After finishing my Chinese Dragon marquetry picture I need a frame to go with it. My first thought was to make very Chinese traditional frame based on a design I found on the net. I soon realized that a highly stylized frame would be appropriate for the picture, but not very compatible with our contemporary style decor. My solution was to design a frame that had a hint of oriental design befitting the picture while still being compatible with the rest of our home.
THE HARD WAY
I finally decided on a design that called for an inner frame connected to an outer frame connected with thin ‘spokes’. Main concerns were strength and appearance. I wanted to connect each spoke with tenons on both ends. A round tenon would be the easiest as I could then drill the mortises. I rejected that option because I thought it would be difficult to make the round tenons. This was mistake no.1 as I guess I forgot that I have a lathe. Further I was worried that the tenons would turn easily resulting in misalignment. That was mistake no. 2. They couldn’t twist after the glue was dry.
So with blinders on my eyes I decided that I needed short spokes a little over 1/4” thick by 1” long (the distance between the inner and outer frames. These spokes also had to have a tenon about 1/16” thick and 3/32” long. With the dimensions worked out I cut and mitered the inner and outer frames. Then I had to figure out a way to make those tiny spokes and even smaller tenons. Below is a pic of what I wanted.
First I tried hand sawing the spokes and then scrollsawing them. Not accurate enough. I realized that the router was my only way out, but I dreaded having to make yet another jig that I hardly used, so I came up with the idea of using some MDF scrap pieces I had laying around and some double sided tape to make a temporary jig. I didn’t cut a single piece to make the jig, I just used what I already had. Here is what it looked like. I used a router bit wide enough so that the proper length tenons would be left after cutting through the routed area with a 2mm miter saw blade. The photos below are the jig I came up with. In principal it works just like a box joint jig, except I don’t have to hang it on the wall when I’m finished with it.
The next job was hand chiseling the mortises. Not beautiful, but they worked very well. This was done with a regular bench chisel.
And finally the glue up. I chose to first glue each side of the outer frame, the spokes and the inner frames separately before the final round. The parts were taped to prevent as much squeeze out as possible with all the different surfaces involved as shown below.
Then came the last glue up to match all 8 mitered corners in one go. The technical term for this type of glue-up is ‘STUPID’ It did work though (luckily).
Please don’t be mad at me for not showing the final result. You can see it in the Projects section. You can see the finished frame and the marquetry on my posted project
-- Mike, an American living in Norway.