Making a Tile Frame, Part 1

by Josh on December 1, 2010 · 1 comment

in Projects

After the adirondack chairs I made last year, I’ve wanted to try some more woodworking projects.  I thought a good next project would be to make some picture frames because the construction, though simple, requires precise cutting, assembly and finishing.  I’ve framed a few walls, so why not frame some things to hang on them?

For my first framing project, I decided I would make a tile frame for a decorative tile from Byrdcliffe that I got while visiting the Catskills a few years ago.  The six-inch square tile did not require much lumber for the frame– in fact I had some 1×2 red oak lying around that would be just right for a simple Arts & Crafts frame.  As for the design, I picked basic rail-and-stile construction with the stiles extended slightly past the outside edges of the top and bottom rails.  I see this type of frame all the time in bungalow magazines and books.

I began by carefully measuring my lumber.  For a 1/4″ overlap around the edge of the tile, I needed to take 1/2″ off the tile width to calculate length of the top and bottom rails at 5 1/2″ each.  For the left and right stiles, I took that base 5 1/2″ length and added the 3″ for the combined width of the rails and another 1/2″ to provide a 1/4″ overrun at each end of the stiles, for a total length of 9″.  Yay, math!  To get 2 rails and 2 stiles of exactly equal length, I set two pieces of wood next to each other, butted them against straight edge, and cut them both in single pass with my tracksaw.

Trial Frame joint

I joined the parts with pocket hole screws prepared using my Kreg jig.  I tried this out on some scrap wood first, and determined that two screws per joint were one too many.  My actual frame construction used a single screw at each joint, along with a dab of wood glue for a solid connection.

Routing Rabbet Inset

What I didn’t have on hand for this project was a router to rabbet out the back inside edge of the frame opening to receive the the tile.  But I was able to find just what I needed at True Value Hardware and came home with an awesome DeWalt DW616 1-3/4 HP fixed base router.  (More photos and reviews)  With the right tool in hand, cutting the rabbet was a snap.  I just wish I had thought to pick up some ear plugs because the router was really loud.  With woodchips and sawdust flying around, eye protection is also essential for router work.

Routed Tile FrameOnce I had finished with the router, I had to finish the rabbet by chiseling the corners square.  Taps with a small hammer worked well for me to shave off the wood gradually and avoid big, irreversible mistakes.  The picture above shows an imperfectly chiseled corner, a screw pocket, and the stile overrun design element I mentioned earlier.

Tile Frame Assembled

As a final design touch, I decided to put oak dowel plugs into the face of the frame to simulate a pinned tenon construction.  The dowels add just a dash of character and visual interest to what is otherwise a very spare frame.  So there it is– my first attempt at building a frame.  With the construction steps covered in this post, I’ll talk about sanding, staining and sealing in my next post, Part 2 of the project.

Bonus Tip!

When reading the router owner’s manual (you do read your tool manuals, right?) I learned that it is necessary for cutting performance and safety to move the router in different directions around the piece depending on whether you are making an inside or an outside cut.  This is the kind of thing it would be easy to forget on a tool that I don’t expect to use every day.  So using my label maker I printed a reminder and stuck it to the end of the motor where I will see it every time I use the router.

Router Label

Disclosure: I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program and my DIY project as well as my posts about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

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