Waterleaf Frame Complete — Next!!

Before I get into the work on the next frame, allow me to share the final result of the Waterleaf one just completed.  Toning and giving the finish a sense of age without making it look like it’s been through the war is the final goal in the picture frame process.  The burnisher/sealer used for this frame is the deep, traditional red color which I knew would show in the faulting between the leaves.  Once the frame was completely gilded the next step is to use 4/0 steel wool to cut the brassy appearance of the composition gold.  I recommend using an oil free product from Liberon for that.  You need a deft hand when removing the gold — it is so easy to go one wipe too many and have poor results!  Trying to replicate where the gold would probably be worn off over the years is what you’re after.  Tried to remove small, random sections on the higher portions of the frame where this would probably occur.  Once I’m satisfied with that I applied 3 coats of platinum blond shellac to seal the surface and prevent tarnishing.  Again, casein paints were used to add some character and tone the gold down even further.  The first mix was with Payne’s Grey and Titanium White only but that was too blue so a bit of Ivory Black was added to simulate what years of dust may look like.  After allowing that to dry thoroughly the entire frame was rubbed down with Liberon Black Bison Wax plus some Rottenstone brushed into the crevices.  I’m happy with this 16″ x 20″ frame:

I did spend the bulk of the shop time today working on the next frame design.  Seems as if things took a lot longer than I expected them to but anytime working, thinking, planning, and practicing is time well spent in my opinion.  Chris Pye has a project on his woodcarving school which appealed to me so thought I’d work to adapt it to a frame.  Well, easier said than done!  It’s called a Victorian Lintel and there are a number of problems I needed to overcome.  Here’s the way things looked when I finally called it quits:

End of the Day

End of the Day

Problems to overcome were that not only is his project three times larger than the area available on the frame corner it’s also done on a flat board.  The leaves on either side of the boss were unequal length which doesn’t work well for a picture frame. His drawing is on the right side and you can see there is way too much detail for the small area I have to work in.  There are three separate templates made from plastic which I’ll discuss once I get into actually doing the frame.  The first step will be to lay out the 3/8″ wide border completely around the perimeter.  The pronounced cove in this profile will have to be tapered down before the design can be transferred to the frame.  If you compare the practice carving on the left and my final template in the center to Chris Pye’s original design at the upper right you’ll see it’s much simplified.  The outside edges of the center boss need to be dimensioned a bit too but I’ll work that out tomorrow.

One thing I’m finding, there is very little information out there dealing with the carving of picture frames.  I know the majority of them come from “off-shore” or are mass produced by some chip and dust throwing CNC facility.  I went to the Desert Woodcarving show in Mesa this weekend and there was absolutely no information or books out there that dealt with carving quality picture frames.


About woodworksbyjohn

I'm a retired woodshop teacher. I build one of a kind furniture pieces and custom picture frames. You can see some of my currently available work, boxes, carvings through my Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/WoodworksbyJohn?ref=si_shop Contact me about your project -- always up for the challenge of unique work.
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2 Responses to Waterleaf Frame Complete — Next!!

  1. Wendy says:

    John, for finishing on your gorgeous waterleaf frame, you said three coats of shellac and then casein paint. How did you apply the casein? Or is that info in another post? I’ve added powdered pigment to my shellac, usually a mix of titanium white and burnt umber (depending on the tone I want) to quiet the garish appearance that composition gold can sometimes have. And the wax… I’ve not used that before. Maybe I just need to go back and read more of your info on working with composition gold. Beautiful work.


    • Wendy, the casein is diluted with water (very thin) and brushed on then almost immediately wiped off with cheesecloth. It will highlight carved areas that way. I like the wax to get a final smooth finish and apply with cotton balls. It tends to remove the casein a bit so let that dry at least overnight. How do you apply your shellac? I use an air brush and in the past found that powdered pigments didn’t always dilute so left fly specs on finish — not too bad though! I prefer Mixol tints to color shellac. Thanks for the compliment about the frame — John


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