Assembling the Frame
Mitering the rails and stiles is fussy, delicate work if you want them to close tightly. Honestly, these eight cuts will make or break your project. It’s critical to adjust your miter gauge for dead-on 45° angles, so spend some time tuning it up and making test cuts. I fastened a long, stiff fence to my miter gauge and faced it with sandpaper to keep parts from creeping during cutting. A long fence will also enable you to use a stop block as an index for setting part lengths.
I would suggest you work on one corner of the frame at a time, mitering the parts and adjusting them for square before moving onto the next corner. I applied a piece of masking tape over the moldings before making each cut to keep tearout to a minimum. If a joint doesn’t meet squarely, add a few paper shims between the workpiece and miter gauge on one end or the other before re-trimming. It can help you zero in on a partial degree that brings things nicely into square.
When three pieces of the frame are mitered, arrange them on a flat worksurface, and check the opposite rails or stiles for parallelism. The final piece will be the most tricky — it both brings the frame together and requires you to fit two joints at once. Make a test piece for this first and refine your settings before committing to the actual frame part. When my joints fit properly, I cut slots for a single #20 biscuit at each corner, then glued up the frame. After the glue dries, touch up the intersections of your coves and bevels with sandpaper and proceed to finishing. I wiped on a coat of boiled linseed oil first to accentuate the cherry’s rich, natural color, then sprayed on several coats of satin lacquer.
Making the Dentil Inlay
Make up a 4″ to 6″-wide x 24″ blank of 5/8″-thick stock for your dentil so you can rip all four strips from it after the slot pattern is cut. Dentil moldings are easy to make if you use a simple box joint jig: it’s just a scrap fence fixed to the miter gauge and outfitted with a 1/4″ x 1/4″ pin to index each cut. Install a 1/4″-wide dado blade in your saw, and space the indexing pin 1/4″ away from the blade. Plow all the 1/4″-deep slots, making sure to push the blank down firmly over the pin every time. Sand the resulting tabs gently and apply finish. I brushed on clear shellac to keep my maple dentil blonde. When the blank dries, rip it into strips that fit the frame grooves.
Cut and fit these strips one at a time. Start with a long rail, adjusting the dentil pattern left or right so the miter cuts create matching corners. Move onto the shorter dentil pieces, then finish up with the last rail. Consistency of the pattern is key here to a balanced appearance. Glue the dentil in place.
Now order the glass and cut a hardboard backer to size, and this project will be ready for its portrait or art print. Tack these layers in place with metal window glazing points. Add a hanging wire, and your custom frame is all set for its holiday debut.