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

Category: Small Upgrade Page 1 of 3

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!

Home Stay+ Bath Door Refinish

Today marks the start of home stay week 3. It is frustrating to watch the world to get sicker each day, while doing nothing is actually my best way to help. I wonder how I’d feel about this time when it passes, like ten years from now. But for now, the uncertainty gets the upper hand sometimes.

To keep my mind occupied, and more importantly, to make myself feeling useful, I turned to DIY. Tangible, tedious, fulfilling, and therapeutic. I’ve organized the garage and built cedar planters for the patio. This week, I refinished our master bathroom door.

The second-hand bath door

Our master room has two doorways, and this is the door we mounted between the media room and the bath.

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I do not think Charlie digs the concept of glass door at all.

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We got this door second-hand from Resource Central’s resale store. It is made from solid wood and double-paneled glass. It is super heavy.

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From distance the door looked pretty nice. But when you looked it closely, its color read rather yellow and it had screw holes from hanging blinds.

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We’d like to re-stain it to espresso to match other doors in the basement.

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First step: Sand

The first step of finishing any wood product is to sand off the old finish down to bare wood. We moved it into the garage and I started by covering the glass with plastic drape.

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02 before

I usually use random orbital sander on large surfaces, but for the rather narrow door frames I chose my small 3M hand sander. I only had 80, 120 and 220 grit sandpapers on hand so I started with 80 grit.

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The wood is fairly soft. A few passes with 80 grit sandpaper took the finish right off.

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The dimension of the door was written on the side of the door:

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Came right off with the 80 grit sandpaper.

06 side after 80

Before sanding:

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After 80 grit:

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It took just 5 mins on each side.

09 color change

To sand the inside trim I took the 80 grits sandpaper off the sander and held it with my hands:

10 80 on trim

Trim before sanding:

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After 80 grits:

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After vacuuming the sand dust away, I proceeded with 120 grit sandpaper.

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And finished everything off with 220 grits sandpaper:

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Step 2: Clean and patch (then sand again)

By this point the door frame was very smooth. I cleaned off the sand dust with a damp microfiber cloth:

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Then patched the staple and screw holes with wood putty:

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After a light sanding where the putty had been applied, the door was ready for the stain!

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Step 3: Stain!

For the stain I picked Varathane in espresso color. I recently read about shellac as a wood finish and decided to give it a try.

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Rubbing on the first coat of stain. I immediately liked the color of the stain and how easy it was applied.

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You can see how much the espresso color of stain darkened the wood. It looked warm, but did not read red or yellow. I am very happy with this color.

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After letting the first coat of stain dry for a couple hours, I applied the second coat. I do not think the second coat darkened the wood much more, but rather filled in the raw spots and enriched the color. It added more weight to the appearance.

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This was how the color looked like in bright sun light after the second coat had dried. With cooler and dimmer lighting, it read a lot darker. I think it would match the other two doors really well.

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Final step: Seal and protect

After the stain dried I applied the shellac. It is pretty thick – kinda a maple syrup consistency, and dries very fast. I had to work very fast to make sure each layer was thin.

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Can you tell that it added a lot more shine to the wood? It was very pretty in person with just the first coat!

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I applied three thin layers in total, with one hour of drying time in between.

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After the last layer had applied I let the door sit. It takes time for the solvent (ethanol in this case) to evaporate completely and the shellac to harden. We have not mounted it yet. But I like the finish! Do you?

Home Stay + Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning at home

Hi friends! I hope you all had a good weekend, at least as good as it could be. It is hard to ignore the crazy pandemic, but we managed to stay stress-free and did not run into any trouble shopping. We do, however, start working from home in response to the “social distancing” order, which saves me hours on commute. With nothing else to do I got into Spring cleaning – for the first time in my life! All the surface was wiped down, every blanket was washed, and bathrooms got their fair share of scrubbing bubbles. With 60 degrees and sunny weather I had the windows open for the weekend. It feels like Spring!

After cleaning inside the house I quickly moved onto the garage. Our garage is a true work horse especially in winter months. Without working in it we just use it as an enclosed dumpster. Winter sport gear, shoes, tools, construction material and demolition trash are everywhere. It needs an organization badly.

The dump ground – we are animals

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Lots to store

I spent two days just to sort things out. Every storage box was open and every item now has my finger prints on it. Disposables, out to the trash/recycle. Donation items, out into my car. Gifts, packed and shipped! The garage started looking a lot better, but the real devil is how to store all the rest.

We had organized our garage before and divided it into multiple zones: paint storage, car repair and DIY tools, sport gears, and mud room area. But the recent basement renovation left us a lot of materials we have to keep. For example, the leftover tiles, paint, drywall, and flooring, all of which should be kept in case of future repairs.

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In addition, we also plan to keep the lumber from demolition.

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For the basement reno we also acquired more tools, including a Dewalt miter saw + saw stand. We had already owned lots of tools, both for DIY projects and for car repair/maintenance. And they have been piling on top of each other and getting lost in deep drawers.

I spent the entire third day getting everything out. Dust, categorize, and re-organize them into drawers and onto shelves.

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We had one of the wall organizers (left) which works really well for storing small parts. I got another one (right) and have everything labeled.

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Aside from general storage, I mounted several magnetic racks to hold small tools in open.

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Now at least I know exactly what tools we have and where everything is. Hopefully it will save us time and money from going to stores to buy things we already have.

Adding more shelves and create a wood working station

Shortly after moving in, we mounted a series of storage shelves on the southern wall to hold paint supplies, which have worked wonderfully.

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Soon after that, we added more shelves on the other end of the southern wall for seasonal storage, which we use to store things related to specific project – cycling gear, dog stuff, etc.

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To create more storage like this, I extended the upper storage shelf to run above the garage window for mostly wood working tools.

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Below the window used to be our construction storage. Now all the lumber was moved away, I took the opportunity to carve out a space for wood working. We regularly use the Bosch table saw and the Dewalt miter saw. They are wonderful tools, but difficult to setup. Sometimes we opted out using them purely because we were too lazy to set them up. To make sure these tools are readily available, I placed them next to each other, right under the garage window.

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This is a great spot for wood working tools. The lighting is good with the window (the white board is there temporarily). There is a wall outlet right between them, and the shelves holding all the paint cans and wood treatment are just an arm away.

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We have a piece of pegboard left over from the east wall project. Adhering to the “use it or lose it” rule, I mounted it under the window and it fits perfectly! It is a great spot to store protective gear for wood working.

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Keep the north wall for sport storage and as a mud room

The last wall in our garage is the north wall, shared between the garage and the living room/kitchen. It has been used for winter gear storage with a DIY ski rack:

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next to which is hanging space and shoe storage as a mudroom area.

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What is next?

Now the garage has been organized again, in the best way I can, we have yet to find storage for two more categories of things: Christmas decorations, and lumber.

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So naturally, I decide to use these lumber to created more storage in the garage for Christmas stuff – a one-stone-two-birds approach. Why not? And we happen to have this ugly corner above the roof trusses to cover up…Do you see where I am going with this?

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My next project will be to created storage above the trusses using the lumber we have, not only to conceal the electrical wires, but also to provide space for Christmas decors. Hopefully by the end of the week, we will be able to park a car, maybe even two cars, back to the garage again! Who would know?

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