A finished frame, and a tip for making splines

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    Here’s one of my finished picture frames.

    I used a skew rabbit plane to do the back and front rebates. Cut the miters free hand and touched up on a shooting board. I was highly skeptical of the method of gluing and splining all at once but it turned out to be easy and effective. Didn’t even need to clamp.

    The splines I made from two layers of sapele veneer. I tried to cut them as Paul showed but was getting pretty uneven results. Eventually I gave up and used a different method which I’d like to share. To make the splines I glued 2 layers of veneer together. It made for a kind of “plywood” which was the perfect thickness to fit my tenon saw kerf. To glue the veneer together, I took two 1″ wide by 12″ long strips and loaded them up with high strength glue. After pressing together I wrapped them in masking tape (to catch the glue squeeze out) and put it into my bench vice.

    The result was a glue-saturated hardened spline. Worked wonderfully.

    I feel the picture deserves some mention too. I shot it on the Oregon coast, on a old 1930’s Zeiss Ikon Nettar. It’s a folding camera with bellows and a fixed lens, which takes 120 film and makes huge 6x9cm negatives. I developed the film and made the print in my under-the-stairs closet darkroom.

    The mat is simply a piece of scrap card board painted with acrylic. I couldn’t believe it when I went to the arts and crafts supply store and they were selling mats for upwards of $15! This one is a recycled cereal box.

    I really enjoyed making this project, from top to bottom all with my own two hands. Thanks Paul!

    Thanks for reading:)


    Leanne, Really splendid work on the frame and a nice tip on how to do the splines. It is always tricky to find the right size spline that fits into a cut.

    I retired fro Eastman Kodak and used to develop and print my own images. Unfortunately it is a lost art. Glad you are keep up the activity.

    Located in Honeoye Falls NY USA. The Finger Lakes region of Western NY.

    "If you give me 6 hours to fell a tree, I will take the first 4 to sharpen my axe" Abe Lincoln

    Steve Follis

    Very nice Leanne, thanks for sharing!

    Memphis, Tennessee

    Greg Merritt

    Very good looking frame. Neat, concise work you have done there and thank you for the spline tip.


    Peter George

    Very nice! I love your print as well. I too used to spend many hours in the darkroom. I’ve now moved to digital so I now spend the hours in Lightroom. 🙂

    Just some thought on preserving your wonderful print. Acids are the enemy of artwork. The cardboard, being made from wood pulp, will have very high levels. You MAY be ok if you’ve sealed both sides and the edges with the paint.

    Regular mat board can also have the acids present. For anything I want to last, I use buffered mat board which has the acids neutralized. In my view, it’s a little more expensive but worth it. It’s also much cheaper than the rag board which is used for archival framing.

    The other thing to consider is the acids in the wood. This is easily dealt with by sealing the wood with shellac. Only the rebate that the picture fits in needs to be sealed, so it doesn’t limit your finishing options.

    One final point is that artwork framed under glass should not touch the glass. Any moisture, such as condensation, will cause the artwork to stick to the glass. Thus a mat, or other means of spacing is in order.

    Peter in
    Biggar SK
    "New York is big, but this is Biggar"


    Thanks to each of you for your responses. It’s the first time I’ve posted a project and I’m glad I did.

    , these are some really great tips, thank you. I didn’t even think to paint the back of the mat, and my only thought about the frame was to not use oil in the rebate. Following your advice, I’m going to do some more work sealing the mat and the frame. Most of my prints are just tacked or taped up onto a wall or inside cardboard boxes. I’ve never thought of them as needing to be archived! But I guess I might as well go one step further and make sure they last. Eventually I want to make a flat file storage cabinet with a whole stack of shallow drawers. That’ll take some work for sure.

    I started photography with digital and even studied image processing in university, so I’ve spent a bit of time in the “lightroom”. But now I work full time making software, I already spend way too much time in front of a screen!

    Again thanks:)

    D.J. King


    Very nicely done. I like the ingenuity with the matting and the spline technique. Its that kind of out-of-the-box thinking that will carry you far with your craft. The picture is captured nature in all its simplicity and paradoxically, its diversity. Just beautiful! I love the shot that shows your tool totes as well. I love that in the one shot we can see a simple set of tools that, despite its relative austerity, allows you to make beautiful works of true handmade art. It made my day. Thanks for sharing.

    DJ King
    Hudson Valley, NY

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