10 Board Feet + 5.5 Hours = ??

How long did it take you to make that?  Many times that’s one of the first things people will ask when they see a custom crafted item.  There’s a somewhat flippant retort I’ve heard: “been working on this all of my life”.  Meaning that the skills it took to make this have been cultivated, in my case; for 5+ decades!  As it should be, generally speaking a custom piece of furniture or picture frame will cost more than a similar item from Wayfair, Macy’s, Ikea, Aaron Brothers, etc. just because of the nature of handwork.  What bothers me is when people automatically assume that a hand crafted item is beyond their budget so close their mind to purchasing one.  Pricing our work is tough and I recently read an article by Philip Morley in  Fine Woodworking Magazine  He is a custom furniture maker and it’s an interesting read for anyone working at a craft.  There have always been formulas to calculate your time and overhead, materials, planning, etc.  For me, this is a self-funded passion and according to the comments on the article he wrote many of us don’t even want to calculate our hourly wage.  Rest assured, those fighting for a $15.00 minimum wage have no idea what real effort and work is required to create the stuff we do. That being said — I love the process of creating something from nothing so that’s what drives me.

Here’s the answer to the riddle of my title, two frames.  One measures 14″ x 20″ and the other is 14″ square.  That’s the time it took to get from the surfaced 5/4 Basswood to the completed and joined frames.  It’ll probably take another 4-5 hours to gild them since they will be done in 12 karat precious gold leaf which takes much more time to lay than composition leaf.

This frame is made of two separate pieces as you can see in the profile detail (click on image to unsquash it!).  The outer edge is 1″ x 1 3/8″ and the panel is 1″ x 2 1/2″.  They are splined with a 1/4″ piece of MDF, glued and clamped together.

First step is to cut them to approximate length on the table saw.  This is followed by planing a working edge (Stanley #7 Jointer Plane) and ripping to the required widths, note the tally sheet laying next to them to keep myself oragnized.

Now that they are approximate width and planed square it’s time to use the Veritas small plow plane with a 1/4″ bead cutter — such fun!  The panel pieces have a single bead while the outer edge has two.  Once done each piece had a 1/4″ groove cut into it on the tablesaw and the rabbet for the picture was too.

Assembling these is pretty straight forward, after applying a bead of glue into the groove for the MDF more glue is brushed onto the other pieces.  After rubbing them together to ensure there is glue all over they are clamped up in pairs, back to back and left to dry overnight. The glue on the bottom of the joint is easy enough to scrape off when dry.  For the face side, once the glue had set up to that “buggery stage” it was removed with a dull chisel and wiped as cleanly as possible with a damp paper towel.  Since the frame won’t be stained glue in the pores of the wood are acceptable.  Last step was to set up the mitersled on the table saw and cut them to the required length.

So there we go, 5.5 hours of creative work which will result in two, uniquely crafted picture frames.  At this point in my career it’s all about the process and staying engaged — need a frame or something else custom: contact me!

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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 sell and 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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