Frame #168: Tabernacle Style

This will be the third Tabernacle style frame I’ve been commissioned to make and I truly love the challenge of them.  I know there’s a lot of historical background for this style but at this point, I’m making them based on the tools, equipment, and knowledge I have.  I’ll call them a “contemporary” style rather than following a specific historical design.  This one will have a new feature, a roof!  I do like to share my information but Diane tells me I get too “technical” so there’s your warning — truth be told though, for me this blog serves as a memory booster; you can’t imagine how often I refer back to a long ago project to refresh my memory of what the heck I did!  Seven decades will do that do you.

Initial full size drawing

My work generally starts out with a drawing or sketch, in this case full size on craft paper works for me.  The painting is 11″ x 14″ so Office Max enlarged a photo I took with my iPhone.   Being full size allows me to make bits and pieces of the frame and actually see them in place.  The molding at the bottom is an embossed piece from Lowe’s while the dentil mold on top is left over from another project.  This drawing was shown to my client, she liked it and gave me some artistic license so we’re off and running.  My initial plan was to have a 12kt. gold leaf spandrel and then black over red clay for the rest of the frame but she prefers that I do the entire frame in 12kt. gold leaf, it’ll be oil gilded.

The first step  making the main frame.  It’s 5/4 Basswood and about 3 1/2″ wide.  By drawing it out full-sized I get a sense of proportions.  First thought was to use simple biscuit joinery but that just didn’t sit well with my furniture maker frame of mind!  Ended up using haunched mortise/tenon joinery for stability and strength.  More effort but, IMHO, a better quality build.  After being glued and clamped overnight any inconsistencies were taken care of with a block plane.  The sight edge is a 45° chamfer and was formed using a router. That’s followed up with rabbeting the back to accept the painting, also with a router.  This painting is on a copper panel so 1/8″ oversize is sufficient.

Squaring off the radiused corners formed by router bit

Since routers leave round corners they need to be squared off with a chisel. This is easy enough on the back but takes some careful paring on the sight edge.  I’ve found that after extending the outer limit to establish a square corner (pencil) and then marking the diagonal makes it easy to pare with a sharp chisel.  Right side done and left side drawn out.


My design called for a pilaster sitting on a long base.  If you look at the drawing, the base is rather short, the more I looked at it the less I liked it.  To my eye it chopped the painting and frame up too much.  The base itself is actually some left over pieces from a floater frame I made some time ago.  Having it overlap the frame adds another dimension to it.  The pilaster was made using the Lee Valley small plow plane with a 1/4″ bead cutter. Something learned is that if you try to cut the bead too close to the edge it seemed the skate went off track.  After totally messing up the first one decided learned that to get a good, clean bead it’s better to make the piece wider than required so the bead can be cut in a ways from the edge.  Once they’re cut simply rip those edges to the required width.

The next step was attaching the bases to the frame.  There’s a lot of face grain so glue and clamps is all that’s needed.  I do use a pin nailer (23 gauge) to anchor them, they get pretty slippery once the glues applied.  Then a couple of clamps so it’s time to work on something else! If you’ve read through my entire blog, thanks!  As a retired teacher I enjoy sharing what I learn along my woodworking  journey and am willing to answer any questions you have — just use the contact button.

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: Contact me about your project -- always up for the challenge of unique work.
This entry was posted in Design Process, Hand Tool Woodworking, Hybrid Woodworking, Mortise and Tenon Joint, Picture Frames, plunge router, Tabernacle and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Frame #168: Tabernacle Style

  1. Bob Easton says:

    No problem with “too technical,” John.
    I too use a blog (and a couple that I don’t even publish publicly), for exactly the same purpose, as a reminder of how I’ve done things previously. Such entries really come in handy when there are a series of steps that work better in one sequence than any other. Once discovered, I keep notes.

    As an aside, a tool called “Local by Flywheel” can run a web server on your local machine and host WordPress blogs that are not public. It is intended as a “staging” tool for Flywheel’s hosting service, but can be used simply to keep private WordPress blogs without using Flywheel’s hosting service.

    It seems a very good decision to use M/T joinery; much stronger than biscuits. Now, are you going to shingle the roof? 🙂
    Looks like you are going to need more than one book of gold for this one!

    Keep havin’ fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No shingles Bob! I am trying to figure my strategy for the leafing process. Going to experiment and see if I can break it down into 2 segments. Doing oil gilding so need plenty of time but ……. she’d like it by the 22nd. of this month!


  2. Sylvain says:

    Being technical gives the reader a chance to learn something; otherwise it would be advertising.
    Thank you for the time you spend writing this blog.

    From time to time I look to your wife’s blog but unfortunately i don’t master neither the vocabulary nor the concept she refers to. in fact ordinary words (e.g. “value”) are used with a meaning proper to painting (or photography). Now with a little research i could learn it. So this is not a critic nor a suggestion to change how she writes her blog.
    Each its technical jargon adapted to his/her audience.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Frame #168 Trim and Roof | Woodworks by John

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