Although frames are really not pieces of furniture, they do play a role in furnishing and some frames can be very valuable. Antique frames were usually made from solid cabinet wood, such as walnut, cherry, or mahogany -- wood that's both hard to find and expensive today. For this reason, most old frames are well worth repairing. In this article, we'll discuss some easy ways to repair mirrors and frames to help you keep your wooden furniture in good condition. One common problem is loose joints.
The usual problem with frames is separating miter joints (the joining pieces are cut at a 45-degree angle and joined to form a right angle). There are several ways to fix open miter joints, but the easiest way is glue. Force glue into the open joint with a glue injector, and clamp it with a corner or a strap clamp. Look for metal fasteners along the edges of the joint; if necessary, drive them back into the wood after the clamp closes the gap in the joint.
If the joint won't stay closed, it can be glued and nailed. Drill pilot holes to prevent the wood from splitting. You can either leave the nails flush with the surface of the wood or countersink them and fill the holes. If you leave the nails exposed, use decorative nails such as brass.
If the frame is a valuable antique and you don't want to use nails, close the joint with a corner spline. Clamp the frame in a vise, padding the wood with a piece of carpet or a thick layer of cloth. With a ripsaw, cut a notch into and across the corners of the joint along the edge of the frame. Cut a thin piece of matching wood to fit into the saw cut; test it in the cut, and adjust it as necessary. Spread a thin coating of glue onto both sides of the spline, insert the spline into the cut, and pull the joint together with a strap clamp. Let the glue dry completely. Then, with a sharp block plane, trim the edges of the spline flush with the surface of the frame, and sand them smooth. Spot-finish the spline area to match or refinish the entire frame.
Chipped frames can be patched with a thick mixture of spackling compound or plaster of paris. Roughly form the design you want to duplicate with the patching compound. Position the rough patch material, and lightly press it against the frame. Then, with the tip of a craft knife or a toothpick, shape the compound so it blends in with the design. It will probably be impossible to match the design exactly, but the repair won't be noticeable.
Let the patch dry completely, and then spot-stain or paint it to blend it with the rest of the frame. Test the colors on a chunk of dried spackling compound or plaster of paris before you apply the mixture to the frame repair. You should be able to color-blend the patch perfectly.
As you've seen in this article, a lot goes into repairing wooden furniture. But these repairs are worth the time and effort, especially if it's an antique that is near and dear to you.
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