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 DO-IT-YOURSELF Log furniture & Rustic Projects

DIY Log Picture FrameSee log picture frames

How do you cut a round log to give it a parallel recess for glass and a picture (print, photo, etc.) and maintain 45 degree mitered corners and preserve the round look of the log? Click the picture frame at right to see three examples of hand-made DIY log frames

A trip to the woods

Locate logs (or branches) that are of similar diameter.  A half inch variance is not important, but trying to make a 45degree angle using a 4" branch butting to a 6" branch will result in more problems than you want. Although a slight wave in the branch is acceptable, ideally you want relatively straight branches.

To maintain any semblance of uniformity and proportion, there should be at least one flat side of the log (this is the surface that will rest against the wall.)  This flat area will permit you to plough dados and cut corresponding angles. The picture below illustrates how you can achieve this by building a simple jig from scraps.

  1. Table saw and rip fence (left)

  2. "Sled" jig to carry the log past the blade

  3. Cut-out that will hold the glass and picture

Slicing a log of any diameter is not something one does without anchoring the log securely to keep it from turning and cutting a crocked plane.  A simple homemade "jig" can be fashioned from two pieces of scrap glued at a right angle.  The log is then secured with common wood screws. 

NOTE:  Be careful not to use screws that are too long and may extend to the cut (saw kerf) as this produces an unwanted shower of sparks and will destroy a good saw blade.

Also, you will need to recess (countersink) the "anchor" screws as that face of the jig will slide along the rip fence of your table saw. 

The log and jig pictured above was actually used to make one of the picture frames shown on this page.  Any diameter or length of log can be machined this way by altering the size of the jig.

Mitered corners

Okay, we have our logs machined and we want to cut them at 45 degree angles to build our frame. The problem is that because we are using irregular branches or logs, instead of the customary planed and squared boards, our corners will be uneven - one side will be larger than the opposing 45 degree angle.  See diagram below:

Log "A" is a bit larger than log "B".  However, because we cut out dado using the flat plane, the glass will rest in a even recess "C" (from the table). 

So how do we address the uneven miter (log diameter) where the logs join?  Using a drawknife or wood chisel, taper the logs to come together evenly.  A little sanding and the taper will enhance the look of a log joint. 

A Draw knife and/or a Spokeshave is commonly used to "peel" bark from a log, but they can also be excellent shaping and tapering tools.  For the best selection and deals on drawknives, click here.

Stubai Drawknife

Finishing

As with any woodworking project, the type of finish is totally up to you. I will always stain any piece I make to provide some protection from the elements indoors or out.  Depending on the look I am trying to achieve I ma use a clear or natural stain/sealer or mix stains to achieve a weathered look.  I will usually apply some type of finish from lacquer to a polyurethane, but I stay away from high gloss finishes. To see how my frames ended up, see my three log picture frames here.

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