Step 1: Planning

Measure The Work

First, determine the size of the artwork being framed. For this project, I’m framing a university diploma for my sister-in-law. The diploma is exactly 8.5 inches by 11 inches. Next, figure out how wide you want the matting borders to be. To do this, I often use a principle called the “Golden Ratio.”

Artwork Dimensions
The “Golden Ratio”

The Golden Ratio
The “Golden Ratio” is a number which has its roots in mathematics, and is generally agreed to represent an aesthetically-pleasing ratio. It actually occurs quite often in nature, and is used a great deal in architecture and art. The number happens to be 1.618 (it continues on indefinitely, like Pi. This is called an “irrational” number). I recommend you incorporate this value in your work. You’ll be pleased with how it looks.

In this project, I’ll use the Golden Ratio to determine the width of the matting border surrounding the diploma. I’ll apply it to the larger dimension of the art (the width).

Decide on Sizing

The width of the diploma is 11 inches, so muliplying by the Golden Ratio gives us 11 x 1.618 = 17.798 inches, which we’ll round off to 18. This means that there will be a total of 7 inches of matting across the width of the artwork. Divide it by two to give equal matting width on either side of the diploma, and we end up with 3.5 inches of matting on either side.

Completed Sizing
Rather than apply the Golden Ratio to the height too, I’ll instead use the same matting width (3.5 inches) to give a uniform border around the diploma.

I’ll use a frame width of 1 inch, bringing the overall frame dimensions to 20 inches x 17.5 inches. Next, I decided on a style or profile for the actual frame itself.

Frame Profile

Frame Cross-Section Profile
I decided on a fairly simple profile for the frame, shown here. Note that there are 2 layers of matting. This is cryptically referred to as a “double mat,” and looks nicer and more formal than just a single mat. Each layer is roughly 1/8 of an inch thick, so 4 layers works out to about half an inch of layers to be packaged into the back of the frame. A 3/4 inch deep rabbet will suffice. A “rabbet” is simply a ledge or channel cut into wood. In this case, it will be used to hold the glass, matting, artwork, and backing inside the frame.
The rounded edge and the shallow rabbet on the face will be created using a table router.