How to Make Picture Frames With a Router

A router gives amateur framers the ability to make custom profile picture frames from any type of wood. By utilising a rebate bit for the rectangular recess along the rear interior edge of the picture frame (to hold the picture, mat and glass) and a variety of profile shaper bits or one complex profile bit, you can create a one-of-a-kind picture frame for your one-of-a-kind photograph, print or painting. A router puts all of the design power in your hands.

Measure the height and width of the matted picture, print or painting with a measuring tape to determine the inside dimensions of the frame.

Design the picture frame profile and select the router bits to carve that profile on your stock. A picture frame router bit allows you to rout a complex profile in one cut, or you can combine face moulding bits, cove bits and roman ogee bits to achieve the frame profile that you design.

Determine the width of the frame. A router and a variety of bits allow you to choose any width for your frame, but you need to consider the size of what you will be framing. A wide frame may overwhelm a small painting, but a large painting can support wider side pieces. The frame should compliment the picture, not compete with it.

Calculate the overall board length of wood stock needed for your frame by adding the inside height and width measurements together, multiplying the sum by 2 and adding 8 times the width of the frame. For example a 7-inch high by 5-inch wide frame with a frame width of 1 inch requires a 32-inch piece of wood---7 + 5 x 2 + (1 x 8) = 32 inches.

Cut a piece of standard dimensional lumber, of your choice, to the calculated overall board length with a table saw. For a large frame, you may want to consider cutting the overall length piece into one total width piece and one total length piece to make mounting the lumber and routing the profiles easier.

Mount your router to your router table with the router collet (the opening in the router that the router bit is inserted into) appearing through the opening in the table.

Insert the first picture frame face profile bit in your router collet. Adjust the bit depth to the appropriate setting on your router with the adjusting knob. Set the router to the appropriate cutting speed for your type of wood.

Guide the board length along the router table fence, with the face of the frame held firmly against the cutting edge of the router bit with a piece of scrap wood, to cut the first face profile. Place the second profile bit in the router collet, make the needed depth adjustment and run the board length along the fence again if your design requires a second frame profile cut.

Flip the board length over so the back of the frame face is facing the cutting edge of the router bit. Place a 1/4-inch router rebate bit in the router collet and guide the board length along the fence to make the rebate profile. This is where the glass and photograph or painting will sit on the inside of your frame.

Flip the board over so that the front edge of the picture frame board is against the router bit. Place a cove or ogee bit in the router collet and guide the board length along the fence to cut the outside frame contour.

Cut the overall board length piece into the four individual height and width pieces needed with your table saw. Remember that each piece will have to have double the width of your frame face added to the inside frame dimensions to allow for the mitre cuts. For example, a 5-inch wide by 7-inch high photograph in a 1-inch wide frame will require two 7-inch pieces, one for the top and one for the bottom, and two 9-inch pieces for the sides.

Adjust the mitre gauge on your table saw to a 45 degree left angle. Hold the first board to the mitre gauge firmly and guide the wood through the saw blade's cutting edge to cut the first 45 degree corner on the first piece. Change the mitre gauge setting to cut a 45 degree right angle and cut the second angle on the first piece. Repeat the needed mitre cuts for each of the three additional frame pieces.

Place a 1/4-inch wide bead of wood glue onto the picture frame pieces where they will be joined together, using the wood glue applicator tip. Join the four pieces together and tighten a steel band adjustable corner clamp around the outside of the frame. Leave the clamp on the frame for 24 hours while the glues dries.

Reinforce the glued corners by nailing an appropriate length brad through the four frame joints.

Fill the brad holes with wood putty. Allow the putty to dry for 30 minutes before sanding the entire frame with 180-grit sandpaper. Remove the sanding grit by wiping the frame with a tack cloth.

Apply a consistent coat of wood stain, of your choice, to the wooden frame with a cloth. Wait five minutes and wipe the excess stain off with a clean cloth. Allow the stain to dry for four hours and apply a light coat of polyurethane to the frame with a detail paintbrush.

Place two evenly spaced picture hangers on the top frame piece at least 1/2 inch from the outside frame edges. Use the hardware included with your picture hangers and a hammer. Place your frame glass and matted photograph, print or painting in the rebate along the inside of the back of the frame and secure them in place by installing staples along the top, bottom and sides of the picture frame with an electric staple gun.


Using a router gives you unlimited picture frame face options. Try routing your planned design onto a scrap length of wood. It will assist you in your design and aid you in exploring your options.


Wear safety glasses while operating power tools.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Router bits
  • Calculator
  • Lumber
  • Table saw
  • Router
  • Router table
  • Table saw mitre gauge
  • Wood glue
  • Steel band adjustable corner clamp
  • Hammer
  • Brads
  • Wood putty
  • 180-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Wood stain
  • Cloth
  • Polyurethane
  • Detail paintbrush
  • 2 picture hangers with hardware
  • Staples
  • Electric staple gun
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About the Author

Based in Covington, Tenn., Cheryl Torrie has been writing how-to articles since 2008. Her articles appear on eHow. Torrie received a certificate in travel and tourism from South Eastern Academy and is enrolled in a computer information systems program at Tennessee Technology Center at Covington.