So how do I make a frame? Part 2

Showing how the frames differ, one is mitred then rebated, the other rebated then mitred
A mitre shown on each type of frame.

So at the end of the last post (if you haven’t read it you might like to otherwise you are coming in here in the middle of the process) we had reached the stage where what happens to the moulded lengths goes in different directions depending on whether they are going to make a plain moulded frame or a carved moulded frame.

The reason for the plain mouldings to be rebated before being mitred (as can be seen on the left in the picture) is that the rebate is much easier to put in when the piece you are putting through the machine has a flat edge to push against than when it is already mitred at 45 degrees. Its mostly about making my life easier.

However with the carved frame you have to consider the carving above all else and the strength of the moulding while you are carving it. Carving puts quite a bit of stress on the wood and once the rebate has been put in the front (or sight edge) of the frame it becomes much thinner, mostly as little as 3mm at the very front and therefore significantly weaker than the more solid bit behind it. So if you were carving a pattern across the front pushing down from the top of the moulding towards the floor, as happens with various patterns, it might well break as you are working on it. By leaving the wood solid until after you have carved it you are retaining as much strength as you can.

The mitres need to be cut before you carve so that you know length of the side of frame and can adjust the pattern so that it fits along and matches nicely in the corners. One of the hallmarks of a hand carved frame is that the corners match together and the pattern flows around the corner. Once the lengths have been carved they can be rebated.

At this point what you do with the lengths is the same again, now that you have a place to put the picture you need to make the lengths into a frame by joining the corners together. I do this by gluing and clamping the corners and then nailing across the corner with the nail going in through the vertical side of the frame. The nails are punched down under the surface of the wood and the holes left by this need to be puttied as if the nail head gets rusty it can push the gesso and gilding off leaving a nice big hole in the finish.

The last thing to be done is to clean up the frame by hand planing the back and sides of the frame and sanding the front edge and any other parts that need it and making sure that the carved bits that touch each other match.

There you have it a completed frame ready to be finished in any way you like.


Two carved, one plain Italian Frame
Two carved, one plain Italian Frame


This is only a snap shot into how I make a frame, how I was taught to make a frame by my dad, the method is adjusted to the frame being made as some have other requirements. Of course there are other ways to make a frame…..

If you have any questions or queries I’d be happy to answer them.






Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .


So how do I make a frame? Part 1

Showing the 3 of the 4 variations of the frame
3 of the 4 variations of the Italian frame

I have been pondering for ages how best to write this post and what I could use to illustrate my points.

Then recently four jobs came in one after the other, nothing too remarkable about that you say and you’d be right. Although in this case all four were for the same type, shape or profile, of frame, again nothing unusual there. Except that for each of the four commissioned frames the moulding had to be altered slightly. Using my sample as a starting point one was wider and deeper, one was deeper and narrower, one was wider and one shallower making in effect 4 different frames although in all cases they would have the same overall shape as the sample. Two will be carved and two will be left as plain moulding.

This is where what I do comes in to its own, you try going into a high street framers and asking them to do that! Precisely for this reason I do not keep vast stocks of mouldings as each frame differs from the sample it is taken from, it is quite rare that someone wants exactly the sample width and depth. As both this particular client and I have the same set of samples, though his are gilded and finished, we both know we are talking about the same thing

The moulding for each frame is made to order using a sample as a starting point allowing infinite variations and even combinations of sample. I can also match shape and size to any frame, drawing or moulding that is brought to me, this includes matching through time as happened not so long ago with a frame that ended up in the recent Zoffany exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. I was asked to make a frame to match a frame my dad had made years earlier as two paintings were being brought together for the first time in 200 years to hang next to each other and they wanted them presented in exactly the same frames. A fabulous coincidence is that not only did I make one frame and my dad the other but the two frames were gilded by a father and son. Anyway I digress.

Another reason for not keeping stocks of mouldings is no matter what size or length of moulding I have it will inevitably be the wrong size for the job! Also the majority of samples that I have are rarely used so in order to keep stocks I’d need a massive warehouse to house them all just in case they were needed.


Once the profile (the shape of the frame when you look at it end on) has been altered on paper and I have worked out how long the lengths of moulding need to be in order to get the size of frame wanted I can cut the wood and get on with the making.

I start with a raw plank of Jelutong wood, this is the best way for me as it allows me to have any size of moulding that I want.


Raw plank of Jelutong wood before work has started
Plank of Jelutong wood in raw state


I plane and cut the wood until it is the length, width and height I need for the moulding. This is where you can plainly see the differences in the width and height of the moulding start to appear, as shown in the photo below.


Planed lengths of Jelutong wood
Planed and cut lengths of Jelutong wood


From this point I cannot work the pieces at the same time due to the differing widths and heights so from now on they are treated as four separate frames. The lengths of wood are shaped until they match the drawn out profile and as you can see although they are different sizes they are all looking the same. They are now known as mouldings.


showing all four moulded profiles
The four different yet the same moulded lengths


Once the lengths have been moulded the next step differs slightly depending on whether the frame is to be carved or left as is. If the frame is to be carved then the moulding is mitred at 45 degrees to the right length for the frame they will be made into (as can be seen on the right in the image below). If the moulding is to be left as is then the moulding is rebated (a channel cut in where the picture will sit) before it is mitred (as can be seen on the left in the image below).


Showing how the frames differ, one is mitred then rebated, the other rebated then mitred
A mitre shown on each type of frame.


There is a very good reason for doing things this way round and also why the rebates are done at different times, I will explain more in Part 2 of this post…….






Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .


A carved frame that took all my concentration.

French Carved Frame in Jelutong
French Carved Frame in Jelutong

I have been somewhat quiet online since the beginning of this year. One of the reasons for this is the carved frame in the image on the left – a French Carved Frame (it may well have a different name but this is what I know it as).

As often happens I had never made this frame before I was asked to for this job and it took all of my concentration, focus and energy. So my apologies if you thought I had disappeared off the face of the planet.

I love a challenge, which is handy really when you consider that a lot of what I’m asked to do I’ve never done before! It also means that I am lucky to have such variety in my work.

I really thoroughly enjoyed making and carving this frame even though the deadline was very tight and there were various problems to be overcome.

My client was very happy with the frame and as far as I’ve heard their client is too. I do have a picture of this frame gilded up in all its finery. I will see if I can get permission to show it to you.

Further images, including some closer detail shots can be found here.





Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .


When is a picture framer not a picture framer?

Carved frame in Jelutong with inlay
Carved frame in Jelutong


………when they don’t frame pictures.

Eh? But you said that you make picture frames!

Yes I do.

Before you run screaming from the computer at this potentially confusing answer let me explain what I mean.

This whole question of what does or doesn’t make someone a picture framer has come up quite a lot recently. Mainly due to the fact that I’ve just moved workshop and I’ve had to explain what I do to a whole new group of people. They immediately lock me into the picture framer ‘box’ in their mind.

Yes I do make and carve picture frames, but I don’t generally have anything to do with putting the artwork into the frame. This is what I believe makes someone a picture framer, they pull together all the elements and actually put them together.

As far as picture frames are concerned I am basically a link in a chain of events. I specialise in making the frame to the best of my ability to the exact size given so that the next specialist link can do their part to the best of their ability, and so on down the chain.

By getting several specialists to work together on a job you get a far superior finished article done in a timely fashion.

Don’t get me wrong I can do it, I can follow the job through from start to finish completely its just that I don’t. I wholeheartedly believe that you should know something about the parts of the job that come after and/or before your part so that you can spot potential mistakes and not pass any on. For example a carver can make a gilders job incredibly difficult by the way that they carve the frame.

If we all tried to do each others job I don’t think the outcome would be as polished and it would also take a lot longer.

This is also why I introduce myself as a woodcarver specialising in frame carving rather than a picture framer.

Although for some people it seems to be easier for them to call me a picture framer, I think often they just honestly don’t know the difference.





Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .