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Build a Mission-Style Picture Frame
Tools and Materials
Woodworker Ralph Bagnall, also-known-as the "Consulting Woodworker," has a great plan for a picture frame that doesn't use traditional miter joints. This project is a great exercise for anyone wishing to practice half lap joinery. Any small contractors' style tablesaw will do the job.
Have a look at the excerpt below and download the complete plan using the link above.
Mission-Style Frames Minus the Miters
My wife recently came home with an interesting Mission-style picture frame she wanted me to reproduce for her. It consisted of twin rails using half lap joints in the corners rather than miters. This lent a substantial but graceful look with just a small amount of stock.
Looking it over, I saw that with a few modifications, it would make a fun and useful weekend project.
The store-bought frame uses two different sets of parts. Simple square pieces form the outer rails, and a different set milled to include the rabbet for the artwork make up the inner rails. By milling the rabbet after assembly, both sets of rails can be made exactly the same way.
Now typically, I would form the half laps by milling a wider piece of stock, cut the dadoes, then rip the stock down to create the square pieces. For this project, I decided to build a simple jig to cut the half laps after the stock was ripped. Here's why. First, I wanted to use offcuts and other scraps I already had. Second, I was planning on making a number of frames of different sizes. Each frame requires sides and ends, so the measuring and marking for the half laps was looking like a long haul.
The jig cuts the half laps oriented from the ends of the stock. One setup is all you need to cut all the parts, even if you are making different-sized frames at the same time.
In fact, altering the lengths of the individual parts is the only adjustment needed to make frames of varying sizes.
How to Make
Stock Preparation: The double frame allows for using smallish off-rips, but as always, stock preparation is the key to success. The stock must be square, straight and true, with no knots or blemishes. Any warp or twist after assembly will stick out like a sore thumb. Begin by resawing the scraps to 3/4-inch by 3/4-inch. This gives plenty of room for jointing and planing the stock to true it up. Plane them down to 1/2-inch thick and 5/8-inch wide. The frame members will ultimately finsh at 1/2-inch square, but I learned a long time ago to cut my half laps first, then plane and/or sand the parts to fit. This is far easier than milling all the stock then trying to set up your dado stack to the exact width of your carefully milled parts.
Cutting to Length: With all your stock at 1/2-inch by 5/8-inch it is time to crosscut the pieces to length. Determining the lengths is simple: All you need to know is the overall size of the picture being framed, including any borders or mats, then add 2-1/2 inches. For example, an 8-inch by 10-inch photo in a standard 11-inch by 14-inch mat needs a frame 13-1/2" by 16-1/2." So for this frame, crosscut four pieces at 13-1/2" and four at 16-1/2." Couldn't be simpler. With all the parts sized and cut to length, it's time to mill the half laps. But first, we'll build a jig.
Download the Plan for Complete Detailed Instructions: Ralph's plan includes step-by-step photos to guide you through the entire process. Download the PDF file using the link at the top of this post.