this point, you could theoretically use some wood glue and L-brackets to reinforce the corners, and have yourself a perfect little frame. It would be great if you were looking to skip the glass and frame something that wasn’t a picture.
If you are framing a picture, I always favor notching out a space in the back inside edge of the frame. This will allow the glass and art to sit inset which simultaneously reinforces how the glass is positioned, and allows the frame to sit flush against the wall.
To make this notch, you’ll use a router and a rabbet bit to carve out a space for the glass and art to sit within. The bit is designed to glide along the edge of the board you’re cutting, which makes it easy to achieve a consistent notch all of the way around.
It will look like this once it is cut.
I use a biscuit joiner to connect the mitered 45-degree edges of each board. Dry fit the frame together again, and use a marker or pencil on the backside of the frame to mark a straight line across each joint. You will use that mark when you line up the joiner.
Use the biscuit joiner to create notches in each board. The wooden biscuits will fit into the cutout created, and wood glue will be used to secure them in position when you assemble the frame.
Assemble the frame on a flat surface, and if the joinery is tight, use a rubber mallet to help get them together flush.
Once the glue has dried and the frame is solid, add hardware to the backside to make the frame usable. Mending plates effectively keep the glass pane and artwork secured in the rabbeted edge of the frame, and D-rings and wire make it possible to hang it.
The rustic frame looks great and right at home once it is on display. It will look like you paid a lot of money for that beautiful frame!