What's the Best Material for Picture Frame Backing and What Holds it in Place?


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Hi guys!

Just a quick question or two I hope someone can help me with. I'm making a last minute picture frame as a holiday gift, and I'm not sure what to use for the backing board. I'm talking about the material that holds everything in the frame, not the matte for the photo or anything like that, which seems to be all I turn up when I search for that info. I am assuming maybe some thin MDF or thick cardboard? I am also building a toy box for my nephew, and I have some left over chalk board material that they sell at Home Depot. It's hardboard of some kind, I think, would this work? I'm on a time limit here, so whatever I need I have to be able to grab it at HD or Lowes over the next day or so.

Here's a link to the chalk board material I have, it says it's MDF in the description. Would this work, or would this be too heavy?


Also, what are the little clips or bracket that they use to hold the backing board in place on the frame? Is there something I can use that I can buy locally rather than ordering something special? Ideally, I'd like this project done for Christmas, so any info you guys had would be very much appreciated!

As always, thanks in advance for your time and help considering my questions!


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I've used 1/4" HB many times..  Just be sure that your frame is thick enough to allow for that and the glass.

As for holding it all in, I have a Rockler pin pusher that works well.  Before I had that, I'd go to the dollar store and buy a cheap frame that had the pins in it just so I could steal the pins and toss the rest ;)  You might also get lucky here and get your glass and matte as well.  The pins are pretty easy to install with needle nose pliers.

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Glazier's points work for holding the stuff in the frame. Lots of frames just use staples driven in about half-way. When time permits, I like to use fender washers and screws, with one side of the washer ground off to be flush with the rabbet. That way the artwork can be removed and replaced by turning the washer.

It is usually recommended to place acid-free paper or cardboard between the artwork and any other backer, to avoid staining or fading.

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I build a tonne of frames, and i always use 1/8" hardboard.  After glass, artwork, matte, and then backing, you have a lot of "stuff".  I find that 1/4" doesn't leave me enough space for point driving.

I use this tool to drive points, which is awesome.  If you plan on making any more framed things in the future, it's worth the money.



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You could use that blackboard but it is a bit chunky.

A local option would be getting a gessoed hardboard from your local arts-n-crafts store. I've also used standard cardboard or a piece of mat board on smaller frames.

If you want quick, cheap, and easy...I've used brads or staples driven half way to secure the backer board. It doesn't really matter because...While you're at the craft store get a roll of brown craft paper and some rubber cement or contact adhesive. Attach the craft paper to the back of the frame and trim it flush to keep dust out and give it that professional look (instead of the "I stapled this in" look).:)

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1 hour ago, davewyo said:

. Attach the craft paper to the back of the frame and trim it flush to keep dust out and give it that professional look (instead of the "I stapled this in" look).:)

Yes, this is a good idea and a product is made specifically for this purpose. if you decide to use the tape, make sure its a piece of art you will not ever want to change. For family style photos, i dont use the sealing tape as people like to update their photos once and a while.

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I use the dame type of cardboard that you find on the back of a tablet of paper.  i have used gee-dubs turns, glazier points (fine for your but not user friendly for recipient),  I have prepared 1/16 thick x 1/2" wide slats ( they bend easily) and inserted them in a grove on the Opposite inside edges of the frame.  2 or 3 across the back of the frame.



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Hi guys!

Wow, thanks so much for all the quick and helpful replies! I'm sorry I don't have time to reply to everyone individually as I'm still hustling to get all our Christmas stuff made, bought, wrapped, baked, etc., but I really appreciate all the help and advice.

@TIODS - Honestly, I think you hit on the most obvious and easiest idea of all, to simply cannibalize a cheap frame from the store. Originally, I was going to make a frame of a custom, non standard size to fit an old photo that was laminated and of an unusual size. My wife has now convinced me that I'd be better off to scan that old photo and reprint it at a standard 8"x10" size, so now I'm going to cut my frame down to those standard dimensions, which means I can use parts from a standard frame. We'll be headed out in a few minutes and I'll check the dollar stores or the Mega-Lo-Mart for cheap frames.

To everyone else, thank you again for all the advice. I will definitely be making more frames in the future and will definitely be referring back to the suggestions here, but with time running out I think making my frame a standard 8"x10" and using parts from a cheap frame from the store is the easiest, fastest solution.

I will add that I think I want this frame to be something that's easy for the recipient to change the photo if needed. I will be giving one frame to my sister for sure, and if time another to my mother-in-law, and I don't want them to have to struggle with nails, staples, glazier's point, tape and other more permanent solutions. But, in the future those ideas may well be the best way to go.

Thanks again everyone, I really, really appreciate the help!

Happy Holidays and Happy Woodworking to everyone!


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If you will build a lot of frames a point driver is well worth it.  I have one similar to what pug linked from Lee Valley, though I got it from Michael's using one of their high percentage off coupons.  I think it ended up being $30-40.  It's so easy to use it's ridiculous, and looks so much more professional than using finish nails or something similar.

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