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Custom Picture Frame with Hardwood Inlay

Custom Picture Frame

Custom Picture Frame with Hardwood Inlay - "Feather Pattern"This custom picture frame is made in the woodworking shop. Black walnut is the primary wood choice  for the picture frame and a hardwood inlay pattern known as the “feather pattern” is applied to the wood project. The overall dimensions of the custom picture frame are 11- 3/4”  x  13-1/2″ x 3/4″. Each interior corner has a 1/8″ thick walnut triangle that is notched into the frame. Splined miter joints are employed by the woodworker to both strengthen and adorn the decorative picture frame.

“There comes a time when the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge, but can never prove how it got there.” Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) Theoretical physicist.


1.) A dado blade set was installed on the tablesaw to create the groove which houses the hardwood inlay. Featherboards were used to minimize the possibility of kickback and also to maintain control of the cut during this procedure. The dado blade set and the featherboard were also used to create the rabbets for the walnut picture frame.

2.) A dedicated miter sled for the tablesaw was used to cut the miter joints for the custom picture frame.

3.) A tenon jig for the tablesaw was used to create the slots for the splined miter joints.

Feather Pattern of Hardwood Inlay

The total width of  hardwood inlay feather pattern is 1/2″. This is comprised of a 1/8″ mahogany borders, a 3/32″ center strip of black walnut, an alternating pattern of maple and cherry (each segment is 3/32″), and four negative spaces.

My goal for this custom picture frame was to reveal the lovely grain of the walnut while embellishing the frame with the hardwood inlay. The black walnut creates a dark backdrop while allowing the contrasting lighter wood tones such as the mahogany border and the maple interior to stand out. These varying wood tones and their resulting patterns cause the viewer’s eye to travel to and fro within the custom picture frame.

Balance, Stability, and Movement

My goal for this custom picture frame is to have a combination of balance, stability, and yet movement.

Here’s how I tried to attempt balance and stability:

1.) Each interior corner has a similar walnut triangle of horizontal grain direction.

2.) The negative spaces of the top and bottom rails are symmetrical to one another as are the stiles.

3.) The 4 miter joints mirror one another.

4.) The interior rabbet is equal at the top and bottom as well as from side to side.

5.) The hardwood inlay is centered in the walnut rails and stiles of the custom picture frame.

6.) The direction of the hardwood inlay pattern is balanced from side to side and & also top and bottom.

Here’s how I attempted movement:

1.) The walnut grain pattern of the custom picture frame creates a subtle movement for the eye to travel.

2.) The interior walnut triangles point outward. Their silhouette of the lighter picture creates an irregular octagon thus causing subtle eye movement for the viewer.

3.) The combination of the miters, walnut triangles, negative spaces create directions for the eye to travel inwards towards the center of the picture as well as outwards.

4.) While the hardwood inlay pattern appears centered in the walnut rails and stiles of the custom picture frame, notice that the interior rabbet of the frame creates a subtle shift in eye movement inward towards the picture.

5.) The contrasting wood tones create an interplay resulting in eye movement.

6.) The contrasting direction of the hardwood inlay feather pattern causes the eye to travel.


Weldwood plastic resin glue was used for the splined miter joints of this custom picture. The same glue was used during the entire process of the hardwood inlay.

The custom picture was leveled and finished sanded using an open drum sander. A sanding block with fine grit sandpaper was then used to detail the custom picture frame.

Woodworking Power Tools

Recommeded Videos & Articles:

Build a Miter Sled for the Tablesaw

Let’s Install Wood Inlay Bandings

Let’s Make Spline Miter Joints

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

How to Make Perfect Miter Joints

Making Perfect Miter Joints


“You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.”
Michael Jordan…(1963- )Former American professional basketball player, businessman.

There’s something nice about seeing wood joinery that is well done. It’s a if the craftsman is making a statement about his knowledge of the trade, his set of skills, and his pride in craftsmanship. When you see miter  joints that are clean and tight the craftsman is sending a message that he knows what he is doing because he is well practiced and he cares about his craft. It can simply be seen in his work.

It could be said that miter joints are definitely one of the most common joints in woodworking or carpentry. This is a joint that we are taught early on in our apprenticeships because we will be cutting miters throughout our entire career. As an apprentice it sounds simple enough to just cut a left 45 and a right 45 and glue then together to form a 90. If it were so simple then why are there open miter joints? Let’s take a look at how we can make perfect miter joints.

Perfect Miter Joint Technique


In this article I will share with you the best method I know to make miter joints in the workshop. My technique for cutting miter joints is using a dedicated miter sled on the table saw. The sled is simple to build and it does not cost much to build it. In fact it can be made within an hour from scrap material in the shop. Once it is built it can serve the craftsman for a long time. The miter sled if built correctly offers unparalleled accuracy. The sled can easily be set up to do production work. With a good miter sled and a sharp saw blade one can cut perfect miter joints for a picture frames that are ready to glue. Simply put the miter sled is a joy to use.


Watch this video…Building a dedicated Miter Sled for the tablesaw

As you can see from the photos the woodworker is making quite a few picture frames. (These wood projects are Christmas gifts in the works.) Notice the stop blocks in the pictures. The location of the stop blocks control the lengths for parts of the picture frames and by having these stop blocks in place the woodworker is able to precisely cut uniform lengths repetitively. This allows for production woodworking as all the parts can be cut accurately and efficiently. Once all the lengths are cut it is just a matter of fitting and gluing the miter joints together.


Perfect Miter Joints & Ulmia Spring Clamps


When it comes to gluing the miter joints I highly recommend using Ulmia spring clamps. These clamps allow you to properly align the miter joint and then secure it. Once clamped the miter joints will not move. Of course there are different size spring clamps for different size miter joints. My spring clamps have been with me for over 30 years and they have clamped a lot of miters. The clamps are truly worth their weight in gold. If you have yet to experience these clamps you will quickly understand when you use them for the first time. When you decide to purchase spring clamps make sure to buy enough because when you go into production mode you will be doing a lot of clamping. Keep in mind that mitering with these clamps goes quickly.


Working with a dedicated miter sled and spring clamps is quick, efficient, and accurate. By following this route you will see your skills and miter joints improve. When finished you can also take pride in the craftsmanship of your work for a job well done.


A video for mitering smaller material…Let’s Build a Bandsaw Miter Sled


The Apprentice and The Journeyman University


Double Bevel Marquetry…a Tulip of Various Woods

One of the beautiful aspects of woodworking is that there are so many facets to the craft. Marquetry is one of these woodworking crafts that requires just  basic woodworking tools and is well with the reach for all of us. For this woodworking project we will learn how to make a tulip using double bevel marquetry techniques. The primary shop tools used for this wood project are the scroll saw, table saw, and the band saw. The hardwoods selected for this project came from a number of wood species that were in the scrap bin. Selected woods for this woodworking project  include hickory, maple, padauk, and poplar.

Our woodworking plan starts with choosing a design for the marquetry. In this instance the tulip design for this woodworking project was derived from a picture of a tulip that was located on the internet and then printed. The wood veneers used in the marquetry are 3/32″ thick and they were sliced on the band saw. A veneer of hickory was chosen as the background due to its warm colors and also because of  its interesting grain pattern. The hickory veneer was then lightly sprayed with an adhesive and the printed tulip picture was then pressed onto it. The picture of the tulip  becomes an outline for making the appropriate cuts on the scroll saw with its table set to six degrees.  One might wonder “why is the scroll saw table is set at an angle of six degrees?”  The reason is because we will be cutting through a taped packet consisting of two layers of veneer at one time and the angle will compensate for the saw kerf of the scroll saw blade. Note: 1.) Select a thin, fine scroll saw blade. 2.) Select a drill bit that is equal to the scroll saw blade.  3.) Use masking or blue tape to secure the packet of veneer layers to be cut. 4.) Drill an entry hole at a 6 degree angle to feed the scroll saw blade through the veneer packet.

So, what happens to the two layers of veneer being cut? Good question! One layer (hickory…the background veneer) becomes waste and the new veneer layer is then nestled into the angled cut of the hickory background piece. Remember, both veneers are being cut at the six degree angle at the same time so the infill piece will fit right into the area just removed. Once we have a good fit it is then time to apply a small amount of glue to the mating parts. We’ll use yellow glue and then apply dampened veneer tape on the back side opposite the picture to secure the placement of the new inlay. Give it a little time to set up and then we are ready to cut another section following the glued  picture of the tulip as our guide. Be selective of the choice of woods in order to “paint your picture.” The wood colors and grains will all contribute to the finished product.

As we go about the process of cutting, fitting, and gluing parts in place at the workbench you may wonder how it will look when completed because at this stage it can appear “rough.” There’s still paper on the surface and glue as well.  Don’t worry and just keep pushing through because it will all clean up. Once all the parts are in place and the glue has set it’s time add a backer veneer to stabilize the woods of the face veneer. Simply select a veneer similar in wood density to the face veneer and cut to size. Then just glue the two veneers together. When the glue sets you’ll want to clean the clean the edges and make rectangular in preparation for the picture frame.

Next it’s time to prepare for the finish. Use a freshly sharpened card scraper to smooth the surface as it will give you a nicely planed surface. Sure, sandpaper can be used, however use caution as some exotic woods can bleed into other woods when sanding.

When the marquetry and the scraping is completed it’s time to frame the project just as you would a picture frame. It’s is a good idea to employ a sanding sealer to seal the surface of the veneers. Again use caution while wiping on the sealer to avoid any bleeding if using exotic woods. Then it’s a matter of choosing the wood finish.

Keep in mind that marquetry can be used in a variety of ways. For instance, a woodworker may employ marquetry in furniture pieces like as a desk or table top. Perhaps you’ve even seen marquetry applied to the face of cabinet doors. Let your imagination guide you along the way for your own woodworking projects and you’ll discover that it’s a great way to enjoy your time in the woodworking shop.

So, if you would like to get started in double bevel marquetry simply cut a few veneers and just practice on them for a while. Get the feel of cutting on an angle at the scroll saw. Remember, it’s normal to break a few blades and have some mistakes in the beginning. Accept that and move forward. Before long you’ll get the hang of it and you’ll be creating with confidence. Enjoy the process of double bevel marquetry!

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

The Splined Miter Joint

How to Make a Splined Miter Joint

Splined mitre joint jig used on the table sawThe woodworking video shows how to make a splined miter joint on the table saw using a splined miter jig that is made in the woodworking shop. The jig for the table saw is easy to make and yet very accurate when cutting miter joints that include a spline. Notice how the plywood miter jig is slid along the surface of the table while sliding also against the table saw fence. Also, an 8 inch dado blade is used to cut the slot for the spline while a clamp secures the picture frame to the miter jig.

Walnut spline miter joints for a mahogany picture frame.The Splined Miter Joint is a decorative yet very strong joint. The addition of the spline and glue makes a regular miter joint all the more stronger while aiding in keeping the miter joint nice and tight. By using a wood spline that is of a contrasting wood, the woodworker can achieve a very distinctive appearance at the miter corners. This is why it is a favorite woodworking joint used when making a picture frame. (This joinery was cut on the table saw with the aid of a sliding woodworking jig. The splined miter joint can also be cut on the router table as well.)


Walnut splined mitre joint in a mahogany picture frameNote: The grain of the wood spline needs to be in the slot at a right angle to the miter joint when glued in order to give the splined miter joint its full strength.





 Recommended Videos:

Let’s Make Splined Miter Joints

Let’s Make Picture Frames with the Dedicated Miter Sled


How to Make Perfect Miter Joints

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

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