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Walnut and Maple Picture Frame

Rough cut maple and walnut

My daughter is enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University in the Fine Arts program. Every now and then she brings home a painting that's worth framing, so that's what this project is about.

I'm building a picture frame made from black walnut and soft maple.

The walnut will come from an 8/4 piece of rough cut lumber. The soft maple will be milled from a 5/4 piece.

Using a band saw to cut maple

After cutting the lumber to rough lengths using a circular saw, I rough cut the maple and walnut on the band saw so that it would be narrow enough to run through my 6" jointer.

I used a chalk like to draw a straight line down the middle of each board.

Using a jointer on the face of the walnut

I ran each piece through the jointer as many times as needed so that I would have a flat face and an edge that was flat and square to the face that I had jointed.

Planing the walnut

Then I ran the pieces through the planer so that the other face would be parallel to the jointed face.

Following this, I trimmed the remaining edge on the table saw so that it would be parallel to the jointed edge, and all sides would be square to each other.

Rip cutting the walnut on the table saw

Using the table saw, I cut the walnut once again down the middle. These would give me the four pieces I needed to make the frame.

Final planing of the walnut pieces

I ran the walnut one last time through the planer to arrive at the final dimensions.

Using the band saw to resaw the maple

I used the band saw to resaw the maple (i.e., I sliced it down the middle) so that I would have the pieces that I needed for two purposes.

One set of maple pieces would be used for an inlay strip around the frame.

The other set would be used to create a matte or border around the painting.

(One other use for the leftover pieces of maple will be to create splines for the mitered walnut joints)

Cutting dadoes in the walnut

Next I cut dadoes in the walnut. One dado is for the inlay, and the other is for the matte border.  I was careful when cutting to make sure I was always cutting on the right side. If I made a mistake at this point, there would be no way to correct it.

Cutting a 7 degree bevel on the maple face

I used the table saw to cut a 7 degree bevel on the face of the maple to create a nice looking matte border. This was done by setting the blade at an 83 degree angle.

Using the miter jig on the table saw

After glueing in the inlay and matte borders, I used my cross cut sled outfitted with a 45 degree miter jig to cut the mitered joints.


The miter jig assures that I will have a perfect 90 degree joint, even if I'm not cutting each piece at a perfect 45 degree angle. This is done by cuttine the first piece on one side of the jig, and the joining piece on the other side. As long as the jig is 90 degrees, the resulting joint will be 90 degrees.

I started out using only a clamp, but this caused the walnut to lift up and that would result in an angled miter. I overcame this with the help of a 50lb weight to hold it down.

Assembly of the frame

I was going to use my work bench in the basement as an assembly table, but it's only 30" wide and the frame is 32" wide. I overcame this by adding a 48" wide piece of MDF on top of the workbench.

The miter joints were surprisingly accurate given the complexity of the joint that had both the walnut and the maple border.  Everything fit together nicely. I used clamps and cauls to make sure that the maple border was in alignment all the way around.

I used a band clamp and then used bar clamps to make sure the joints had full contact during the glue-up.

Using a spline jig on the table saw

After the glue-up, I used a spline jig to cut slots into the mitered joints so that I could add in a spline.

The joints were already plenty strong given the amount of surface that was glued. The spline certainly adds strength, but it is primarily decorative.

Cleaning the spline slot with a chisel

It's important to use a chisel and clean out the spline slots so that the splines will have a nice, clean fit.

Clamping the splines in place

My leftover maple wasn't wide enough to create the almost 2" spline that I needed, so I used two pieces and clamped them tightly during glue-up so that they would appear as a single piece.

I used a dozuki saw to cut off the excess part of the spline and finished up with a light sanding.

Wiping on tung oil finish

I finished up the frame with tung oil finish.  I wiped on a light coat and let it dry, then sanded and applied a final coat.

After the tung oil finish had been applied for a couple of days, I rubbed the frame with a mixure of parrafin oil and medium pumice stone powder. It left a consistent, smooth, matte finish.

Back of frame showing blocks that hold the painting in place

To hold the painting in place, I used some leftover walnut pieces. They hold the painting with a friction fit, and it seems to be good enough.  If needed, I could always add a figure-8 fastener to hold things in place.

Photo of the complete frame (without the painting)

Here's the finished frame.

Photo of the framed painting

It looks great on our dining room wall that is coincidentally painted with almost the same color.

Check out my daughter's website at

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