Frame #238: Summer Hues by Diane Eugster

This painting by my wife, Diane; is on stretched canvas and measures 18″ x 24″. Regular readers of my blog know that I often get inspired to create a frame when I see the work in progress, just gets the wheels turning in my head! True to Diane’s figurative style this painting gives an impressionistic feel to a traditional subject. I wanted the frame to reflect that. Contemporary style is more straight lines and flat surfaces as opposed to Baroque style which would be the direct opposite with curves, beads, and other ornamentation.

Like many of my frames I began with Basswood measuring 1 1/16″ thick from Peterman Lumber here in Las Vegas. This is the bare minimum thickness you can get away with since stretched canvas is about 3/4″ thick. The frame is 3 1/4″ wide and the first step is using my smooth plane to remove the millworks left by the planer which you’ll always see. My preference is Lie-Nielsen’s bronze smooth plane, nothing else can give you a near perfect surface especially on Basswood. The next step was to create some interest on the edges. To keep that contemporary as well, I used a beading cutter in my plow plane. Rather than create a traditional, full bead the depth was set so that only the corners were slightly radiused. Last of all the rabbet the canvas sits into was cut on the inside edge.

After mitering each piece, cutting biscuit slots, and then gluing/clamping the frame together it was time to work on the carving. Occasionally I’ve been asked how I go about it so in keeping with my shop teacher background I’ll share my technique. Since I’m not super artistic I rely on “borrowing” images from the internet then sizing them to the dimensions of the frame. I’ll print that out on paper and spray glue it to a piece of thin plastic to make the pattern. Best material for that is the lid from a grocery store salad container. That’s the piece by #1. To cut out the pattern I use chisels of various sweeps and sizes, choosing the tool I have that matches the design as closely as possible. I draw the pattern on another piece of paper and as I cut it out, note which chisels were used and where, that’s #2. The beauty of the plastic pattern is that it can be flipped over and get the exact match on the other side of the miter. Last of all, my rack (#3) is where the chisels are kept close at hand. Now it’s time to cut the outline and then “ground it out” from the rest of the wood. My depth for this was just under an eighth of an inch.

The process is this; after drawing the design on each corner the appropriate chisel is used to incise the pattern into the wood using a small mallet which you can see on the right corner of the bench. The goal is to be consistent in the depth. Once that’s competed the surrounding wood is removed to separate the design from the rest of the frame. In the pictures below you can see how I use a compass to draw a line inside of the design so that the wood can be “scooped” out creating the depth and enhancing the carving. Hand carving may display some chisel marks which is what sets it apart from the use of composition material like that produced by Bomar. Traditional red burnisher sealer was brushed onto the frame, followed by Japan Black. This was then rubbed back to expose some of the red and replicate the patina and age a frame might show that’s been around for a while. Liberon wax is used for the final finish. Here are some photographs of the work in progress to illustrate my process.

So there you have it, building a frame in a nutshell! This is the technique I use and certainly not the only way to do it. Like every other endeavor, we need to discover how others have done it, experiment with ways we can accomplish it, and continue to follow the creative path we’re on. I do the same with my furniture work, always looking for the challenge and satisfaction that comes from that. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or are interested in custom work.


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.
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