Rustic Art Frames


I’ve wanted to come up with a creative way to display the kid’s artwork they bring home from school. Anything would be better than it sitting in a pile on the kitchen counter. This project didn’t start out as a solution to this problem, but in the end I think it works well.

So what did I start out to make? My thoughts were leaning toward a rustic picture frame, and shamefully I’ll admit this was originally intended to be a Christmas present. More on that in a bit.

And it still can be used as a picture frame. Just slip an 8×10 or 5×7 in the clip and there you go! But the kids are digging seeing their artwork displayed. My seven-year old even suggested that we rotate art each week. I like that idea.

So how did I make it?


As with most of my projects lately, it started in the reclaimed limber pile. I knew I wanted two matching pieces, and so I planed and cut enough boards to do just that. I trimmed each board on the table saw to 4 inches wide and roughly 15 inches long. I intentionally left a couple of the boards longer to keep their rustic rough edge and the old nail holes. I like those qualities in this old wood.


I played around with design a little bit before settling on a simple “square fence” shape. I knew from the outset that was going to paint these pieces, so I wasn’t really looking at grain pattern or color. I did keep the tongue and groove edge on the boards so they slipped into each other neatly when I was ready to join them.


I glued the edges before joining and then nailed the cross pieces on with 3/4″  brads. After the glue thoroughly dried I sanded with 80 grit paper, easing the edges and removing any dried glue that I didn’t scrape off before. I tapped the nails below the surface and then filled the holes with putty. Then I sanded again with 120 grit paper.


Prepping for the first coat of paint, I wiped down the two pieces with mineral spirits and let dry. I know I said that grain didn’t really mater to me in this project, but I still have to say wow. Look at that grain!


I knew I was going to distress these frames, so I used a couple different colors for the under coating, spraying randomly but thoroughly covering the wood twice. I didn’t want to break through to the wood during the distressing process, so I went thick along the edges. And I wanted a couple different colors so it gave a layered look after distressing, simulating age.

For the topcoat I chose a bright satin yellow by Valspar. I applied three coats then let dry overnight. Did I mention that it was 12 degrees in the shop when I did this project? Ever try painting when it’s that cold? Paint doesn’t dry very quickly, and it was frustrating me. I’m impatient when it comes to painting, but this project, small as it was, forced me to go a little slower due to how uneven the paint would dry.

After the paint finally dried, I ran over both frames with my orbital sander (220 grit), distressing the corners and wherever I thought it would naturally “age” over time. The blue and the white came through beautifully.


I chose to use metal clips to hold the pictures. You could hang these on the wall or lean them on a shelf. Either way makes for a nice display.

So remember when I said these were originally meant as Christmas presents? Yeah, we decided to keep them for ourselves. I suppose we can do that now and then, right? Once the boys put their artwork on we just couldn’t part with them.

These are simple to make and can be custom designed to your own taste. Give it a whirl and let me know how they turn out.

As always, thanks for stopping by.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: