Look Out For Loons! Router-free Thrifty Frame!

At a yard sale recently I picked up this vintage plastic sign. A fan of yellow and red together, I thought it could brighten my basement study. Plus remind me and the Mints to look out for loons.

Plastic yard sale sign, salvaged from a program in Maine sometime in the past.
Plastic yard sale sign, salvaged from a program in Maine sometime in the past.

Ana White has a post called “Build a Barnwood Frame – $1 and 10 Minutes” that had caught my eye.¬† I was excited about it because while I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making a frame, I don’t have a router, which every other frame plan seems to call for. Though I was pretty sure it would cost me more than a buck and ten minutes, it seemed perfect for this. As usual, the plans were helpful and easy though it took me more than 10 minutes. For details, be sure to check¬† the Ana White website.

I’d already splashed out a $1.50 for the picture, so I was happy to find scrap 1×2 pieces in the lumber pile that would work for this. No pieces were long enough to frame the whole picture so I’d need to trim it to keep it cheap. I also already had leftover paint, nails and staples.

Once I figured out how much lumber I had — and how big the frame could be, it was time to start doing the miter cuts. I’m prone to errors so that meant measure thrice and do the big pieces first. The biggest pieces will be the outer frame so account for that in cutting.

Next I laid out the pieces against the picture to make sure they’d fit.

After I cut each piece, I laid it on top of the picture, pre-trimming, to make sure it would work.
After I cut each piece, I laid it on top of the picture, pre-trimming, to make sure it would work.
OK! Four sides done.

Next it was time to whip out that brad nailer and wood glue. Once the corners were clampled together, it was time to pop in the brads. Either my skills are getting better or I was lucky because this time, I only had to extract a couple of misfired nails!Clamping

Wood filler was next, to smooth out all those awkward gaps. My frame was going to be painted so I felt free to enthusiastically ladle it on.

Wood filler making the gaps disappear.
Wood filler making the gaps disappear!

Once it was dry, I sanded it well so it would be smooth for painting. It’s important to do this step now because once it’s joined to the outer frame, it’s hard to get to the very edges.

Now it was time to build the outer frame. This baby lines up perpendicular to the inner frame so it was a similar process, with the wood flipped onto its sides instead of laying it flat. Again, the Ana White plans have the details on getting it done.

Next it was time to build the outer frame.
Next it was time to build the outer frame.

Before cutting, it’s important to measure a couple of times and size it against the inner frame as you go. The two frames fitted together will look like the pic below. Remember that the outer frame is going to be about 1.5″ bigger than the inside frame.

Inner frame fit into the outer one.
Inner frame fit into the outer one.

When you join them, the inner frame needs to be a little inset — perhaps a fourth or half inch — so there’s a little lip. You don’t want it set too far in — for example, flush to the back — because you need room to mount the picture inside. Remember, there’s no router in this project so the outside/inside frame approach is how you get the inset you’d normally create with a router.

Note: my project didn’t call for glass inside the frame but you could use this approach to do it.

Attached framesOnce they’re joined, there’s more wood filler and sanding in your future. Because it was getting painted, I was an enthusiastic user of my random orbital sander.

Here's what it looks like pre-paint.
Here’s what it looks like pre-paint.
And now with paint.
And now with paint.

Gotta love paint. Keeps the rustic look and hides all the ugly. Once painted, I sprayed the frame with some Varathane. It wouldn’t change the rustic look too much and would make it a lot easier to dust . . .

Attach picture to frame.
Attach picture to frame.

I taped the top of the picture in and then just stapled it to the inner frame. I put dishcloth covered blocks under the inner frame before stapling — didn’t want the pressure of the staple gun to dislodge the inner frame (the dishcloths were for padding so it wouldn’t mark the painted frame).

Once that looked good, I FINALLY cut the bottom of the plastic picture off and stapled that in too.

Done! And if you look closely at the bottom right, you can see one of my misfire gouges. Good thing we’re calling this look “rustic.”

And now here it is in situ.

In situ. And an important warning when you come down the stairs. You never know where loons will lurk.
In situ. And an important warning when you come down the stairs. You never know where loons will lurk.

Plastic yard sale loon sign, salvaged from somewhere in Maine.

What about you? Have you tried making a frame before? Successes? Failures? Other ideas or plans for a router-free frame? Next I’m going to try this one with a fabric picture . . .

DIY Gift Code

So many folks experience the holiday gifting season as a difficult time that makes them pressured, improvished, and lacking in spirit. When in funds, it’s easy to enjoy shopping for gifts. Yet as my resources have gotten tighter, there are times when that joy seems to recede.

My budget these days dictates that most of my gifts are homemade. Sometimes that means I can’t stretch to something on a beloved’s wish list, which is frustrating. So I wrote myself a little code to help me make peace with what I can do during the holiday gifting season.

When I’m making gifts, I look for projects that will:

  • Be beautiful, tasteful, funny or delicious. Eh doesn’t cut it
  • Be useful
  • Be perfectly imperfect. A DIY gift is not supposed to look like it came off the factory floor. That’s not an invitation to being slapdash about it, but inhuman production standards are just silly
  • Be something I’d want. If not, it’s time to think twice
  • Be easy to deliver: it hurts my soul to spend more on shipping than presents
  • Be fun or satisfying to make. I don’t want anyone to suffer to make me a present. My friends and family don’t want me to suffer either. So if the thought of making a certain item is akin to imagining the third level of hell, it’s time to pick something different
  • Be possible to make in advance. Once holiday season hits, I want to enjoy the season, not be in manufacturing mode. Also, planning in advance is thrifty: buying last minute supplies is a sure way to overspend
  • Cost less to make than to buy new. If not, will my DIY be better built or more charming?
  • Be something I can let go. This is the most important element of any gift, made or purchased. Once the gift is given, I have to commit to zero expectations of how or when the recipient will use it. No roaming their house to check to see where they put it. No queries about what they did with it or instructions about caring for it. Unless they ask, no lengthy description about how hard I worked on it or what was tricky about making it. No demands for extreme gratitude or gushing.

A gift that comes with strings or expectations of appreciation isn’t really a gift for the recipient. It’s more like a demand from the giver to be appreciated. Sure, if a recipient “recycles” my gift instantly or “tucks it away,” my feelings might get a little bruised. But those feelings stay strictly private. As I try to polish up my imperfect soul, I remind myself that the point of giving is an expression of love, not a demand for attention. And that gives me peace.

What about you? Does gift giving make you feel pressured or excited? How do you manage?