If you are planning on making a picture frame, then a picture frame clamping jig is a must. A picture frame clamp will allow you to hold the frame securely in place while assembling the frame. It applies even pressure to all four corners, ensuring the frame is perfectly square.
One of the key advantages of using a picture frame clamp is that it keeps the frame securely in place during the gluing process. In addition, an adjustable frame clamp allows for gluing frames of various sizes and shapes, from squares to rectangles.
When making a picture frame, usually in the first stage you use a picture frame sled or a miter sled to cut the frame parts and then a clamping jig to glue the frame together.
There are a few ways how to clamp a picture frame. You can use a variable angle strap clamp readily available in a shop, a corner clamp, or a clamping jig specifically designed for gluing frames. All will work well, but you’ll get the best results with a specialized clamping jig that not only ensures all corners are square but also allows it to easily self-square itself.
In this article, we will be making a simple adjustable clamping jig for frames that can accommodate any size frame from 15cm (6”) up to 40cm (16”). I chose Baltic birch plywood as the go-to material, due to its strength, durability, and sustainability. All material is easily available.
Read on to find out how to build a picture frame clamp, set it up and use it.
Adjustable Picture Frame Clamp Video
If you want to see how it is done, watch the video below for a step-by-step guide on how to make an adjustable picture frame clamping jig.
Table of Contents
- The Material you will need
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the advantages of a picture frame clamping jig?
- What are the alternatives to a picture frame clamping jig?
- How to Make a Picture Frame Clamping Jig
- Step 1: Make the Adjustable Arms
- Step 2: Connect the Arms Together
- Step 3: Make the Clamping Corners
- Step 4: Mount the Clamping Corners
- How to Use a Picture Frame Clamp
- Woodworking jigs used
*Safety is your responsibility. Make sure you know what you’re doing and take all necessary safety precautions while working with power tools. Safety comes first!
Always be cautious and careful when using any power tool.
What you'll need to make a Frame Clamp
Picture frame jig arms
Plywood 2x – 25cm x 1,5cm x 0,65cm
Plywood 2x – 5cm x 4,5cm x 0,65cm
MDF 2x – 25cm x 1,8cm x 0,4cm
MDF 2x – 5cm x 4,5cm x 0,4cm
MDF 1x – 30cm x 4,5cm x 0,5cm
Picture frame jig – adjustable stoppers
Plywood – 7cm x 5cm x 1,2cm
Picture frame jig center
Plywood 1x – 12cm x 3,5cm x 1,2cm
Plywood 1x – 3,5cm x 2,5cm x 1,5cm
M6 Bolts, Washers, Wing-nuts
6mm threaded rod – 12cm
8mm hollow aluminum rod
Forstner bits, Drill Bits, Wood Glue
Proxxon Mini table
Bosch Hand Drill
What are the advantages of a picture frame clamping jig?
There are several advantages a picture frame clamping jig can provide:
- Speed – a clamping jig makes the process of clamping and gluing frames faster and more efficient
- Repeatability – a clamping jig consistently clamps frames at the same angle, making sure the corners are tight and square
- Precision – a clamping jig makes sure the frame is held in the desired position all the time, which improves the quality of the resulting product
- Versatility – a clamping jig can be used to clamp frames of different sizes and shapes. It can hold small squares as well as large rectangles.
What are the alternatives to a picture frame clamping jig?
There are a few ways how to clamp a picture frame. You can use a shop-ready tool or a homemade clamping jig. However, not all devices provide the same quality and some are more suitable than others. Here are a few tools that can be used to clamp a picture frame:
- Angle strap clamp – an angle strap clamp can be adjusted to various lengths and accommodate frames of different sizes. The clamping mechanism can hold frames at angles other than 90 degrees. They are pretty versatile and can be used in a wide variety of applications.
- Corner Clamps – an angle corner clamp (miter clamp) can hold two pieces of wood at 90 degrees making sure the pieces are perfectly perpendicular. They can also be used for making T-butt joints and can be used on boards with different thicknesses.
Both angle strap clamps and corner camps can be easily made in a workshop.
Let's start building!
The frame clamping jig consists of 2 main parts – the adjustable arms and the clamping corners.
The entire build is made of Baltic birch plywood and MDF. The overall dimensions of the jig are 50x50x4cm, thanks to which it can accommodate any size frame from 15cm (6”) up to 40cm (16”).
Picture Frame Clamping Jig properties:
- Material: Baltic birch plywood, MDF
- Total dimensions: 50x50x4cm
- Frame size from 15cm (6”) up to 40cm (16”)
This is a project for woodworking beginners.
How to Make a Picture Frame Clamping Jig
Step 1: Make the Adjustable Arms
Cut all the pieces to size. Use a table saw or a mini table saw with a small crosscut sled to get the best results.
The base of the arm is made of MDF (30cm x 4,5cm x 0,5cm). Start gluing all the pieces of the arm on top of each other to create a t-track. Make sure the glue does not get into the track where the t-track bolt slides. It would be quite difficult to get rid of the glue afterward.
Use a fence to align all the strips.
Repeat the process for all four arms.
TIP: Use a t-track bolt to set the right distance when gluing the strips.
Check out this article if you want to know more about the different ways to create a t-track: 3 Ways How to Make DIY T-tracks & T-Slots
Step 2: Connect the Arms Together
1) Prepare the arms
Mark the centerline on the arm and drill a 20mm hole with a Forstner bit on the bottom part of the arm. The depth of the cut should be just enough to accommodate a washer and a bolt head.
Then drill a 6mm hole and round the corners of the arm. (You can either cut the corners on a table saw or use a sander to get rid of the materials.)
2) Make the connecting centerpiece
Cut all the pieces of the centerpiece and glue them together. Drill two 6mm holes in the center on each side of the centerpiece and then drill a 6mm hole in the center on the lateral slide.
NOTE: I used MDF for some of the pieces, though it would be better to make the entire piece from plywood. Using glue with MDF is not as strong as using glue with plywood. Over time, the connection could wear and tear.
3) Connect the arms together
Insert bolts in the arms, put on the centerpiece, and secure with wing nuts. Do not tighten the arms completely, leave them a little loose so they can rotate.
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Step 3: Make the Clamping Corners
Cut the clamping corners and cut an 8mm hole on one side for attachment and a 20mm hole on the other side.
Use a square to draw the right angle to be cut. To cut the corners I used a crosscut sled and a Japanese saw to finish the hard-to-reach places.
Cut an 8mm hollow aluminum rod (inner diameter is 6mm). The cut piece should be slightly longer than the height of the clamping corner. Slightly round the corners with sandpaper and get rid of burrs.
Step 4: Mount the Clamping Corners
Insert t-track bolts in the arms. Put washers and aluminum spacers on the bolts and install clamping corners. Secure the corners with washers and wing nuts.
NOTE: When the aluminum spacers are slightly longer than the height of the clamping corners, then you will be able to fix the clamping corner in place, but at the same time you will be able to easily rotate it.
TIP: When using the clamping jig and gluing a frame it is a good idea to insert wax paper under the clamping corners. The wax paper will protect the arms from excess glue, and if necessary, it will also make it easier to remove the glue from the clamping corners.
Below is a picture of a finished picture frame clamping jig. A picture frame clamp is a perfect alternative to an angle strap clamp and surely pays off to have one in the workshop.
How to Use a Picture Frame Clamp
The steps below describe how to set up and use a picture frame clamp. To better understand how to set up and use the jig, refer to the included video.
How to use a picture frame clamp
- Set in position the picture frame clamping jig arms
- Insert the picture frame pieces
- Adjust and fix in position the clamping corners according to the size of the frame
- Place wax paper under the clamping corners
- Use the tightening mechanism or quick grip clamps to glue the picture frame together
- Keep tightening until the glue is squeezed out
- Clean the excess glue
- Release the clamps after the glue has fully cured
TIP: Use wax paper under the corner clamps. A little glue will squeeze out when gluing the frame corners. The wax paper catches it and at the same time allows it to be easily removed.
As an alternative to the threaded rod that is used to tighten the jig, you can use simple quick grip clamps for tightening.
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