Strictly speaking, you don’t need any power tools at all to do picture framing. You could buy pre-shaped molding and cut them with a handsaw and a miter box. But having these two power tools will greatly simplify the process, give you many more options for designs, and produce much nicer results.
The only two power tools you really need are a Table Router and a Table Saw.
There are several various hand tools that you’ll need to do a good job. I’ve listed as many as I could think of here.
Measuring Tape: For measuring dimensions of larger pieces and marking the length of rough pieces before mitering.
Steel Ruler: I use it for trimming the dust seal on the back of the frames after the glue dries, as well as for finer measuring for which the measuring tape isn’t accurate enough.
Drafting Triangle: This is useful for setting your miter fence of your table saw at exactly 45-degrees, to get perfect miter joints in your corners.
Pencil: For marking cut locations on the wood, and guidelines on the back of the matting.
I only own a couple clamps, but that’s all you need. The longer clamp is useful for affixing the wood to the fence during cutting to make sure they don’t move out of alignment. I also use it to pull together the framing clamp for frames that are too large for the clamp’s built-in tightening bolt.
I keep some wood filler on hand in case there’s a gap in any of my miter joints, but using the techniques described on these pages, you shouldn’t have any gaps at all. Nevertheless, the wood filler is handy for filling nail holes if you choose to reinforce your frame’s corners with some countersunk finishing nails.
I use LePage Carpenter’s Glue to actually glue the frame together. This is a carpenter’s glue that is extremely strong, and I recommend it. I also recommend some Elmer’s White School Glue if you plan on attaching dust seals to your frames.
You’ll need, at a minimum, some 120 grit and 220 grit sandpaper. A powered sander will make some tasks a lot faster, but you can get by just fine without it.
This is one of the only two really “specialized” tools needed to do custom picture framing (the other is the mat cutting kit). There are several different options for clamping a mitered box like a frame, such as a band clamp or 4 individual corner clamps. I use this framing clamp I bought online from Rockler. It was pretty cheap, and has produced great results.
You don’t need much to properly finish the wood. Just the actual product itself (stain, lacquer, varnish, shellac, whatever) and some brushes. Personally, I prefer to use the disposable foam brushes, since it’s a pain to clean a “good” paintbrush after each coat of finish, particularly when the frame is so small that it only takes 5 minutes to put a coat on. I use some old, clean, cotton clothing (such as the socks shown here) for wiping off stain.
Again, there’s not much you need to cut your own glass. You’ll need a work surface (I use a poker table because the top is padded), some plastic or paper to protect your work surface from tiny glass shards, a straightedge (I use a drywall ruler), and an actual glass cutting tool. The glass cutter itself is only $5 or $10 from a hardware store.
This is a tool you’ll have to buy. You can’t really get by without this one. I bought a kit that included both a straight cutter and a bevel cutter from a local arts and crafts store (Wallack’s, if that helps). The kit I bought is made by Logan (I bought the Logan 301-S Compact kit) and cost about $100 on sale. That may sound pricey, but you’ll use it on every job, and it will pay for itself very quickly when you consider how much you’re saving by doing it yourself instead of using a custom framing store.
You need a way to secure the glass, matting, art, and backing inside the frame. There are a few options for this, such as buying a box of glazing points and pressing them into the frame with a screwdriver, or using brad nails and pressing them in using a special tool. But by far the easiest, fastest, most professional way is with a tool called a point driver. This tool looks like a staple gun, but shoots out the front of its nose, forwards, instead of straight down like a stapler.
The most popular (actually, the only one I know of) is the Fletcher FrameMaster point driver. It sells for around $80. You don’t need this tool, but it sure makes the job an awful lot easier.
Other tools that will come in handy are various screwdrivers (for attaching hanging hardware, opening cans of stains and finishing products, adjusting other tools), a utility knife and scalpel (for trimming dust seals, cutting hanging wire, trimming tape), the hanging hardware (which can be bought at home rennovation stores like Home Depot), kraft paper and white glue (for the dust seals), acid-free double-sided tape, scissors, and other tools I can’t think of right now.