How to Use a Picture Framing Chopper

Written by robert gray
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How to Use a Picture Framing Chopper
Cutting perfect mitred corners is easy with a picture frame chopper. (picture frame corner image by Jim Mills from

The hardest thing about building a picture frame is cutting clean, sharp mitres so that when two mitred strips of picture moulding are glued together, you get a seamless mitre joint. A mitre guillotine chopper is a highly engineered piece of equipment, which guarantees perfect 45-degree angle cuts on your picture framing moulding every time. Because you can count on it to make perfect chops, you don't have waste due to imperfect cuts.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Lay a strip of picture frame moulding on the bed of the guillotine chopper finish side up. Push the outside, thick edge of the moulding flat against the vertical steel fence. Position the moulding so when the dual, 45-degree cutting blades come down vertically to cut the moulding, the blades come in contact with the wood moulding.

  2. 2

    Slide the lever with the ball handle that sits at the front of the chopper, just below waist level, from side to side. The bed of the chopper holding the moulding moves towards or away from the chopping blades; these only move up and down. Move the handle so the bed positions the first 1/4 of the width of moulding under the chopper blades.

  3. 3

    Hold the moulding so it is flat on the bed of the chopper, and the back of the moulding is flat against the fence. Reach to the back of the chopper bed, and slide the brace forward until it rests under the thin inside edge of the moulding. The brace keeps this fragile part of the moulding from cracking and splintering during the chopping process.

  4. 4

    Put your foot up on the foot pedal of the chopper located under the bed. Step up and push down on the foot pedal to drive the chopping blades down and through the picture frame moulding. Make sure both hands are well away from the guillotine chopping blades while holding the moulding firmly in place.

  5. 5

    Remove your foot from the pedal, and the chopping blades will automatically return to the "Up" position. Slide the lever to move the bed of the chopper holding the moulding further under the blades. Repeat step 4.

  6. 6

    Repeat step 5 until you have chopped the moulding all the way through. For large, thick, wood moulding, consider making four smaller chops. Chop very thin moulding all at once.

  7. 7

    Look at the long, horizontal, steel portion of the bed. It will have ruler marks on it. Position the newly chopped end of the moulding so the inside right angle cut that forms the rabbit of the picture frame is on the ruler mark corresponding either to the vertical or horizontal dimension of the artwork you're inserting into the finished picture frame. The picture frame rabbit is the notched out part on the back of the picture frame moulding that the glass, artwork and backboard rests inside of.

  8. 8

    Slide the moulding 1/8-inch beyond the mark. Cut frames slightly larger than the finished artwork to allow for play. Also, wood frames expand and contract throughout the year due to varying levels of humidity in the atmosphere.

  9. 9

    Slide the 45-degree guard tight to the chopped end of the moulding, and lock it in place. This guard prevents the moulding from shifting and sliding when the chopping blades put pressure on the moulding during the second set of mitre cuts for the opposite end.

  10. 10

    Repeat steps 1 to 6 to cut the corresponding mitre at the opposite end from first.

  11. 11

    Chop an identical length of moulding to the first one.

  12. 12

    Chop a second set of picture moulding strips identical in length to one another to complete the third and fourth sides of the picture frame.

  13. 13

    Assemble the framing strips.

Tips and warnings

  • The blades of a guillotine chopper must be very sharp at all times. They will dull in time depending on usage and types of wood being chopped. It's good to own two sets of blades. Send one set away to be professionally sharpened while you use the other set.
  • Guillotine chopping blades are very sharp. Be careful. You can be cut even if you should accidentally bump a finger against the edge of the blades.

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