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’ .


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’ .


Two Guild shows and a change of stand

In August I exhibited my work at two Sussex Guild shows. The first being at Michelham Priory on the first weekend of August and the second at Pashley Manor this weekend just gone. Both were long shows (4 and 3 days respectively) and exhibiting at something like that is very tiring but lets you see what other people think of your work.

When you work in isolation, as I do, making the things that you think of in your head and finding sometimes very random inspiration it is great to see what other people see in your work and what they think of it. I even had one couple argue as both liked different frames and would not concede to the others opinion! Everybody brings their own life experience to looking at your work and will therefore come at it from a different angle, I find it fascinating when they explain to me what they see in my work.

How people look at your work is very much linked to the way in which you present it I think. I have struggled since I joined the guild to present my work in the right way but I think that I am finally getting there.

Stiller Designs stand at Michelham Priory 2010
Stand at Michelham Priory 2010

The first image is my stand at Michelham Priory, which is in itself a vast improvement on that which I had for my first two guild shows last year (same basic stand but different coverings) the fabric I used to cover it back then didn’t have the desired ‘look’ so it was suggested that I paint the boards white as seen below.

This gives the whole stand a much cleaner feel and lets people look at the frames rather than the fabric. I did have way too many comments on how lovely the fabric was before!

It was then suggested that the frames may look better being on a colour so as to show how they might look hanging on someones wall in their house, more people have coloured walls than white ones I would think. To keep the flexibility of the stand the colour could be put onto large panels which hang from the back boards so that I can alter the number and colour of panels as I see fit. This you can see in the image below.

Stiller Designs stand at Pashley Manor 2010
Stand at Pashley Manor 2010

By the way my carving bench is not about to fall over even though it looks like it in this picture!

I think that the frames look an awful lot better on these panels, I had several compliments on the stand and the public spent their time admiring the frames not the background!

Finally I think that I am getting there, there are a few minor adjustments that need to be made to the stand but the majority of it is now going in the right direction.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below