Penny Collector Frame

A 1-3/4 inch thick hunk of chestnut being trimmed to “straighten” the grain lines.

A picture/poster frame can be a nice one-day or weekend project. Four sticks of wood with a bit of joinery. No big deal. Or, you can work like me and enjoy weeks of fun and lessons learned the hard way. 

For my support of Austin-based singer/songwriter Carrie Elkin’s Kickstarter campaign I received some fun swag. In addition to her touch-your-soul music, there was a 12 x 18 letterpress poster which deserves a nice frame. Check out THE PENNY COLLECTOR if you are interested (hint: you should be).

Parts milled (jointed and planed) four-square but a bit over-sized. This allowed me to decide on widths of each element.

For this project I used the last remains of the large Chestnut slab I bought from a Maryland hardwood dealer several years ago. This would be tricky with some rotted areas to contend with. I selected half-blind dovetail or maybe it should be called dovetailed ship-lapped for the joinery. The stiles were identical while the top and bottom rails would each have different thicknesses and widths. The stiles came in at ~1/2 inch thick, top rail ~3/4 inch and the bottom ~5/8 inch.

The four sticks were rough cut from the slab at the band saw, then one face and one edge made true at the jointer. Power planing took the pieces to final thickness. All sticks were over-sized at this point. Rabbets were routed to receive the glass, poster and backer. Stiles were through cuts and the rails stopped, then squared with chisel.

Dovetails cut on stiles. A small ledge was created on the upper face to create a shoulder.

Dovetails were marked at each end of the stiles. Shoulders yield 18 inches between the upper and lower rail rabbets and 12 inches between the stile rabbets. A 1/32 inch ledge was created at the router table, then the dovetails cut at the band saw. Final clean up with chisel to create clean shoulders. In the photo you can see the consequence of making through rabbets. The tail is flush to the socket so should be fine. However, that small triangular area is fragile and broke off on two of the joints. Not a big deal as the contact at intersection is intact. However, as I was cutting these (and the sockets) freehand I did not need to keep them to standard shape. Small lesson learned (more serious lessons to follow).

Ready to begin chisel paring to the knife lines. What you do not see in this image, but can tell if you are familiar with the Roubo wagon vise, is the cavity underneath where I am about to cut with the chisel. Yes, I cut right through to the face with major blow out.

Sockets were first cut with a trim router and straight bit. I stayed away from the knife lines. The router makes a nice flat reference depth (unless you tip the silly router as you work). The top rail went well and fit nicely with just a bit of chisel finessing. The bottom rail began as a minor problem and then escalated. The underside had considerable rot, which I was aware of. I was not, however, aware of how deep and extensive that rot was. Then the big lesson. After routing the base depth, I began to pare to the knife lines and KAPOW! Chisel went right through the face side. Why, you might ask. Well the rail was directly above a cavity in the workbench. That cavity is for the wagon vise block to move in and out. I saved the two large and one small busted pieces thinking I might be able to repair. Later I will discover the puzzle would not go together.

Next up: Glue up and repair and prayers

2 thoughts on “Penny Collector Frame”

  1. Sorry to hear about your blowout Tom. It’s a good life lesson though: make sure you have support before hammering into something…

    And thanks for the inspiration to cut up an offcut for use as a frame. I have about three things I want to frame and this might be a great use of some 2 – 3 foot offcuts.

    1. I have several sizes of 3/4 plywood under my bench for such purposes. Almost always pull them out for chopping. Guess I was in paring frame of mind and did not even think of that. My bad.

      I’ve also made several laminated frames over the years which let me give value to thin, but long offcuts. Good to hear from you, Shawn.

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