How to make a pallet wood picture frame

…because, you know, it’s kind of awesome.

Adam and I got married a few months ago and I had the fabulous 8×10 print of my favorite picture. Plus I had the caricature the artist at the wedding had done. He seemed to be nicer to me and Adam than some of our other guests, haha. Our picture is rather flattering.

Anyways, I wanted to frame them in something rustic and charming to go with the rest of the house decor but my jaw dropped at the $40 price tag attached to the most reasonable pieces I could find on Etsy. Seriously, it’s a wooden square. They even up-charged for glass.

So despite Adam and my parents’ insistence that it would be harder than I thought I went ahead and gave it a try. Turns out it’s not too challenging. You do need access to a reasonable supply of power tools but any imperfections or misalignments end up getting filled in then sanded out with the orbital sander.

I finished both picture frames in a few hours. It took me a bit longer this time because I had to make a few mistakes along the way that I won’t replicate the second time. I tested different stains on the the wood and then selected Diftwood from Minwax for the wedding photo and Golden Pecan for the caricature.

When I was finished I added the photo to the mantel. It was a bit more of a rustic color and paired nicely with Adam’s old rifle from the 50’s, our tea pot, and the trees I got from my grandmother for Christmas. The warm toned one went up in the bedroom when we have a warm wooden bed frame and parchment colored bedspread.

The results are really stunning. You can see in the bedroom, the frame is next to a couple cheap frames I had lying around the house I added smaller wedding photos to. The cheaper frames really look…well…cheaper. I’m debating taking the glossy sealer off since I think that’s the problem. I wouldn’t recommend sealing the pallet wood ones if you were debating. It seems to loose the rustic charm.

To start out I needed:
Pallet wood
Glass for the frame (I got mine cut at Lowes for about $5 each)
Miter saw
Orbital sander
Table saw
Staple gun
Nail gun
Wood glue
Cardboard (or plywood or a picture frame back)
Tiny nails
Hook screw or something to use to hang the frame
Optional: speed square

First I measured the pictures and got glass cut at Lowes. Then I stripped one side of each piece of pallet wood with the table saw to make sure the widths were even. Doing it again I’d probably strip both sides to make it fit together easier since then both edges would be straight but it turned out fine if you’d rather not.

I made marks on the wood with the pencil about a half inch shorter than the glass I would use.

Note: I’m lying, I actually measured it exactly the same length the first time then had to go back and make it smaller. This is what I would do if I was doing it over again.

I used my speed square to draw a 45 degree line out from each point (i.e. the mark I made was going to be the shorter side of the wood).

Then I used my miter saw to cut the wood on the pencil lines. I tried to cut on the line exactly but when I screwed up I tried to err toward making the wood larger versus smaller since I could always cut it again.

Then I stacked each matching piece on the other, lined them up, and cut them again, together, if they weren’t exactly the same length.

Using the orbital sander I sanded the top to get the wood nice and clean.

I fit them together then laid the glass on top. I tried to make it so that the glass overlapped the wood about a quarter inch on each side. If it didn’t, I trimmed the pieces again using the miter saw. When I had them the way I wanted I traced the glass on the bottom side of the frame, trying to keep it even on each side.

I then placed the piece on the table saw with the pencil line up so I could see it (duh, right?). I adjusted it so that the saw blade would be in line with the pencil line. Then I raised the saw blade so it came up about a quarter inch. I flipped the piece of wood over and ran the pencil line over the saw blade. I repeated this with the other pieces.

Then I took the first piece again and flipped it so it was standing on the thin side with the first cut facing out. I lined up the saw blade so that I could run the board through it standing on the thin side and cut out a very long, skinny rectangle. This would make the indent that would hold my picture and the glass. I adjusted the guide so it would line up with the previous cut to make the rectangle then ran it through. It worked perfectly…score! I repeated it for the rest of the pieces.

Then I laid the pieces together again. If they aren’t perfect, don’t worry. Just make sure the indents line up. If one edge is higher than another on the front of one corner is slightly longer than the one it matches up to don’t worry, we’ll fix that later.

I laid the glass in to make sure that everything lined up then used the staple gun to staple the seams together, two per seam.

Then I took the glass out and held it on the side so that I could use the nail gun to shoot nails into the thin edge of the frame, aiming for the nail to go through the seam and keep the frame together. Be careful to make sure you are aiming straight into the wood, I had a couple nails pop out the back when I aimed slightly crooked.

Now, this is where you fix the imperfections:

I laid the frame down with the front facing up. I squirted a thin line of glue over the seams then opened the orbital sander’s dust bag and dumped some shavings onto the glue and rubbed it in thoroughly so the shavings/glue mixture got into the seams.

I let that dry then sanded it down so that only the mixture in the seams remained. For good measure I sanded the seams until they lined up perfectly. Preciously I had had one piece slightly higher than the other. I sanded the corners slightly, too, so they lined up and weren’t too sharp. I wanted it to look old and a bit worn.

Then I stained the frame and added the hanging apparatus. For the bedroom frame, I took a screw hook, made sure the frame was balanced, then screwed in the hook and hammered it so it was in close to the frame. I suppose you could also just screw it in at an angle. For the one on the mantel I was using the back to an old standing frame so I didn’t need to add anything to hang it with.

I did a little strategic sanding, too, to make the stain look worn one the seams and edges.

And that was it! Done! You may notice that their in a bit of a curve in the caricature’s frame. It splintered while I was stripping it and I thought it looked kind of cool so I just worked with it.

If you like videos, here’s the one I watched before starting this. The music is interesting but the video is helpful.

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