The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: DIY Built Page 1 of 11

DIY Frame for Large Painting

Snow days are perfect for small DIY projects. Today’s showcase is a large picture frame I made for an oil painting.

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It may not look like much. But when compared to the look without the frame, I think it is a big improvement:

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We had this painting for a couple years now. Over time, we noticed that the frame slowly came out of plumb. I decided the best way of re-align the canvas without adding much more weight would be to add a strong frame around the original one.

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There are lots of tutorials online for frame making. I picked one of the simplest plan with a floating frame look:

Material list (for a 40″ ×40″ canvas):

  • Two 1″ x 2″ x 8′ red oak*
  • Scrap wood for corner reinforcement (I used a 42″ long 1″ x 4″ piece)
  • Wood stain/paint/finish desired
  • Hanging hardware

*You can use any wood species for the frame. I picked the relatively expensive red oak ($22/2 pieces after tax) for the look of its grain, with plan to stain the frame. We ended up painting the frame, so I could have used cheaper wood such as pine to get the same look.

Tools needed:

  • Miter saw (or handsaw + speed square)
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • Pen or pencil
  • Wood glue
  • Nail gun and brad nails (or pocket screws if you want to get fancy)
  • Hammer or drill (for hanging the frames)

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The first step is measure and cut the frame pieces. I decided on having a small gap (1/16″ or so) between the canvas and the frame, so for 40″ canvas, I cut each side to be 40 1/8″ on the inner side. The canvas is about 3/4″ deep. For a floating look I made sure to have the 1″ side (actually 3/4″) facing up, to let the 2″ side (actually 1 1/2″) be the depth of the frame. I also chose to miter the corners for a more classic look. For simpler construction you can just butt joint the two pieces.

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To make sure the new frame is plumb I added corner pieces. Bigger/longer the corner pieces are, more sturdy the construction will be. I cut up a piece of 1″ x 4″ scape wood so each piece ended up to be around 10″ long. I also cut the ends at 45 degree so the corner pieces could sit flush against the inside of the frame.

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The corner pieces were cut with the 1″ side (true dimension 3/4″) facing the inside of the frame, allowing the 3/4″ canvas to sit flush with the surface of the frame, creating a floating look.

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Before assembling the frames I dry-fit all the pieces together on a flat surface. The whole frame was straight, square, and plumb, and I liked the gap around the canvas.

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At the last minute I decided to add a 1″x1″ piece horizontally. It added some strength, helped to keep the frame plumb, and provided more surface for the canvas to attach to the frame assembly.

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At this point I asked for Slav’s opinion on the finish of the frame. He requested dark color. So I painted the frame a shotgun black using the leftover paint from our front door.

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Even though this was among one of the smallest DIY projects, I still felt excited assembling the frame. We tacked together the frame pieces with 1 3/16″ brad nails (16-gauge or 18-gauge both worked fine) and a nail gun. You can also use just hammer and nails or pocket screws, just need to make sure to assemble on a flat surface with the front side facing down so the front of the frame is perfectly flush. We also used wood glue between the joints for added strength.

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After putting the frame together, we flipped it and attached the corner reinforcement and the horizontal brace again with glue and brad nails. We made sure that the frame and the corner pieces were on the flat floor, and pushed the corner pieces against the frame so the whole assembly came together flush.

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With both the painting and the frame face downward, we secured the canvas to the frame using 1″ brad nails from the back. This was the easiest way to ensure an even gap around the canvas. Just make sure that you clean the surface (in our case, the wood floor) really well before putting the painting face down.

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Total 10 nails (2 on each corner pieces, and two on the horizontal pieces) hold the canvas tight to the frame assembly.

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And this is how the painting looked standing up! Isn’t it nice?

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We kept the original hanging hardware and used the original screw onto which the canvas was hung before.

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I love the finished frame! The paint color on the frame is not exactly the color of the furniture underneath, but they match very well.

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Covered sides, floating look, and more importantly, straight and plumb!

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Compare to before, this art piece now looks much more finished:

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DIYing this frame piece turned out to be really straightforward, yet the finished look it delivered exceeded my expectation. I really adore this simple way of making floating frames. Now I want to make floating frame for al the paintings we have!

The Man Gets a Gear Closet!

Last time we talked, Slav has installed murphy bed in my retreat room.

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And Roxie has moved in…

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…which brought us into the closet phrase. The plan has always been to finish the left side closet for storage. We briefly entertained the idea of creating a built-in seating/reading area, but quickly realized the necessity for a covered closet. We want our guests to have space to unpack their suitcases and hang their clothes. And with 25″inch depth, a closet will offer much more storage than deep shelves.

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To match the murphy bed alcove, Slav finished the closet alcove with the same plywood sheets at the back and sides,

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and brought the outlet (used to face inside of the closet) out to face the room. This will provide guests an option of charging their phones next to the bed.

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Then Slav installed solid pine trims to finish off the face of this closet wall.

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with matching wood electrical cover plate for the newly installed outlet! Nice detail is always a plus.

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While Slav was working on the wood trims around the guest closet, I started planning the configuration of the inside. Since we only have guests 5% of the time, instead of leaving this closet empty during most of the year, I decided to make it a gear closet for Slav. Slav loves hiking and mountaineering. Since we moved to Colorado, he has accumulated quite a few backpacks for backcountry. Although these gear can stand low temperature, storing them in the unheated and uninsulated garage is not ideal for their longevity. They also get lots of use in winter and often need to be brought inside for drying, so having a gear closet on our temperature-controlled main floor is a much better solution.

The funny thing was, until I brought in his gear, Slav had no idea that the closet he had been working so hard on would becomes his! I’d say it was a nice surprise and a strong push for him to get the closet finished. 😉

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Can you spot Roxie in the middle of all the gear? This little brat has to be at the center of everything…

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What I planned to store in the gear closet includes camping gear (tent, sleeping mats, and sleeping bags), our ski jackets and snow pants (mostly Slav’s), and hiking/backcountry backpacks (I have one and Slav has…5?). To make sure everything is on display and is easy to reach, I chose the simplest design for the closet interior: two horizontal hanging bars.

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After some measuring we mounted the top bar much higher than standard height. This is to allow even the longest snow pants to hang freely. The bottom bar was mounted just above our tallest suitcase, which also allows the backpacks to be hung off the floor. In this configuration, Slav can easily see everything he has with one glance. In addition, everything has enough room around/air ventilation for drying, as the bottom hem of snow pants or the bottom of backpacks are often wet after use.

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The weekend after we put gears into the closet, Slav installed the doors! He simply cut plywood to size and mounted them with heavy-duty hinges. I edge banded the plywood doors and finished the doors with some simple pulls:

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We installed the same pull in a bigger size on the murphy bed panel to make it easier to open and close.

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The narrow shelf above the bed (which functions as a stop for the bed) was perfect for storing all the camping gears. We might cover it with a hinged door down the road… but for now, the open look does not bother me and it is better for venting.

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After everything was installed, I gave the whole closet wall three coats of shellac. It slightly darkened the birch plywood by bringing the wood grain out, but in person, it looks nice and smooth. The photo below was taken after I coated the Murphy bed side, but not yet on the closet doors, so you can get an idea how much shellac darkens the birch plywood:

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I had to remove the mattress and lower the murphy bed during coating process. And soon I found Roxie like this:

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If Roxie could talk, she was probably screaming “I hate renovations” or “give my spot back”. But she could not voice for herself. So deal with it, Pup! Life is tough for everyone nowadays…

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This is how the closet wall looks like now! I think it is nice! The dog bed is back and our two pups are happy. When I work in the room they take turns napping on it and let out cute little snores. Life is good again for everyone.

We still yet to finish the floor on the entire main floor and add baseboards (again for the entire main floor). But my room has become so tidy and airy compared to the before. I think concealing the big guest mattress really paid off! I honestly cannot believe how empty this room feels…So I have been bringing in plants to add life back to the room. If there is anything else I’d like to add to my retreat space, it will be a headboard/cabinet for the murphy bed, so our guests have something to lean against to when sitting in bed, and a horizontal surface for a reading lamp, books, glasses, and water at night. It should be a fun winter project to tackle this Christmas I am sure!

Again, let’s finish with the list. Did I tell you I love lists?

1. Patch missing floor boards;
2. Repair and finish drywall edges against the closet wall and doorway;
3. Reinforce the closet framing;
4. Murphy bed construction and installation;
5. Wire the electrical outlet to face the room;
6. Construct the closet;
7. Trim out the closet wall;
8. Edge banding the plywood doors;
9. Put wood finish on closet wall to protect the plywood surface;
10. Adding a storage headboard for the Murphy Bed;
11. Construct a standing desk with motorized legs and a wood top;
12. Refinish the hardwood floor;
13. Install baseboard all around.

Murphy Bed Installation

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I do not remember the last time skipping blogging for 6 weeks – we have been busy… I am writing a lot for work and from my new desk, while Slav worked solo at the closet wall behind me.

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It has always been our plan to install a Murphy bed into the existing closet. When putting in the new framing, Slav left the opeDoening just wide enough to accommodate a full size Murphy bed on the right. I want a simple wood look for this entire wall, including when the bed is pulled down. So Slav lined the back and the ceiling of the closets with thin (3/8″ thick) plywood.

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The sides of the closets got 3/4″ thick plywood. We choose birch plywood for its simple look, and thicker material as a steady backdrop for mounting the Murphy bed hardware on.

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The Murphy bed kit we got is for a free-standing unit, which requires building a plywood box first, into which the bed portion can be inserted. In our case, we framed the closet as if it is a plywood box, so the bed hardware can be directly mounted to the side of the closet. This approach also allowed us to skip the horizontal bracings between the sides, as the sides of our Murphy bed build are secured directly onto the stud walls.

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Being one of the most popular Murphy Bed kits on the market, our bed kit came with detailed instructions and cut list. Although we modified the outside frames, the bed portion of the build was unaltered. We laid out everything in the living room floor and assembled the frame with the help of an additional hardware kit:

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The frame was bolted onto the plywood face panels with over 100 screws. Besides supporting the mattress, the face panels also helps to keep the frame square.

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The building instructions called for 2 or 4 face panels. We chose to use 3 in order to use up some off-cuts. It does not matter how many panels you use – it can be one big panel or 10 wood planks, as long as they can support the weight of the mattress.

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After the bed was built, Slav attached the support mechanism to the side wall. When the bed is up, all the weight of the bed and the mattress will be resting on these mounting brackets, so we made it as solid as possible using large and long bolts.

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When the bed is down, the foot of the bed will be resting on the floor. So this mechanism only supports half of the weight of the bed/people sleeping on it. Each side of the mounting bracket comes with 9 springs. For our full size mattress we only needed four on each side.

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Then the bed was put in! I helped here since it was only possible with two pairs of hands. While Slav stayed behind the Murphy bed to fine tone the mechanism, I stayed outside of the closet to make sure that the bed would not fall on either Slav or the overly curious dogs.

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I could not wait but putting the mattress on the minute Slav installed the bed. A footer was installed shortly after, so the bed could rest on the floor when pulled open.

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As you can see, there is still plenty of room between the desk and the bed to walk around. One person can comfortably get on the bed from the foot end. We decided the location of the Murphy bed first before designing the desk. The bed also clears the painting and the narrow window sill.

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Since the closet is much taller than the length of the bed, we ended up with a void on top of the bed when it is standing up. Slav added a shelf here for some storage. It is just enough for some camping gears.

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The shelf also doubles as a stop for the bed, so it will not fold over when standing up. Slav mounted the shelf just below the face panel, so you will not see it when the panel is up.

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We brought in a dog bed and Roxie immediately claimed it. I think she like the sound of me typing on the keyboard.

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Slav is in process of finishing the closet on the left side, then all we have left is putting up trims and finishing touches. I still have a couple weeks of busy writing ahead, so Slav will be flying solo for a couple more weekends. But we are much closer to the finishing line!

1. Patch missing floor boards;
2. Repair and finish drywall edges against the closet wall;
3. Reinforce the closet framing;
4. Murphy bed construction and installation;
5. Wire the electrical outlet to face the bed (done last weekend! Pictures to follow);
6. Construct guest closet (in progress);
7. Trim out the closet wall (Slav got it done last weekend! but I have not taken any picture yet);
8. Stain (?) and finish the closet wall plywood;
9. Construct a standing desk with motorized legs and a wood top;
10. Adding a storage headboard for the Murphy Bed;
11. Repair and finish the original bedroom doorway.

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