Monday, July 25, 2016

Handmade Picture Frames

I've been making lots of tiles recently. I love having a larger area to design on. After firing a couple, I realised that I'd completely forgotten to put holes in the back to hang them. So rather than try and glue something on I decided to have a go at making some frames. I've tried making frames once before but it was a bit of a disaster. I got over ambitious with mitred corners but it all went terribly wrong, so for this attempt I decided to go for a simpler technique using butt joints. The name comes from the square ends of the wood butting up to each other. Much easier than getting your head around angles!

Gathering materials
I bought some offcuts of Oak from a cabinet maker, pilfered a load of tools from my hubby and set to work.


To start I measured the tile and decided to take 2mm off each side to sit the tile inside the frame.

Marking out
The wood was marked with a set square to get a perfect 90 degree angle.

Cutting the wood

And each piece was cut to length.

Checking the size

The pieces are joined using dowels, so to work out where I needed to drill holes, I knocked a panel pin with the tip snipped off in to the end of one of the pieces.

Marking the drill points

This pieces of wood were lined up so that they were square along the edge and I pushed them together so that the pin marked a hole where I needed to drill to set the dowel.

Lining up to mark the opposite piece

Drill points

You can see the two holes here once the panel pin was removed. I did this for each of the four corner joints. I also numbered the pieces so that I could make sure that the right bits were joined together.

Drilling the dowel holes

Next I drilled down in to the wood with a bit slightly smaller than the dowel I'm using to give it a snug fit. The tape on the bit is so that I drill each piece to the right depth.

Making the dowels

I took a length of dowel and cut some rods.


The dowels were glued with gorilla glue which needs the wood to be damp to cure.

Fitting the frame

And the whole frame was pushed together.

Clamped to dry
The glue takes a couple of hours to dry and requires pressure, so I clamped the frame, making sure it was square and left it to cure.

Routing the groove for the tile to fit

Once dry, it was time to cut out the back of the frame for the tile to sit in. I got this brilliant router attachment for my dremel drill. Big routers are terrifying, so this little version was much better. I used a guided bit which has a little bar on the end to run around the inside of the frame so that you get a neat, even finish all the way around. It took a few passes to get to the depth needed for the tile to sit flush in the frame. And with each pass I stepped the router down a little bit more until the tile sat nicely in place.

A coat of wax for protection and colour

After filling any gaps (using a PVA and sawdust mix) and a good sand all the way around, the frame was given a coat of wax. This is Jacobean Oak colour. It goes on looking pretty rough, but after a polish it has a lovely warm finish.

Fixing the tile

The tile was secured using some corner grips.

Ready to hang

And a hook was added to the back for hanging.

The finished frame

And here's the finished framed tile. I'm really pleased with how this turned out, the first attempt took a whole day to make, but once I'd got the hang of it, I worked much faster.

I made a couple of chunky versions for smaller tiles.

This one for a blue glazed design.

Smaller framed tile

And another with added handmade nails for a more rustic finish.

Frame with handmade nails

I'd love to try to make some tiny versions of these for small pendants, little hooks in the top, would make cute wearable art, or a group of them would make a brilliant wall display!

This could also easily be adapted for framing art with glass. Follow the same steps, and use the router to cut to the depth of your piece of glass and a hardboard backing.

Custom wood frames are really expensive, but for a few £'s/$'s you can make your own to fit any piece of artwork you create!


  1. You're a jack of all trades! Thanks for sharing. Your tiles and frames are beautiful.

  2. Tiny versions of these with hooks would be so unique and perfect

  3. Oh Caroline,
    What beautiful frames you have created to make your tiles even more special! Love the look!

  4. These are gorgeous, and make the piece even more special because the frame is also hand made! I would love to see little ones as pendants!


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