Picture Frames are often used to display more than just pictures, and when the frame is thick enough, it can display 3 dimensional objects. In this project we are making a box to display a pair of First Nations beaded moccasins that were acquired somewhere by my father, then handed over to me when he passed away a few years ago. I do not know the age of them but I estimate they were made around 1940. I am also not sure who made them and I can only guess they are Assiniboine or Lakota as those would be in an area where he was during that time. I have always wanted to display them properly as they are both beautiful and a memory of my father.
These moccasins are about 2 inches (5 cm) high, so the frame will need to much deeper than most in order to accommodate them. In this case figured out the deepest frame I could make based on how high my table saw blade would rise above the table and that worked out to be 3 1/8 inches (8 cm) and so that's what it would be, a bit unconventional but we work with what we have.
Once I had the size, it was time to select the wood from my stash of bits and pieces. I expected I could find something without having to cut up some new stock and sure enough I found something ...
In this case I used some broad-leaf maple I had on hand and it even had a bit of spalting in it to add some character to the wood. After sizing the blank wood to 3/4" (1.9 cm) x 3 1/8, the next task is to cut that board into an "L" shape leaving the 3/4" as the face of the frame. I could used a dado blade for this but I found it quicker and much less dusty to simply make 2 cuts on my table saw which removed the inner wood. Next was to cut a dado that that the back would fit into which I also did without inserting the stacked dado set, by simply making 3 passes to cut away a small rabbet.
Now the the frame material is ready to use, it's time to cut the 45 degree angle cuts into all the pieces. Cutting 45 degree cuts is not difficult but making each of the opposing sides of the frame the exact same length is the real secret to frame making. If any one side is slightly longer or shorter than another the corners will be off slightly and it is nearly impossible to try to hand cut them to make them right again. Best to do it right the first time.
As I show in the video, I make a template measuring stick for each side and use that to make sure both sides of the frame are exactly the correct size.
When this is done it's time to glue the frame together. I used my picture frame clamp to hold the sides together but found that the width of the frame was so high that I would need to assist the depth of the frame in clamping, but using some small 23 gauge brads to hold while the glue set.
After leaving the glue to set overnight the next day I removed it from the clamp and again set up the table saw in order to cut 2 small splines into each of the 4 corners of the frame to not only enhance the look, but also to hold the frame together more securely.
The next step was to cut the splines that would go into the spine slots. I did this with a shop made adjustable jig that I can set to various widths for cutting very thin strips. After a couple of tests and re-adjusts, the spline material was a perfect thickness, and a simple job now to glue them into place.
After the splines were dry I cut them away with a pull saw and finished the outside of the box with a rub on, German made finish that left a beautiful lustre finish. The inside of the frame I painted with an ebony dye that would help to give the moccasins a visual depth when they were inserted into the box, which is exactly the final step for this project.
The finished picture frame display box looked very good, the moccasins stood out in sharp contreast to the black background. It was proud moment for me to finally hang these on the wall so that everyone could appreciate the beauty and share the thoughts.
Copyright - Colin Knecht