Arts & Crafts Inspired Picture Frame
Drill Press Mortising Fence

Dowels make this classic 5x7-sized frame easy to build.


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Here's an elegant little project that will put some scraps of quartersawn oak to fine use. On the outside, our picture frame features Arts & Crafts details — extended and chamfered top and bottom rails as well as faux pegged joints. On the inside, though, we'll simplify the corner joinery with 1/4-in.-diameter dowels, using the E·Z Dowel Jig Kit from General Tools.

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Step 1: Download and print out the Picture Frame drawing attached to this custom eZine. It includes exploded and measured-view drawings plus a Material List for easy reference.

Step 2: Joint and plane your frame stock flat and square, then cut a pair of top and bottom rails (pieces 1) and stiles (pieces 2) to final size.

Step 3: The top and bottom rails receive 1/8-in. chamfers all around their ends. While you could file or sand these little chamfers, a table saw with a sharp blade can cut them quickly and accurately. Draw the chamfer base line around one end of a rail, and tilt your saw blade to 45 degrees. To cut the chamfers, you'll also need to attach a sacrificial scrap fence to your miter gauge — it will both back up the cuts to help minimize tearout, plus give you a convenient way to clamp a stop block for registering the cuts precisely. Raise your saw blade about 1/2 in. above the table, and cut through the miter gauge fence to establish the blade's exact position. Now, line up the chamfer base line of your marked workpiece with the kerf cut in the fence, and carefully clamp a stop block against the other end of the rail. Make the chamfer cuts on the edge grain first, followed by the face grain, to shape the ends of both rails (see Photo 1).

Step 4: Once the chamfers are cut, you can lay out and drill 1/4-in.-diameter dowel holes in the ends of the stiles and the edges of the rails. First, set your frame pieces together to arrange the corner joints, and clamp the frame temporarily. Draw long layout lines across the center of each joint to help align the drilling jig (General provides notched index points on the jig that make it easy to orient it to these layout lines). Mark each joint with letters or numbers to help you keep the layout clear. Install a 1/4-in. drill bushing in your doweling jig, and tighten a stop collar to your drill bit to create 3/4-in.-deep dowel holes. Bore the holes. When drilling holes in the ends of the narrow stiles, you might find it easier to clamp the jig in place if you first clamp the stiles side-by-side to your work surface (see Photo 2).

Step 5: Dry-assemble your frame parts with dowels (pieces 3) installed to make sure the frame will fit together properly. Then spread glue on the contact surfaces of the joints and the dowels, and clamp the frame together (see Photo 3). When the glue dries, scrape or sand the faces of the frame flush and smooth, if needed.

Step 6: The glass and back panel are sized to fit into a 1/8-in.-deep, 1/2-in.-wide rabbet you'll mill into the back of your frame next. Install a rabbeting bit in your router table, outfitted with a large bearing that limits the cutting depth to 1/8 in. Raise the bit to 1/2 in. above the table. To cut the rabbet, feed the inner edge of the frame clockwise around the bit. Keep your hands well clear of the cutter by using a push pad or pushstick when routing (see Photo 4).

Step 7: Square up the corners of the back rabbet with a sharp chisel and a mallet. Use care when chopping away this material to prevent cracking the 1/8 x 1/4 in. lip that remains. Once these corners are completed, sand all of the surfaces of your frame thoroughly up to 180 grit.

Step 9: We'll dress up the corner joints of the frame with beveled faux pegs (pieces 6). To make these pegs, you'll need two "sticks" of 1/2 x 1/2 in. stock that are at least 6 to 8 in. long to keep your hands a safe distance from the blade. We used walnut for the pegs on the frame shown here. Chamfer the four ends of your peg stock using the same table saw method as you did in Step 3 for the rails. Since these pegs are only 1/4 in. long, however, the best way to cut them free and prevent nicking them is to use a band saw. Back up the peg stock with a miter gauge and auxiliary fence. Clamp a stop block to the fence to establish the peg length, and slice the pegs free (see Photo 5).

Step 10: Trim away any tiny "fuzz" from the cut edges of the pegs with a razor blade. Lay out the peg positions on the frame, either with pencil marks or pieces of tape. Glue the pegs in place. We used a gel-style cyanoacrylate glue and a spritz of accelerator to secure them (see Photo 6).

Step 11: Cut a piece of thin craft board or hardboard to size for the back panel (piece 5). Have a piece of glass (piece 4) cut to fit, or if you'd prefer to use sheet polycarbonate, cut the plastic at the table saw with a fine-tooth saw blade (see Photo 7).

Step 12: Stain and finish your picture frame however you prefer. We used a dark walnut pigment stain to mimic an Arts & Crafts look, then sealed the wood with aerosol lacquer.

Step 13: To mount a photo in the frame, you'll need a way to secure the glass and back panel in the rabbet. One easy option is to use metal glazier's push points, which are sold in the window repair section of most hardware stores and home centers. Use the tip of a marking knife to create a starter slot for each point. Then, carefully push the points into the frame with a screwdriver (see Photo 8).

Step 14: Fasten some picture-hanging hardware to the back of your frame, and it's ready for display.

Make sure you've checked out our other Jig-Based Joinery Techniques: