closeup of the frame corner

I visited London with my wife, Beth, in 2009, and while we were there we bought a poster of the cover of The Great Gatsby at the National Library. I couldn't find any ready-made frames that would fit the poster, so I designed one myself. First, I made a model of the poster in CAD, and used that to figure out the approximate width I wanted for the frame members. After that I made a trip to the Home Depot to browse their trim selection, since I wanted to have some non-rectilinear features in the frame. I found some trim that is meant for making miniatures and furniture that I attached to 1x3 boards (poplar, since the wood wasn't going to show). Originally, I was going to gild the frame with silver leaf, but before I bought the gilding materials I decided copper would be a better contrast with the blue of the picture.

the completed frame and poster

To construct the frame, I first used a table saw to cut the rabet in the 1x3s that would be where the picture and glass would sit. Next I used glue and brad nails to attach the trim to the 1x3s, and then filed in the nail holes and gaps with wood filler. I sanded the pieces down, then used my miter saw and compound miter jig to cut the compound miter joints for the corners. After I cut the pieces I had to do a little sanding and planing to fix some unevenness in the miter joints, then I glued them together using a strap clamp to hold the frame in place. I also put a few v-nails in the corners to strengthen everything up, since it's a rather large frame.

the frame clamped while the glue dries

After the glue dried I primed the frame and then painted it "Venetian Red," which is the traditional red ochre color that is painted below copper or gold gilding. I left some brush strokes in the paint in a sunburst pattern radiating from the center of the frame, because I thought a smooth area would be boring (and too shiny). The adhesive for the leaf or "size" is applied after the paint, and after the size dried (it stays sticky) I applied the copper leaf and burnished it down. You have to be very careful with the leafing so as not to damage the thin foil, but it was actually fairly easy to apply, because it sticks so well to the adhesive. If you are careful enough, many times you can't even see the seams between pieces. Interestingly, I bought a gilding kit that included the leaf and all the other materials you would need, and I also bough an individual pack, from the same company, and it actually had thinner leaf, which was easier to work with. I applied two layers of leaf over the molding on the outside because putting the leaf over the complex curves caused many cracks to form. Once I finished the leafing I sealed the frame with shellac to keep the copper from oxidizing. The poster is mounted on a piece of illustration board and faced with a piece of acrylic, all held in with glazing points.

the frame painted Venetian Red
applying the copper leaf