My friend Janell in Minneapolis contacted me recently to see if she could acquire one of my pictures to commemorate her anniversary trip to Venice. She wanted me to surprise her so I ended up preparing an 11×14 print on stretched canvas of one of my favorite Venice gondola shots. To round out the presentation, I decided to take some scrap walnut wood from the garage and build a canvas frame for the piece. Whether you are a painter or a photographer, I thought you might like to see the process and the outcome.
How to build a canvas frame
The piece of wood you see at the above left was all I had to work with. Fortunately it was long enough to go around the canvas frame. to start, I ripped the piece into two pieces so I could glue up a “L” shape moulding for the frame.
Above, I am applying common wood glue (PVA type) so I can assemble the two pieces into “L” shaped moulding. Use lots of clamps to make sure you get a good bond all along the piece. If you don’t have a ton of clamps, use masking tape to fill in where you can’t clamp. It actually works pretty well when you are in a bind. Leave the clamps on for 30 minutes and wipe any glue that has squeezed out with a damp rag because it will be a bugger to get off when dry. The glue is water soluble so you can just use a damp rag to wipe it off. Once dry, the bond will be stronger than the wood! Like my Crocs?
This is where it gets a bit tricky. Cutting the miters and gluing up the frame takes a bit of experience. Basically you need a means to cut accurate 45 degree angles. While cutting, make sure the pieces are exactly the same from side to side and top to bottom. On the right, you can see the mitered pieces glued and clamped. My clamp setup is pretty fancy but other methods can be used to achieve good results. I saw an adjustable strap at the home improvement store once for clamping frames. Ingenious! An important step at this point is to clean off any glue that has squeezed out. Use the tip of a screwdriver to get it out of the corners!
Above, the clamps have been removed and the frame has been sanded. Walnut is a beautiful wood without stain. All I need to do is apply several coats of spray polyurethane to create a nice finish. I usually apply six coats with a light sanding after about three coats with very fine sandpaper. The light sanding allows for a furniture like finish once the top coats are applied.
Above is the back of the frame with the canvas mounted. To secure the canvas, I just drilled four holes at the inner edge of the frame and put brass screws through the frame into the back of the stretcher bars. To keep the screws flush with the frame, I used a countersink bit (click for detail).
Below is the final piece on my dining room wall. It took a while to make this but it is hard to find a floater frame with this quality of wood and assembly. Next, I have to sign the print and ship it on its merry way! I hope you enjoyed this information on how to build a canvas frame.