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How to assemble a custom wood picture frame with clamps.

The same method is used to assemble a do it yourself custom picture frame, whether you make a wood picture frame from scratch or are repairing the loose corners on a frame or restoring an older frame.

Each corner is a 90° angle split into two 45° angles, that makes eight 45° angles to make fit perfectly, so miter, angle or picture frame clamps are almost a necessity. I say almost, because if you're a glutton for punishment, you can glue the corners without clamps, but it's very frustrating.

The clamps really aren't very expensive, they cost from a few dollars to just a little over $50.00 for one of the handiest miter vises you could ever own and it will pay for itself with the first few times you make a wood picture frame with it compared to the price of custom picture frame.

Take a look at our how to clamp picture frames for assemby page to learn how to use the different types of clamps available to make life a lot easier while making your own custom picture frames.

If you have picture frame molding by the length and would like to have more information about how to cut the molding to picture frame size visit our page cut picture frame molding
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Assemble A Custom Wood Picture Frame with Clamps

If you use a single corner at a time clamp, use the following procedure.

Lay your wood picture frame out on a work surface the way it will look when it's assembled. Take the top piece and one side and clamp them in your corner clamp without any glue. Be sure to get the same ends together that were together on the table. Move them back and forth until they fit perfectly with outside corner and inside corner exactly even and the top of the pieces exactly even and smooth.

Be sure the clamp is tightened securely on one piece and remove the other clamped piece and apply glue. Put the glue on thick and spread it over the whole surface. Put the glued frame piece back in the clamp and slide it so that the glued end is pushed tight against the end of the clamped piece, then pull it back and make sure that some of the glue stayed on the clamped piece. Slide the glued piece back tightly against the clamped piece and tighten the clamp securely on both pieces.

It's a good idea to put at least one brad in the corner and two is better, one from each side. Countersink the brads and fill the holes with a wax type filler.

Leave the frame half in the clamp for at least 10 minutes, then very carefully take it out of the clamp and lay it on a flat surface. Take the bottom piece and the other side and glue them in the same manner. Let the glue cure on the two wood picture frame halves for at least an hour before you glue the two halves together. Actually it's better if you have two clamps and leave each frame half glued up for an hour or so until the glue sets well.

Continue in the same manner until all four corners of your do it yourself custom picture frame are glued.

Many different types of clamps are pictured and described on the Clamps page.

Four Corner Clamps To Make A Custom Wood Picture Frame

There are several different types of clamps that can be used to glue all four corners at the same time. They take, generally, the same procedure. You will need a square to check the corners, because it's real easy to get the corners together so they look right, but just a little bit of an angle off. A 49¢ plastic square works as well as an expensive brass one.

Lay the frame out with the frame corners in the clamp corners and tighten each corner carefully and check each corner with the square as you go. With this method you need to apply glue to all eight ends of the frame pieces before you put them together. Keep tightening, checking for square and adjusting as you go. When all four corners are snug and exactly square, put a brad in each corner, then let the frame sit until the glue is set, at least an hour.

Congratulate yourself, you've just made a custom wood picture frame and saved yourself a tidy sum of money.

Whichever method you use, you should let the glue dry for several hours before you go on with your framing job.

Expansion and contraction of framed pictures

It's important to know how to cut picture frame molding and how to measure the molding to make the glass and picture fit properly.

An average house is in a constant state of expansion and contraction. Each time there's a change in temperature everything in the house will expand or contract. Each time there's a humidity change everything in the house will expand or contract

Not everything in a house will expand or contract at the same rate, for instance wood will expand and contract faster than glass will. Paper will expand and contract faster than wood will.

During the expansion phase there isn't much concern about the race between wood and glass, because the wood will get to it's maximum expansion long before the glass does.

Contraction is a different story. The wood is in a hurry to get shrunk to where it wants to be so it can relax and wait for the next expansion. The glass is more leisurely and ho hum about the whole thing and would rather take it's time. Consequently if there isn't expansion allowance left inside the rabbet for glass to take it's time the wood frame will try to contract smaller than the glass is and POP goes a corner joint.

The picture is an entirely different story. Ideally the picture has a mat between it and the glass, but how often do we see pictures, expecially enlarged photographs put up against the glass. That's when expansion room is mandadory. It doesn't take much heat or moisture to make a picture expand considerably. If there isn't room in the rabbet for the picture to expand to it's fullest it will buckle and wrinkle and that's not so good.
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