Friday, November 25, 2011

Custom Picture Frame Molding with a Lie-Nielsen #66 Beading Tool


     After using and teaching others how to make and use their own scratch stock for many years I recently received a Bronze beading tool from Lie-Nielsen tool works.  If you've never heard of them I'd encourage you click on the link and check out the quality of their Made in the USA tools.  I'm a huge fan of them and own a few planes, a spokeshave, set of chisels, and now their beading tool.  As things often go, a series of events led me to this commission for a custom frame that will be approximately 24" x 36".  The gift of the beading tool is the first in that series of events.
     The next event happened at our last meeting of the Sin City Woodworkers.  A local supplier had dropped off some samples of thermo-treated Poplar.  It was referred to as "Smoked Poplar" and is a product designed to replicate Walnut at about a third of the cost.  It's light weight, should be very stable, the color goes all the way through, but it is somewhat brittle.  That's probably because of the thermo process the wood goes through.  Matter of fact, when you cut or bead it there is a charcoal odor -- like you left the steaks on the bbq too long!
     The last of the events was being called to give an estimate on a picture frame.  The clients were pretty open as to the design of the profile but knew they wanted something dark.  I contacted the lumber company and was able to get a piece to experiment with.  I designed a profile, made the corner sample, and after showing it to the client, got the job.  Here is the sample that earned me the commission:

Corner Sample: Smoked Poplar
You can see how rich and dark this material looks and from a distance you probably would mistake it for Walnut.  The finish on it is natural Watco oil.  There are differences between the two species of course.  As I mentioned brittleness is one of them and it's much softer but for this application that won't present any problem at all.

     Creating your own picture frame moldings from scratch is an interesting endeavor.  There are many details to it but let me give you the basic procedure so you can try it on your own, feel free to contact me if you want more detail.  After deciding on the material and width you need to consider whether the frame is for a stretched canvas, a board, or a watercolor.  If it's a canvas, you need to either use wood thicker than the 3/4" stock readily available or use this trick I'll talk you through here.

Lay out of  Rabbet

Back 15 degree bevel

      Start by cutting the back of the piece at 15 degrees, this will force the molding out away from the wall.  This is best done on the tablesaw.  Next you set a bevel at 15 degrees and draw in the rabbet.  Keep in mind that the bevel you cut on the back sits against the wall, that's why the rabbet is also cut at the 15 degrees.  Set the height of your blade by extending the distance to the side of the molding, then make your first cut with the piece laying flat on the tablesaw.

Second cut for Rabbet
Completed molding before beading
     The second cut is a little trickier and the way I do it is probably not OSHA approved!  It's difficult to determine the exact height of this cut so what I do is to estimate it the best I can, push the piece through until it's just past the blade, then lift it straight up by pushing on the back of the piece.  Then I'll slowly raise the blade a little at a time until the two angled cuts meet.  Once they are,  you should set a feather board up to maintain pressure against the fence and cut the remaining pieces.  You'll end up with a piece of material that looks like the one on the right.

     Now we're ready to start the fun part -- beading the frame!  The pictures above were taken when I created the corner sample.  The only change I made when doing the actual frame was to cut the bead at the sight edge before I cut the rabbet.  I wanted to make sure it would be strong enough as the bead was formed.

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