Making Picture Frames - Step 6 Sanding and Decorative Edges

We've reached the the final step - number 6, of making picture frames!

After this you're in the "finishing" stretch! Of course I mean staining and applying a finish - which we will cover  next...

Remove your frame from the clamp, using a sharp chisel, clean up the glue  lines.

There shouldn't be much to clean up on the face of the frame because of what  you did earlier.

Still though, check it and remove any glue you see.

Be careful not to gouge the wood. You can clean up minor issues while sanding.

Flip the frame over and clean up the back joints.

Stand the frame on its edge and go from corner to corner cleaning up any glue that appears on the edges.

Make sure the edges are clean, or the frame won't site tight to the router fence when you route the decorative profile.

One the glue is cleaned up, its time for your first pass at sanding.

Sanding and V-Nails

Using a random orbital sander (ROS) sand the back, front and edges with 120 grit sandpaper. Take your time and make sure you remove all flaws, glue marks, and scratches that appear on the surface.

If you are sanding by hand, plan to sand through at least 3 grits - (120, 150, 220) - so sanding marks don't show up when you apply stain and/or finish.

Be sure that you sand with the grain!

Making picture frames look truly professional means you have to have perfect miter joints and you must:

  • Make sure that the rails on the front (and back) of the frame are flush to each other in each corner. A careful glue up, careful sanding and an eye for detail will ensure they are.

Tip – if you're trying to sand 2 rails flush, do not push down on the sander or leave it in one spot too long or you will end up with a valley or a dip in the face of your frame!

  • Take your time and make multiple passes until the rails are flush. Keep the sander moving at all times.

After all the work you've already done it would be a shame to hurry through this step. Making picture frames also takes patience!

If you've decided to use V-nails, now is the time to insert them.

You can do it manually by hammering them in with a V-nail driver. This is a slightly cheaper alternative and it really works. It just takes longer to do.

You can find these at several places on-line, here is a link to give you an idea of what to look for:

Click for more info

For a better alternative, that costs a bit more but saves a lot of time, I suggest one of these.

Especially, if you plan on making a lot of frames.

You can find them on e-bay, Amazon and in many art supplies stores. This is the model I have been using for the past 8 years.

With either method, I typically use 2-3 v-nails per joint for rails that 1 1/2" - 2 1/2".  

The wider the rails the more v-nails I use. After the v-nails are in, I take a hammer and tap them flush with the frame.

Decorative Profiles

Now, it's time for a decorative edge on your frame.

Still using the Classic Roman Ogee, you can route a profile by making shallow passes on all four sides of your frame.

Each time you raise the router bit you will create a different looking profile.

Do this until you are happy with the profile.

Tip – if you're making picture frames in sets or more than one frame at a time, run each frame over the router bit - at a particular height - at the same time. This will ensure you have identical picture frames.

All that's left now is the final sanding and cleaning before the finishing process.

Put a 150 grit sandpaper on your ROS and sand the back first, the edges (outside edge and inside edge), and then the face of your picture frame.

Like before, take your time and really pay attention to the surface of your picture frame to make sure it is smooth and flaw free.

If you're sanding by hand you should now use the 150 grit and then another pass with the 220 grit.

Tip - when you're done sanding, put some mineral spirits on a rag and wipe down your frame. Not only will this remove sanding dust, it will also highlight any flaws in the surface before you get to the finishing process.

If you see any flaws, let the mineral spirits dry and go back and sand some more.

Do not use water for this purpose.

Water will "raise the grain" on the surface of the wood creating a bumpy gritty feeling and you will need to sand it down again. Making picture frames can be aggravating at times too!

We have now completed the 6 steps of making picture frames.


We are not "FINISHED" though...

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Updated November 18, 2022