Welcome back to Flawed yet Functional where I am pursuing a life that is healthy and full, and I’d like you to do the same! There are three things I encourage you to do: eat healthy food, develop good habits, and pursue fulfilling hobbies. Today I have another hobby related tutorial to share with you: how to assemble a vintage picture frame. Recently, I reworked 3 of the large picture frames I acquired from my grandma’s estate, and I’d like to pass along what I learned. Let’s dive in!
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links which just means if you purchase from the links provided, I may get a small commission at no additional cost to you! At Flawed yet Functional, I only reference products that have real value that I actually use.
Supplies to Mount, Mat, and Assemble a Vintage Picture Frame
- Vintage frame (find one at thrift stores, garage sale, or estate sales)
- Single pane glass
- Art print (tree ring, forest)
- Mat to fit frame and art print
- Acid-free tape
- Sturdy cardboard
- Heavy duty stapler (manual, pneumatic)
- 3/8″ staples
Dismantle the Original Art from the Vintage Frame
First things first, take apart the pieces already in the frame and assess what is reusable. I had a mishmash in the three frames from my grandma’s house: one empty frame, one frame with a too small piece of glass, and one with a printed canvas nailed to the frame (without glass).
Remove everything you don’t want to reuse. Clean the frame gently with a soft cloth being extra careful as the wood may be soft from age.
Buy New Glass to Custom Fit the Frame
Step two is buy new glass, if you intend to use glass that is. It is just fine to frame a print or canvas without glass. Your call!
For these prints, I did not opt for the museum quality glass sold at most custom frame shops as these are very economical prints I purchased off Etsy. Also, I may swap them out in a few months so they are not too precious or needing of UV protection. If I were framing fine art, I would opt for the higher quality glass.
The most economical place to get a custom size piece of single pane glass cut is your local hardware store. I stopped by my local Ace Hardware (Gemmen’s) with my empty frames, and I walked out 20 minutes later with three perfectly cut and wrapped pieces of glass.
Sidebar: I can’t say enough good things about the local hardware store, and I know it’s not just mine! Growing up, I can remember my parent’s praising the knowledge and staff at our local store (Brandt’s Hardware…I even remember the name!). The staff was courteous, knowledgeable, and FAST. Yes, please, and thank you to good service all day long! West Michigan locals go to Gemmen’s Ace Hardware!
Order Art Prints to Complement a Vintage Frame
Now the fun part! Find art prints, canvases, or even magazine pages that you’d like to frame.
When you are looking for a print you love remember not to fight the color scheme of the vintage picture frame you are using. Take a look at my frames, they all have green and warm brown/gold tones. So I looked for prints with those colors.
These prints are going in our master bedroom so I was searching for green/brown toned pictures that were serene and not too feminine. I quickly found I liked landscape pictures and ended up selecting a black and white tree ring photo and a forest.
The last tip when picking out art prints is to make sure to order in the correct layout and ratio so it will print best. For both the tree ring and the forest print, I had to request a custom size which you will likely have to do if using an antique frame! The seller was fast and super accommodating. She sent me the requested sizes in less than 24 hours!
Print Art Prints From a Quality Printer
There’s nothing worse than finding or making art you love to have it printed with sub-par color or printing quality. Spend a little more and send your prints to a quality printer instead of your local one hour photo.
I sent my prints to Mpix for printing, and I cannot say enough good things about working with this company. Again, I was ordering non-standard sizes, but they were super gracious and worked with me to get the exact sizes I wanted. Shipping was WAY faster than promised, and the care in packaging each of my prints was impeccable. Everything was perfect, so I will be using them again for my next print order!
Cut Complementing Mats for the Frames
Selecting the proper mat color is key to making your photo look professional and blending the vintage frame with a new art print. Again, don’t fight the color scheme of the frame. Choose a mat that complements both the frame and the art print. If the frame is vintage, odds are a modern, bright white frame is not the best choice.
Now if you selected prints that complement the frames’ color scheme, then selecting a mat should be fairly easy. Go to the custom frame department of your local craft store and look through the big stack of mat samples they have.
Test out the various mat color options with your frame and print to make sure it is a good match. For my vintage frames and prints, I selected a brown mat that almost looks like a brown paper bag. By itself, the mat was dull and boring, but when I slid it under my frame and around my print, it was the perfect color to tie everything together.
Once you’ve got your best color, have them cut the mat for you and take it home. Make sure to bring the frame and art print when having the mat cut. That way the associate helping you can do all the measuring and double checking so the mat turns out perfect.
Assemble the Vintage Picture Frame
Now you’ve got all the pieces together, let’s put it together!
With the vintage frame face down, slide in glass. Clean as needed to make sure no wood, dust, or paper shavings are on the glass.
Lay the mat face down with art print face down on top the mat. Center the art print and tape in place. I used washi tape as it has a light but sturdy hold, but I’ve since learned a lot of washi tape is not acid free. It would be best to use an acid-free photo tape to avoid any damage to your prints.
Using the mat as a guide, trace the outline on a piece of sturdy cardboard then cut out using a utility knife or sharp scissors.
Insert mat and photo on top of the glass and place cardboard backing on top of photo.
Secure the Backing of Frame
Note: This is not the proper way to attach picture backing. Please use common sense and do not staple toward yourself! The reason I use this method is (1) it works! and (2) it doesn’t require special tools. Flawed yet functional at its finest…my kind of solution!
Staple the cardboard backing place using a heavy duty stapler and 3/8″ staples. Hold the stapler at a 45° angle (so the staple will go down and into the edge of the frame) about 1/4″ from the edge of the frame then shoot the staple in. If the staple goes too far into the vintage picture frame, then move the stapler back a little; if it doesn’t go far enough into the wood, move it closer. It may take a few practice staples, but this is a quick, easy way to secure picture backing with tools you have around your house.
Assembling a vintage picture frame is not a difficult task, and it will yield great results for your home decor if you do not fight the color scheme of the frame. Choose art prints and mats that complement the antique frame and you’ll find it to be stunning once it is all assembled.
Wow! You made it to the end of this long tutorial! I didn’t talk too much about the third picture I printed because I wanted to offer it to you. It’s the Love is… verses from 1 Corinthians 13. If you’d like a copy, just sign up below!