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My wife would like me to build her a picture frame, but she has some requirements.

  1. She wants it to look like metal. (She apparently found a spray paint that makes it look metal).
  2. She wants the visible portion of the frame to be no more than 1/4" wide.

(She basically wants a metal frame, but doesn't want to pay 60$ for it, since it's a custom size)

Now, here's my reservations with this....

  1. If the visible portion of the frame is 1/4" wide, that means the rabbet holding the picture/glass would be around 1/8" - is this enough material to support the picture/glass?
  2. Again, if the rabbet is 1/8" - That's REALLY thin material spanning from the front of the frame to the back of the frame. I picture this not being thick enough to prevent breaking.
  3. I don't know if I have the tools and expertise to cut pieces this thin... A 1/4" piece with a 1/8" rabbet?

My only possible solutions for this:

  1. Use PVC trim pieces. They may be able to withstand forces better, being only 1/8" thick.
  2. Build the frame without a rabbet. Use a router and a slot cutting bit to route out a slot in the frame - it doesn't necessarily need to be 1/8" - just enough to keep the picture held in. Fashion a slot at the top of the frame. Instead of setting the picture in from the back, I'd drop it in from the top, which wouldn't be visible.

Thoughts?

  • This is tricky if framing conventionally, everything other than the 1/8" rabbet for the glass is doable but those may be a dealbreaker. The main trick to this in wood would be using a strong species (e.g. hard maple) and not using just 1/4" stock — only the projecting portion needs to be that thickness, the 'base' can be 1" material to provide better corner joints. But TBH this sounds to me like it's a much better proposition in metal and there may be cheaper options available than a $60 item if you hunt around. – Graphus May 25 '18 at 11:29
  • I agree - metal is the best choice. However, if I make it myself, I'd have to sink more than $60 in tools. I've looked for custom frames, and I can't find anything much cheaper than $60. – Michael Christiansen May 25 '18 at 11:54
  • What is the problem with the 1/8" rabbet? Is it only that it wouldn't support the glass well enough? Or is it that it couldn't be cut easily? It sounds like it should be easy enough to cut a rabbet like that with either a table saw or a router (in a table -- a temporary one, if necessary), though perhaps I'm not imagining what you want it to come out looking like. What are the dimensions of the desired frame? – Katie Kilian May 25 '18 at 15:52
  • The trick to the rabbet, in any case, is to start with wider stock, and cut the rabbet on the wider stock first. Then rip the stock to its final thickness. That way you aren't trying to manage to cut a rabbet into a 1/4" piece. You'll cut it into a (say) 4" or 6" piece, then rip that down to 1/4". And if I were doing to do this, I'd take the 1/4" from what is normally the offcut side of the table saw blade, to make the rip operation easier. – Katie Kilian May 25 '18 at 15:57
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    I agree with Ast...abandon wood and make it from 1/4" aluminum channel. It's cheap and reasonably easy to work with woodworking tools (it helps to lubricate your saw blades a bit). Join the miters at the back with solder. – Lee Daniel Crocker Jul 25 '18 at 19:30
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Here is another approach to the frame design. A 1/4" wide frame will not be very supportive so you must beef it up. You haven't mentioned how large the picture is, but unless it is very large you can hold the picture and glass only at the corners and create a more substantial wood frame that is behind the picture. The only exposed portion of the frame is the 1/4" edging, but it is glued to the real support frame behind for continuous support. Instead of mitering the corners, you can create slightly larger corner blocks that to secure the picture and glass to the frame. I have used a similar approach on several frames and the emphasized corners look good (in my opnion). You can either have the glass edges finished by the glass shop for a smooth appearance or hide them behind a 1/8" rabbet using Charlie Kilian's technique described in his comment .

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You can certainly try, but I suspect wood movement will eventually cause failures unless you use some very uniform grain species, like real mahogany. And even that probably won't last.

As to your machining issues, that's the easy part. You don't need to cut 1/4 inch pieces and then put 1/8 rabbets in them. You take much larger pieces, cut rabbets, and only then cut to the final 1/4 inch size.

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