Picture Framing Tools:
Basics You May Already Own.

Chances are pretty good that you already have some of the basic picture framing tools needed to make beautiful frames.

Chances are even better that you already have the most important and versatile of all picture framing tools...

...a table saw.

If you do, and you want to make your own picture frames, you are 95% of the way there.

If you don't, no problem. There are other ways to get the job done. 

Below is a few of the most common tools used and some of their pros and cons.

Picture Framing Tools : Table Saws

1. cut rails to width and length

2. Cut rabbets in the back of the rails

3. Cut profiles on the inside and outside edges of the rails

4. cut perfect miter corners

I will cover the different techniques and tips on how to perform all of these functions on a table saw when we get into the actual picture frame construction process.

There are many different saws out there and several ways to set one up. You can have a simple top saw, a job site saw, a permanently placed saw with all the bells and whistles etc...

In the end, you need to get a saw that is as accurate as possible within your price range. Check out reviews and pay attention to comments on the accuracy of the fence in particular. 

While the table saw is the workhorse - if you are looking to add some creativity, decorative profiles and produce even nicer frames some of these other tools, which you may already have, will improve your efficiency and quality:

A router is another very versatile tool in the workshop and it's on the picture framing tools list of most framers who make frames from lumber..

A router can:

1. Cut fancy profiles on the inside and outside edges and on the face of the frame.

  - a few different router bits can create dozens of different profiles.

  - A single rouer bit is all you really need to get started though!!

2. Cut rabbets in the back of the rails


 Many people freehand their router work, meaning they hold the router in their hands working around the wood. If you're making picture frames, a router table makes it much easier and, in my opinion, much safer.

There are many types of router tables out there and you can even make one of your own. 

Portability is very important if you don't have a lot of space in your shop, so a table top might be the answer.

I upgraded to the Kreg model pictured above because of the size of the work surface, the ability to roll it out of the way when I'm finished and the quality of Kreg products.

 I upgraded to the Kreg model pictured above because of the size of the work surface, the ability to roll it out of the way when I'm finished and the quality of Kreg products.

Power Sanders

When it comes to picture framing tools,  an orbital sander shows its value when you reach the finishing stage, (compared to a sheet sander ans hand sanding).

The reason is because it moves around in tiny circles or "orbits" leaving a cleaner, smoother surface, removing scratches as it goes.

A sheet sander moves back and forth 9as does hand sanding) and can leave scratches in the surface that become noticeable during the staining and finishing process.

Miter Saw

There are several different joints you can use to put a picture frame together, but the standard for craftsmanship is a perfect miter joint.

The unfortunate part about that is that the miter joint is also one of the most challenging joints to master. With a little practice and attention to detail you can create perfect miter joints on a table saw...

...however, a miter saw can really speed up the process and with a proper fence system (store purchased or handmade) you can be certain of identical cuts and perfect miter joints in less time.  

Either way, using a miter saw or a table saw, making sure your blades are set at 45° angles and the opposing rails are identical in width and length is crucial.

If they are off, even slightly, you've got trouble!

But, don't worry, I'll show how to make sure your tools are tuned up properly, so trouble doesn't find you (link to tool set up coming soon)

The bottom line is this, a table saw is number one when it comes to picture framing tools you need. If you have one you don't really need any other tools.

If you have a router, you can take making picture frames to a new level.

Power sanders and miter saws can improve quality and speed up the process, but a tuned up table saw and sanding by hand can get the job done!

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Updated November 18, 2022