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DIY Custom Framing - No Power Tools Required!


  • Supplies:
  • various pieces of wood
  • wood glue
  • finishing nails or wire brads size depends on depth of wood
  • paint or wood stain
  • sandpaper
  • Tools:
  • miter box saw
  • band clamp
  • various clamps
  • hammer
  • tape measure
  • pencil
  • paint brush or rags


Flush Mount Frame 

  1. To begin, you’ll need to decide which style of mount you want for your frame and how thick and detailed the frame will be. For a wider, chunkier frame, you’ll need spacer wood for between the canvas stretcher and the edge of your frame. You can bring your art with you to the lumber yard (or just dimensions if you’re shy about toting around your art) and try stacking together different pieces of wood, square dowels, and molding to get the look you want. Check out my frame profiles below to get ideas for your own frame, and if you want more detail in yours, don’t be shy about adding molding too!

  2. To begin, I purchased two 8′ long pieces of cedar 1x2s, lightly sanded them, and then stained them with my own gray mix of these three stains pictured above: Rustoleum Driftwood, Rustoleum Willow, and Minwax Golden Oak.

  3. Rather than measuring the edge of my frame and transferring those measurements to the lumber, I just laid my 1×2 against the frame and marked the length of the canvas directly onto the lumber.

  4. I cut each of my pieces of lumber a bit longer than I needed, in case I made a mistake and cut them too short. To cut the pieces, I used this miter box saw which clamps the lumber into place and has guides that ensure you are cutting to the exact 45-degree angle that you need. It’s pretty handy, though it does take more elbow grease than an electric miter saw.

  5. Using a band clamp or a ratchet strap, do a dry fit of the frame to make sure it fits. If any pieces are too long, cut them down appropriately. When the pieces are cut to the right length and the dry fit shows a nice fit, loosen the band clamp around the loose pieces of the frame and dab paint into the corners where the pieces meet. Use your finger to spread the glue around a bit before clamping again. Some glue will ooze out when you clamp the frame together, so be sure to have a rag handy to wipe away any glue immediately.

  6. Use finishing nails or wire brads to attach the frame to the canvas stretcher, making sure to also drive nails through the mitered joints in the corner, giving the wood glue some extra strength. Wood glue isn’t very strong when applied to end grains of wood, so the nails are a necessary step unless you use a stronger adhesive like Gorilla Glue.

Recessed Mount Frame

  1. Needed: outside edge piece: 1/2×3″ lumber-middle piece: 1/2×2″ lumber-inside edge piece: 1/2″ lumber-top edge piece: 3/8×2″ lumber

  2. Glue together the 1/2×3″ outside piece with the middle and inside edge piece as listed in the supplies above and shown in the above right image. You’ll need to use clamps to hold together the wood as the glue dries. Be sure to wipe away any seeping glue with a damp cloth before it dries.

  3. After the edge and bottom pieces have dried, attach the top piece, which should be a bit wider than the wood stacked below it, in order to create a lip which will overlap your art. Spread the glue with your fingers to limit glue seepage. Then clamp together and allow the glue to cure.

  4. Measure the size of your artwork and add about 1/8″ buffer space/error space.

  5. Cut your lengths of wood with the miter box saw according to the measurements from step three. I like to err on the side of longer than necessary, because you can always cut off more than you need! Lay the parallel boards against each other to make sure they are the same length.

  6. Arrange a dry fit with the band clamp and your canvas. Make sure everything fits together relatively snugly. If the canvas is too loose in there, you may need to shave a bit off the lengths of the frame pieces.

  7. After the fit is just right, spread some wood glue with your finger onto the edges of the frame pieces and fit together the joints with the band clamp, wiping away any excess glue before it dries.

  8. While the frame is clamped and the glue is drying, drive finishing nails into the joints of the frame to give the piece more stability. I chose to only nail on two parallel frame pieces instead of onto each side.

  9. Flip the frame over and attach the canvas from the back by driving longer nails through the canvas stretchers and into the frame.

Float Mount Frame

  1. Needed: 1/2×2″ lumber painted white, 1/2″ square dowel stained dark (though I suggest using a 1/2×1″ piece of lumber instead)

  2. Glue the bottom piece of the frame to the side piece and clamp into place. Make sure you wipe away the excess glue before it dries! I used a 1/2″ square dowel for this, but it was exceptionally difficult to later attach the canvas to such a narrow space, so if I were to go back in time, I would select a 1/2×1″ piece of lumber instead.

  3. Follow Steps 3-5 of the recessed mount frame above, but instead of adding 1/8″ to the dimension of the artwork for your frame, add about 1/4″ to create the float space in the frame.

  4. Instead of nailing the frame together, you’ll secure it by nailing it to the canvas stretcher from behind. This is the tricky part! You will need to lay your artwork into the frame, making sure the gaps are even all around it. I had a difficult time getting the gaps to stay even as I was clamping it into place. Once it’s clamped into place properly, flip over the frame and drive nails through the back piece of the frame and into the canvas stretcher. Make sure you don’t miss the stretcher and drive your nails into the float space instead! I had to drive my nails in at an angle because my 1/2″ square dowel left me hardly any space.

  5. It was a little difficult attaching the canvas to that little dowel in my float frame, but I love the results! Such a handsome frame ready for display!