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Hobby frame making

Hoffmann Dovetail Joining System

Nic Packer

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I have come across this forum in my research into making picture frames. I'm hoping you can help me get started into it.

The pieces I want to frame are just for personal use: photographs, posters, canvas artwork. I'm handy with woodworking and have tools, but never got into it very seriously.

From what I've learned to far, it appears that just using my Dewalt miter saw probably won't be precise enough. Even if I get a picture framing blade like these: Blades for Wood Frames https://pictureframeblades.com/collections/blades-for-wood

Are miter trimmers, like this one from Rockler, sufficient to trim up a miter saw cut?

After I get it cut properly, what's the best way to join all the miter cuts together? Is a 4 corner clamp kit like this good?
https://www.rockler.com/frame-clamp-kit

As far as material goes, I think I'll start with simple frames, though I come across companies that make all sorts of decorative moldings that could be used:
foster planing mills, xylo framing

Anyways, thank you in advance for any help and expertise!

Nic
 

artfolio

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If you look around this site you will see that most of us are professionals using professional equipment and there is a reason for that. "Hobby" tools are just that -designed for light, infrequent use and lacking the kind of professional precision our customers expect. If you persevere long enough you may achieve an acceptable result with them but as a beginner you have enough problems without adding in the difficulty of poor quality tools.

You would do far better to buy a used "real" guillotine like a Morso than try and do any serious work with a bench mounted toy.
 

Ylva

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Hi Nic,
Welcome to the G

As hobby tools go, rockler sells some decent tools.

Don’t expect the same quality and precision as from higher end equipment. However, as a start, it might be an okay start.

You can look for used equipment. Or invest in a decent miter saw and buy blades from Quinn saw

The miter trimmer might be okay, but most framers would never use it, unless for rough cuts probably. I have been looking at it for cutting fillets but have not felt compelled to buy it yet.

As for joining, you might want to look at miter vises instead. You’d glue and cross nail them, which provides a better and stronger bond.
 

CHolt

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If you have a decent table saw you'd probably be able to cut miters with it as well as anything else with the right blade. A homemade miter vise can serve as well. Mostly the professional equipment allows pros to achieve volume. If you have the woodshop skills you should be fine.
 
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Joe B

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Hello Nic, welcome to the Grumble. Great questions with a multitude of answers from a multitude of Professional Picture Framers. Like artfolio hobby tools are just that, hobby tools, but guess what, many of us started that way, I did, with less than $500.00 invested. I started with nothing but Logan framing tools and then took every dime I earned for the first 5 plus years and stuck it right back into my business upgrading to professional equipment and framing classes. Now I have all top of the line equipment and many many $1,000.00 of dollars spent - I'm still learning every day.

That little table top guillotine chopper is great for rough cuts but there are many things you have to be aware of, where to sharpen your knives - guillotine knives should be sharpened a certain way and most sharpening places would not do it right? Where do you get replacement blades? I am not a fan of a saw but compared to that guillotine I would recommend the saw, just be sure it is a saw you can dial in for exact 45 degree cuts and still expect it to be off a bit because of bearing blade wobble (some framers will argue about that). A Morso chopper is your best bet and you can pick one up used and in good shape for anywhere between $300.00 to $700.00.

Go onto ebay and look for 2 vintage Stanley 400 vises. In my opinion they are the best made. They are a little pricy but will work for clamping 90 degree corners. With 2 you can make one frame at a time. With certain projects I do use the Stanley with strap clamps but it is seldom that I need both. Do not use your regular woodworkers glue because it can stain. I use Corner Weld white but there are other brands out there that are great too. Set-up time for these glues are quick, strong and dries clear. Once the frame are in the vises you can use a pneumatic pinner to lock in the corners or like Ylva said cross nail - so drill and nail with finishing nails. The glue is what holds the corners together but the nails or pins are what stabilized that corner to keep them from flexing and breaking the glued corners apart. Most professional framers use underpinners but they are costly and if you are not doing many frames the pinning or the drill and nail would suffice, framers did the drill and nail for many many years. If you do consider an underpinner you can think about a used foot powered manual one - you can probably pick one up used for under $300.00, in fact I have a Cassese foot powered 1 in storage that I would sell for $300.00 plus shipping. Pneumatic underpinners will cost generally used $1000.00 and up unless something is wrong with them.

There are other tools you will need but the most important is to get an education - there are books out there that will teach you what you need to know and with a little trial and error you will learn. If you can get to some classes close by go, learn what you can.

Lots of luck
 
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artfolio

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Just another thought: You may also need to invest in a professional matt cutter. You can get away with slightly off corners in frame but the matt is right there against the picture and any poor corners will jump out at the viewer. Again, there are probably good used ones out there.
 

Prospero

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Hi Nic and Welcome.

It's the old story. In the long run, hobby equipment will get you started but you will soon become
dissatisfied with the the results. Those miter trimmers are OK but are mostly used by cabinet makers
for cutting small sections of trim. The big disadvantage is that they don't have measuring stops and one
of the prime factors when it comes to frames is that you have to get opposite sides exactly equal length.
All this combines to make the process very irksome. I know what these machines sell for, and for a bit more
you could find a used Morso guillotine. It matters not it they look a bit scruffy. They are virtually indestructible
and as long as you have the blades sharpened properly an ancient machine will serve you well. Mine was bought
new in 1984 and is still good as new (bit scruffy 🙂).
If you use a chop saw then you can get good results but never the same as a well set up Morso. I use two chop saws
for large mouldings but only for plain wood frames where you have the opportunity to make good any small
gaps after joining. Trying to fill gaps in finished moulding is a definite skill and best avoided if possible.
Manufacturers who use saws to cut mouldings use huge double miter saw setups, which can do near-perfect cuts.
They are HUGE. They are heavy. They need ancillary equipment such as compressors and dust extractors and often
special power supplies. Most framers could not justify their use.

Look at it this way: A miter trimmer + decent chop saw might cost you the same as a good used guillotine. You are still
using the same moulding and you can easily ruin enough good moulding to to have used that money on some decent kit.

As for joining, the vice+cross nailing method was de rigueur method for years before the advent of underpinners. Underpinners
are faster and avoid the need for nail hole filling. You could get a good used underpinner for not-a-lot of cash. You don't need a
pneumatic one. If you see a used Cassese CS88 for sale, grab it.

There is a learning curve with these machines, but it's not too steep. 😁 Any probs and you will gets lots of help on here.
The combined Grumble experience runs into millennia. 🤓
 

Nic Packer

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Thank you guys so much for the replies. Thanks for your knowledge and experience.

Just as many of you said, I was able to find a couple of Morso Guillotines around $500 close to me! I'm hoping one of them will end up in my shop. This option is comparably priced to a nice table saw blade and an expensive set up. I even found this one from 1953, doesn't look too scruffy: Morso Guillotine https://classifieds.ksl.com/listing/60932752

I'm still looking for a Cassese underpinner, Joe B I may be taking you up on your offer of the used one you have.

I am wondering if any of you could point me towards some sources for education about framing. For one, I don't have much experience with mats, what their true purpose is, which ones are visually appealing, etc. Most of the photos we have framed currently don't have mats because the photographers we used recommended against them.

Thanks again, I'm hoping to get going in my shop soon so and I'll try to share my experiences along the way. I'm sure I will have plenty of hang-ups.

Nic
 

Ylva

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If you don't use mats, I hope you did use spacers so the glass doesn't touch the photo. A mat takes care of that, it raises the glass away from the photo/art.

What is visually appealing to one, might not be so for someone else.
I rarely use white mats. If I do, it is usually with a white frame, which can be a nice presentation.

The mat choice is usually guided by the art/photo you frame. I like to pick out one of the background colors. Always making sure that the mat is complimentary. So it would never be the lightest, darkest of brightest color in the whole presentation.

Many framers, many different answers to come.
 

Joe B

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Hello Nic, I'm glad that you are looking at getting a Morso. I must say, I would be a little hesitant about the one you posted. If you do look at it make sure that it is in inches because some of those older ones had a totally different type of measuring system. If I were you I would look for a somewhat newer one. Let me know if you want a newer Morso that has a colored measuring system and an extra set of knives. I do have one that I would sell for a very reasonable price.
 
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Nic Packer

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Thanks again for your input. I think this Morso is probably a better one to go with: Morso Guilotine Miter Chopper https://classifieds.ksl.com/listing/61610562.

Regarding my experience with mats, the last 3 photographers we've used(we moved around a lot) for our family photos have recommended getting the photo printed on a board and then forgoing mat and glass. It looks fine, but I suppose that we aren't getting protection from the glass.
 

framah

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Joe B

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wpfay

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The second Morso you posted would be preferred if you plan on using it a lot. The first one is probably just as capable, but there are wearing parts on the machines, and availability of replacement parts for a machine of that age would be a concern, as would be the blades. The red one would be a neat addition to a framing museum.
 
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DVieau2

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Don't be so quick to dismiss your Dewalt saw. I have a chopper and a Dewalt and do 99% of my cutting on the saw. For any brand chop saw a really good blade makes all the difference. You won't find Top of the line blades at the home improvement store. A specialized blade dealer will get you set up. Ltts of Grumble info on saw blades in the archive. A good support and measuring system also makes your Dewalt perform like a pro tool. See the middle pic on this web page. CLEARMOUNT - Quality Equipment & Supplies for the Picture Framing, Art, Photography and Crafting Industries https://www.clearmountcorp.com/main.htm

I would suggest $500 spent on a blade and support table before a chopper.
 

Ylva

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I have a similar set up as the Clearmount system. With 2 Makita saws and great blades. I also have a chopper that is hiding in the corner and I haven't used in years.

So I agree with Doug (DVieau2).
You do need good space for a saw system, because of noise and dust. I have a designated sawroom.
 

Joe B

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I have a similar set up as the Clearmount system. With 2 Makita saws and great blades. I also have a chopper that is hiding in the corner and I haven't used in years.
I would suggest $500 spent on a blade and support table before a chopper.
And that is exactly what is good about the Grumble, you will get different opinions from a framers and to be absolutely truthful everyone of us have our own ways to take care of our needs, you will have your own needs too that will be different from what we do.. I also have a Frame Square Saw that I will probably use 3 to 4 times a year and I believe the Frame Square Saw is the most accurate because it is constructed mainly for the framing industry. I did get nice cuts with the Frame Square Saw but I still get better corners with the Morso. With all of that said, if you have the space, you may want to consider a Clearmount System because you already have a saw, it would make it less expensive for you. Personally, I had Clearmount system with the saw that I purchased from a well known respected framer here on the Grumble and though the saw and system were in perfect condition and I did get fairly accurate cuts I still totally disliked it but that is just my opinion others really like the sytem. No matter how hard I tried I could not get anywhere near the quality of corners that I get with the Morso Chopper. With the Morso there is no dust, there is no noise, it doesn't take up half of your shop, and with properly sharpened sharp knives and straight moulding you will get a perfect mitre every time. I cannot remember the last time I had to use some type of fill because my mitres didn't meet exactly.

Anyway, either way, you have to decide what will work best for you. Luck with your decisions.
 

artfolio

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The Achilles heel of the Morso, and any other guillotine, is hard wood and/or heavy compo. These will dull the blades very quickly and give you corners with gaps on the inner edges because the blades tend to push the material away rather than slice cleanly though it. You also need a sharpening service which can sharpen the blades correctly - not every hardware store can do this and someone who doesn't know how to do it properly can ruin your blades.

As regards the photog who recommended against matts - he was probably more concerned about keeping costs down than preserving and displaying his work properly. One rule you should engrave in letters of fire on the top of your skull is this one:

photographs should never touch glass
(Nor should any other artwork except cheap, throwaway posters but that is a whole 'nother story.)

Matting is not that difficult and goes far beyond the basic skinny black and white matts you see in ready made frames. Don't be afraid of colours; well chosen colours and textures can enhance and highlight the artwork. Contrary to what artists and some "design experts" will tell you they don't "take away from the art". (Lord! how I hate that phrase:fire: ). Just look around a few art exhibitions and photographers' galleries to get ideas and read as many books on design as you can get your hands on.
 
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