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Fab Frames

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Fab Frames

No miters and no fuss! Multiples and cool variations are easy.

By Tim Johnson

Forget about cutting and fitting miter joints the next time you make a picture frame. Scrap wood, a saber saw, a fence-equipped router table and three common router bits are all you need to make this one. 

The process couldn’t be simpler: Saw and rout an opening for a 4 x 6-in. image in the center of a board; then rout flutes around the face. This procedure is ideal for making multiple frames, and changing the pattern is so easy that you can rout several different-looking frames at the same time.

Those large offcuts you’ve been saving are perfect for this project, but you can also make frame blanks by gluing up narrow stock. Hardwoods such as birch, maple, cherry, beech, walnut and poplar are good choices.

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This picture frame is just a piece of wood with a rectangular hole cut in it. After rough-cutting the picture opening in an oversize frame blank, use the routing template and a flush-trim bit to cleanly rout both the inside and outside edges. 

Click on any image to view a larger version.


Dial in the flute’s width by adjusting the bit’s height. Make test cuts in a scrap piece until the flute measures slightly less than 1/2 in. wide. It’s easy to eyeball this measurement on a coarse scale: Just sight along both graduations’ inside edges.


Set the router table’s fence to rout the outside flutes. Draw a line on your test piece exactly 5/8 in. from the edge. Then make test cuts until the flute’s inner edge precisely aligns with the line.


Install a pair of 1/2-in.-wide spacers and a stop behind the fence. This setup makes it easy to accurately reposition the fence for routing the middle and inside flutes. 


Rout the flutes, starting at the outside edge. To rout the middle flutes, simply remove one spacer and reposition the fence. Remove both spacers to rout the inside flutes. 


Trim the frame to its final size by sawing off the borders. Trimming the frame after routing the flutes eliminates the possibility of router tear-out on the outside edges.


Instant Frame Stand: The EaselMate frame stand screws on in a minute. This pro-quality stand makes it easy to change the frame’s display from vertical to horizontal or convert it for wall mounting.



Great Fun To Finish: My children had a blast painting and staining these frames. They quickly discovered how easy it was to highlight the flutes by sanding the finish or by adding additional colors. 




This story originally appeared in American Woodworker October 2006, issue #124.



October 2006, issue #124

Purchase this back issue.