Back in the spring, I was on the hunt for large-scale art for the TV room. I knew I wanted it to be canvas (I tried hanging a grid gallery wall there and the glare was killing me) and it had to be big (think two 30×40″ canvases). I wasn’t finding anything I loved, or in my price range, so I decided to just try my hand at it — and told myself I can always paint over it if it was a disaster, ha! I also knew I wanted them float framed, because I think framed canvases look much more finished and expensive. I enlisted my hubby and live-in handyman Tyler to figure out how to get the look I was going for; the frames turned out surprisingly well and was a relatively quick and inexpensive project! Over the last few months I received so many messages and questions about how I made the artwork & frames, so this time around when I made another canvas for our front room, we documented the process.
For starters, if you are painting your own canvas, measure your space and decide what will best fit. I have bought all of my canvases from Hobby Lobby–they have a good range of canvases in different sizes and quality. If you’re working with a canvas you already have or have bought from a retailer, be sure to take good measurements of it before building your frame. With the two big canvases in our TV room, the actual depth of them is only 3/4″ but I wanted them to look more substantial in the frame, so Ty built out the frame to 2″. Be sure that you have these little details sorted out before you start planning your frame building to avoid any mishaps later — now, let’s get to frame building!
When buying your stock lumber, you’ll first need to know the dimensions of your canvas. Ours is 30″ x 30″, and is 3/4″ thick. Even though these were the dimensions the canvas company advertised, we make sure to double-check with a tape measure. The frame will have a 1/4″ reveal and a 1/4″ gap, which adds 1/2″ to each end of every board. So the overall outside length of one of our boards comes to an even 31″. We bought one 8′ 1″ x 6″ pre-shaped red oak board from Menards (note, the actual dimensions of this board is 8′ x 3/4″ x 5 1/2″, which is normal when buying a 1″ x 6″ piece of lumber). With our lumber on hand, we are ready for our first cut. To start, we need to reserve a section of it at full width for angle brackets. Cross-cut a 1′ off with a miter saw and reserve that section for a later step.
Now on to creating the main side pieces. Our frame will be 2″ deep, so the first thing to do is, using a table saw, rip (length-wise cut with the grain of the wood) the 7′ board down to two 2″ wide pieces.
Now we are going to create what is called a rabbet cut. It is a groove cut into the edge of your board. For a flush 1/4″ reveal, set your table saw blade height to the thickness of the canvas (3/4″)…
…and set your guard so that your cut leaves 1/4″ of wood on the outside of your board.
Set one of your 7′ x 2″ boards on end and run it through the table saw.
Do the same for your second board.
To complete the rabbet cut, set your table saw blade height to 1/2″ and your guard to 3/4″ from the guard to the outside of your blade (i.e. be sure to include the thickness, or the kerf, of the blade in your 3/4″ measurement). Run both boards through with the slit side of the board toward the guard and the 1/4″ reveal facing up.
Using a miter saw, make a 45 degree bevel cut on the left end both of your boards. Make sure the rabbet is up and facing toward you (as shown below).
Now mark the overall length for one of your sides. With a 30″ x 30″ canvas, each of four our side boards will be 31″. We put a mark on both the 2″ side of the board AND on the face (the 1/4″ reveal).
Turn your miter saw to create the corresponding side’s 45 degree bevel cut. Line the edge of the blade up with the point where your two marks intersect with the outside edge of the board. It is important to be as precise as possible with this cut. Your board should now be 31″ from point to point.
Your board should now be 31″ from point to point. Repeat the bevel cut process for the remainder of your boards.
With your side boards complete, it is time to make your angle brackets. Find the board you set aside at the beginning, and rip it down to 4″ wide. Then, using your miter saw, cut a 45 degree angle directly through one of the end corners), creating a right triangle. Now straighten your miter saw, and make a 90 degree cut to make another right triangle. Repeat that process to create two more right triangles. They don’t have to be completely uniform in size, but they do need to have a precise right angle.
This next step requires pocket-holes. We use a Kreg Pocket-Hole Jig. It is a handy little tool that we are sure you will find lots of uses for in the future. And it is only $29 on Amazon! If you don’t have a good strong clamp (pictured below), you may want to splurge for the set that includes a face camp. And since we are working with 3/4″ thick hardwood boards, Kreg says we should use Kreg 1 1/4″ Fine Thread Pocket-Hole Screws.
With all of that on hand and our Kreg Jig set up for 3/4″ boards, butt the jig to one of the short sides of one of your angle brackets. Center it on that short side and clamp it tight. You don’t have to worry about denting the bracket; it won’t be seen. If you don’t clamp tight and the board moves at all, the drill bit will go too deep, resulting in a screw poking out the side of your frame.
With the Kreg pocket-hole drill bit provided, drill two holes for each short-side of the bracket (see above picture). Repeat for the remaining three brackets.
We are ready to assemble the frame. You will need your Kreg 1 1/4″ Fine Thread Pocket-Hole screws, a drill with the driver bit from the Kreg kit, some wood glue, and a right angle jig. You have two options to get these right angle corners right.
- Create your own right angle jig from scrap wood (pictured below) and use basic bar hand clamps to hold your sides and angle brackets in place while you drill in your pocket-hole screws. This is the cheapest option. And this is the method we have pictured throughout the remainder of the tutorial. (NOTE: We added the tape to force the corners together for a nice tight fit).
- Use a frame band clamp. This method gets perfect right angles quickly and easily. But there are two draw backs: 1) it requires you glue all your joints at once, and 2) you still need to clamp your angle bracket in place to drill in your screws, but now your strap or the rubber corner pieces might be in the way for a homemade right angle jig. But if you buy a band clamp with large enough rubber corner pieces, like Pony’s Rapid Acting Band Clamp, you can clamp to those without damaging your corners.
Place your right angle jig on a flat surface large enough for your entire frame and some working space. Glue up the ends of two sides.
Position the the glued sides in the jig, making sure the ends are aligned perfectly.
Glue up the short ends of one of the angle brackets.
Position the bracket and double check the corner.
Clamp the angle bracket to the right angle jig. Set your drill clutch to a medium-high setting (firm torque without stripping out the wood) and add your four pocket-screws. Repeat for the remaining corners.
With your frame’s structure complete, we are now going to prep for mounting your canvas to it. We decided to use 1 1/2″ screws with a 1/4″ counter-sink hole in each of the four angle brackets. This makes sure our screws grab the canvas’s wood frame solidly but leaves 1/4″ to spare so we don’t penetrate the canvas itself ( 2″ for the total depth from back to canvas – 1 1/2″ for the screw – 1/4″ for the countersink hole = a spare 1/4″ to keep your canvas safe). You can use your new Kreg drill bit to create the countersink holes, just set the depth-collar to 1/4″ away from the step of the bit (be sure the screw you tighten to secure the depth-collar lands on the flat part of the bit doesn’t mar your bit’s blade)
Where exactly you drill the hole doesn’t matter too much, as long as it will land in the middle of the piece of the canvas’s wood frame. We measured 1 1/8″ from the top of the bracket and 3/4″ from the side of the bracket (pictured below). Try to avoid screwing right into a wood joint of the canvas frame (That is why we did go 3/4″ from the top, we dropped it down a bit to make sure we drilled into solid wood).
Pick whatever side you want to be the top of the frame, and mark 4″ down from the angle bracket in the center of both sides of the frame. This is where the screws to hold your mounting wire will go.
Drill a small pilot hole for a screw on both spots you just marked. Be sure you only go 3/8″ – 1/2″ into the board so you don’t put a hole in the outside of your frame. And don’t put your finger directly inline with the drill bit, as pictured below.
Drill 1/2″ pan-head screws into both pilot holes but…
…leave 1/16″ of clearance between the head of the screw and the frame.
Twist one end of 18 gauge steel wire around one of the screws.
Now tighten the screw.
Without cutting the wire yet, loop it around your other pan-head screw.
Now, in the center of the frame, pull the wire tight until the peak of the wire when taught is 2 1/2″ from the top of your frame. This is particularly important if you are mounting multiple frames beside each other and you want them to be at the same height. Now cut your wire, twist it tight around the screw, and tighten the screw.
And with that, your frame is done! Nice work!
Now it’s time to pop that pretty canvas into your newly built frame. Cut some spacer pieces from spare lumber that are just shy of 1/4″ to place around the perimeter when attaching your canvas to the frame — it will help ensure that the canvas is squarely in the frame before attaching it.
With your spacers in place, attach the canvas through your corner brackets. Be sure that the screws pull the canvas in nice and tight!
The finished product. I just love the finished look it gives any canvas! And here is the one from our front room that we made this past week:
I saved a little Instagram highlight with how I made this super simple heavy textured canvas. Making your own art can be so rewarding and economical if you’re in the market for high-end art but don’t love that high-end price. I’m a proponent of: if you have an idea or something you’d like to do, just go for it! If nothing else you will learn so much from trying something new.
If you try your hand at building your own frame let us know — we would love to see it!
Lauren (& Tyler)