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’ .