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How to make ornate picture frames?

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  • How to make ornate picture frames?

    Hi, All.

    I just got back from a two week trip to Asia and part of the "surprises" I brought home to my family were a variety of really nice oil paintings that were extremely affordable. My wife loves the paintings and wants to put them up, but unfortunately they now need to be framed. She prefers the somewhat ornate classical style frames that you might find in a museum (e.g., gold painted, carvings, etc.) which can be extremely expensive and more than negate any savings I had from buying the actual paintings.

    So...I was trying to find out if there was a way to build some frames in the desired style. I know it would take more than just a nice router bit, yet I have been unsuccessful in searching the web for ideas. Some possible options have come to mind, such as using ornate house molding to mock the style, buying or building a copy carver to duplicate frames we already have, etc. If I were rich, I'd look into one of those CNC things they have at Sears, but then I would probably could just buy the frames :-)

    Does any one have experience or advice in building these kind of frames? I'd appreciate any pointers.



  • #2
    The stock material frame makers use is called length moulding. If you do a search for something like "picture frame length moulding" you should find a source online. Doing a really good job with those inricate profiles will probably take some practice as well as some $$$specialized mitering tools. Good Luck and let us know how they turn out.


    • #3
      For your gold frames, just get a can of gold spray paint. For carved effects (without learning to carve yourself), you can get strips of carved molding that you can add to your frame, such as:

      You can pick this type of stuff up at Rockler, Woodcraft, and possibly even at Lowes or Home Depot. Rockler and Woodcraft also have inlay strips that you just glue onto your project if you aren't planning on painting them.

      As Sleddogg mentioned, the easier solution is to buy frame molding in length and cut and join them yourself. You don't have your location listed, so a few online sources are:

      Some of them aren't exactly cheap, but it beats what you would pay getting the whole thing framed at a framing shop.

      It isn't easy to find a local store that sells that'll sell molding by length, but they do exist.


      • #4
        If you are painting the frames, your "carvings" don't have to be wood. One book i saw suggested using shapes made out of plaster glued to the frame. If you wander through a craft/hobby shop you might see some other things that could be added to a frame. As long as it can be attached to wood and paint sticks, you can use it.

        If you want more of an aged look to your frame, apply your main coat and let it dry. Get a touch of black acrylic paint on a brush, dunk the brush in water, and apply to the frame. The water downed black paint will flow into the corners and darken them a little. Once that dries, dip your brush in a highlight color, let it dry a bit (not completely though), and brush onto the peaks. Another painting technique is to apply two layers of paint of different colors, and sand lightly through the top layer until you bring some of the base layer out. Just plan on some scraps to experiment on until you get your technique down.

        For other ideas, check for framing books in your local library. If you have a decent sized library, you can probably find quite a few books on framing.


        • #5
          I have seen some fancy looking frames at flea markets, and garage sales not too $$$$. Would need to paint over them to the look you want. Sometimes they might have a small chip out of them. Either make something to replace it, or put something totally different there, or cut chips out in other places to match, or just paint over it and leave it (my choice).

          Thrytis has a good idea on how to paint them up. I have seen that technique done before.

          Plan for the worst, hope for the best!


          • #6
            Consider metal leaf as well, rather than spray paint. It's not all that difficult, and can be burnished to a high sheen.
            Keith Z. Leonard
            Go Steelers!


            • #7
              Thanks, everyone, for your insight. I think the first thing I'll do is look for molding lengths. Crafts are big here in Utah, so some good options might not be hard to find.