DIY One Room Challenge

How to Make Your Own Canvas Float Frame

June 25, 2018

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DIY Oak Canvas Float Frame

For my One Room Challenge Guest Room Project Reveal (check out all of my One Room Challenge Posts here), I showed off my 3 DIY paintings mounted in handmade oak frames. I completed my paintings to solve the challenge of filling one large bank wall and wanted my DIY abstract art to really shine so worked with my dad to build custom canvas float frames. Float frames are different from regular frames meant for canvas because they are made to be just a little bit bigger than the canvas itself. While a regular canvas frame would hug tight against the canvas, a float frame has an intentional gap all the way around to make the canvas look like it’s floating inside the frame.

Before I get into the how-to of it all, lemme show you what one of these frames looks like IRL.Alternate view of oak float frame

Side view of oak float frame

Oak Float Frame Detail

Oak Canvas Frame

How to Make a Wooden Canvas Float Frame

I’m going to walk you step by step through the process of making your own float frame for canvas art. Heads up – there are power tools involved. We don’t have a table saw or miter saw of our own yet, so I visited my dad who lives a couple hours away to help me hustle on this project for the Spring 2018 One Room Challenge.

What You’ll Need

The Plan

How to Make a Canvas Float Frame

How to Make a Canvas Float Frame

My first step, as with most projects, was to draw up a plan in SketchUp. I wanted to figure out the best way to assemble the frames so that the edges were a clean, solid plank and that the back was tidy. It also helps me to draw things out to check on proportions so I could be sure the wood frame wouldn’t look too thick against the canvas.

My frames are made to fit 24×30″ canvases – I picked mine up at Jo Ann’s. I decided I wanted a 1/4″ gap between the canvas and the frame and for the canvas to be recessed 1/8″ from the front edge of the frame.

If you want to make the same frame as I did for a 24×30″ canvas, here are the dimensions:

Frame Side

  • 2 pieces cut to 2″ wide x 31 1/8″ long x 1/2″ deep
  • 2 pieces cut to 2″ wide x 25 1/2″ long x 1/2″ deep

Frame Back

  • 2 pieces cut to 2″ wide x 30 1/8″ long x 1/2″ deep
  • 2 pieces cut to 2″ wide x 24 1/2″ long x 1/2″ deep

Picking the Wood

Up until my dad and I made it to Home Depot, I wasn’t sure if I’d be going with oak or pine for the frame. Poplar is a good, inexpensive option but has a lot of green in it so it’s a good choice if you’re planning on painting it. I knew I didn’t want to paint my frames and I didn’t really want to stain them either – once I set eyes on the oak, I knew it was the way to go.

How to pick straight wood planks

When you pick your wood, try to find the truest wood planks you can. You want wood that won’t lie to you (does this count as a pun?) but more than that, you want the straightest wood you can buy. How do you tell if a plank is straight? Hold the plank up with one end close to your face and look straight down the wood – you’ll be able to spot curves in the wood pretty easily. See above for the proper form as demonstrated by my dad.

Organizing wood planks

My dad and I looked at every board in the little cubby hole and sorted them into “these are good,” “these might work,” and “these are bad” stacks.

How to Remove Stickers from Wood

Removing stickers from wood with hairdryer

How to remove sticker residue from wood with rubbing alcohol

Once we got back to my parents’ house with all our supplies, I started removing the barcode stickers from the wood. They left behind a lot of sticky residue and I tried a few different methods to remove it. A hairdryer helped to loosen the main sticker from the wood but wasn’t super helpful for what was left behind. I tried pulling the sticker residue off with duct tape, but that wasn’t super effective either. Then I tried rubbing alcohol on a rag and it worked wonders without staining or discoloring the wood – if you try this, you should probably test the alcohol on a scrap piece of work first to double check that it won’t discolor your wood. In most cases, I could still sort of see where the sticker had been but was mostly concerned with removing the sticky bits.

Rip That Wood

Ripping wood on a table saw

My plans called for wood at a different width than what we found at the store so my dad trimmed both the length and width of the planks on his table saw.

Another piece of advice from my dad, Joe: trim wood at both ends to shorten it instead of just taking from one end. Wood sold in planks like this is often thinner at the ends because of how it’s planed.

Organize Your Wood

Grouping oak planks by grain

I noticed that the grain of the oak differed from plank to plank but I wanted all pieces on each frame to work together. I organized the wood by grain type (tighter, looser) and then gathered them in groups of 4 for each of the 3 frames.

Marking the best edges of the oak planks

I also used small pieces of painters tape to mark the best sides of each piece of the wood to be used as the outside and front edges of the frame.

Make Miter Cuts

Cutting frame pieces with a miter saw

Miter cut pieces of wood for framing

Then it was time for those miter cuts. The pieces for the sides received cuts along their thing edge while the back pieces were cut along their wide edge. Miter cuts make for a really beautiful, profesh looking corner.

Glue the Frame Corners

Applying wood glue to miter cuts

Building frame using corner clamps

Starting first with the oak pieces for the sides of the frame, we put glue on the ends and clamped them together using the corner clamps.

Secure Corners with a Nail Gun

Using a nail gun to secure frame corners

Detail of nail holes at bottom of frame

We used a nail gun to secure the corners. The nails went in at the top and bottom of the frame rather than the sides so they’d be less visible. You can also use v nails and a joiner to join your corners at the back of the frame.

We added more nails than is necessary if you allow for proper dry time on your wood glue. I needed to get my frames finished in one day before loading them into my car and driving home. If you can allow for at least 24 hours of dry time, you won’t have to rely on nails as much.

Fit in the Frame Backing

Fitting the frame back pieces

Fine tuning the fit of the back pieces

Once the outside frame was complete, we removed it from the clamps and started fitting in the back pieces. As you can see in this picture, we needed to cut a little bit more off to get a perfect fit. Make sure to work on a flat surface so you can push the back pieces the whole way down into the frame to create a level back for your frame.

Glue the Corners of the Frame Backing

Gluing back pieces of float frame

Once the pieces were fine-tuned to fit together tightly, we ran a bead of wood glue along the miter cut and the long edge that fits inside the frame.

Detail of glued back corner of frame

Here’s a look at the freshly glued back of the frame.

Fill Nail Holes and Sand

Filling Nail Holes with wood filler

If you use a nail gun, you’ll want to fill those nail holes. I picked up golden oak wood filler that matched my frame perfectly. For small holes, you can just squeeze wood filler out into the hole or onto your finger and smooth it out. Let it dry, see if it shrinks (it probably will) then refill if needed and let dry fully. Once the wood filler is dry, use a fine grit sandpaper to sand down high spots.

Stain and Seal the Frame

If you want to stain your frame, now’s the time to do it. If you like the natural look of the wood you use, you should seal the wood with a water-based varnish. You can use the brush-on type or spray, sanding with fine grit sandpaper between coats. Adding a non-yellowing, acrylic coating will protect your frame from moisture and make it easier to clean.

How to Mount a Canvas into a Canvas Float Frame

Using shims to place canvas in frame with equal spacing

Andy picked up 1/4″ thick pieces of wood to use as shims to make sure the canvas was 1/4″ away from the edge all the way around.

Putting in screws

Use flat head screws to secure the canvas to the frame so that you don’t have a screw head sticking out and scratching your wall. We ended up using 6 screws to secure the canvas to the frame because while the frames were squared up and flat, the canvases weren’t. Securing the canvas at multiple points to the frame straightened out the canvas.

Adding Picture Wire to the Wooden Canvas Float Frame 

Back of oak float frame with hanging hardware Detail of float frame hanging hardware

We hung the picture wire on the inside edge of the frame backing pieces. This way, nothing is sticking out on the back of the frame to scratch the walls or add a weird gap between the frame and wall.

Wowowow. My paintings look so good in their new frames. This can be a great weekend project if you have access to a table saw, miter saw, and nail gun. There are no special order materials here – I picked everything up at Home Depot. I love the effect the float mount gives and I’m so proud that I could design and build these with my dad. I’ll take any excuse to spend a whole day with him. Is this a project you think you could tackle?

DIY Canvas Float Frame

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  • Reply Kat July 24, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    This is so awesome! I love the look and how relatively simple it is! Good job!

  • Reply Lily November 3, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    Hi there. This looks great! A question: how did you secure the back of the frame to the sides? Thanks

    • Reply thesweetbeast November 4, 2018 at 10:05 am

      Hi and thanks! We attached the back of the frame to the sides with wood glue and a nail gun.

  • Reply Tina Tepe December 3, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Fantastic! I am a former professional picture framer, and think the frames look beautiful & professional. I wish you could have included the total cost spent on supplies!

  • Reply Corlia December 14, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Definitely helped me in deciding to make my own frames. Your paintings looks great. So thats your dad. How nice of him yo help you.

  • Reply jean January 6, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    They look great!
    I wonder why you didn’t glue the frame sides to the backs first (to create an L profile) and then do a single miter cut of the joined pieces?

    • Reply thesweetbeast January 6, 2019 at 8:58 pm

      Thanks! That’s totally another way to do it for sure! I’ve seen other tutorials that do it that way and it looks like it works well.

  • Reply Arthur Floyd January 26, 2019 at 11:48 am

    What angle did you use with the saw?

  • Reply Enjoy Canvas February 15, 2019 at 5:29 am

    Admiring the commitment you put into your blog and the detailed information you offer. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed information. Wonderful read!

  • Reply Deron Gue February 27, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    I have an 11×14 canvas print and I’d like to build a floating frame could send me the formula you used to calculate your cut lengths. Very good post!

    • Reply thesweetbeast March 3, 2019 at 2:40 pm

      Thank you! My formula for each side would be: the length of your canvas + 2x the desired gap between the canvas and the inside of the frame + 2x the depth of your wood. Hope that makes sense!

      • Reply Bradley Smith June 23, 2020 at 8:15 pm

        Thanks for this. It is one key bit of info needed by people trying to do this. The second key bit of info that is needed is how you calculate frame depth and thickness of back inside frame piece in order to get what you said you wanted…..canvas inset ⅛” from the front of the frame. This will also require knowing the thickness of your stretched canvas.

  • Reply Cheryl V March 7, 2019 at 3:06 am

    Thanks so much for this tutorial. It’s clear and easy to follow. I can’t wait to get started on building some frames for my daughter’s artwork. I’ve been looking for a tutorial like this for a while. Thanks again!

  • Reply Krizia Liquido March 18, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    Your work is gorgeous! And the photos in your tutorial make it easy to follow. Do you think I could use a staple gun instead of a nail gun? The staples are pretty long.

  • Reply Lena April 4, 2019 at 1:48 am

    Looks awesome! What kind of nails did you use? Are those brads? I’m looking into buying a nail gun but I, not sure what to get. Can you share the deatails on the one you used? Thanks!

  • Reply DWIGHT LOPES August 19, 2019 at 10:12 am

    Wow! This is a wonderfully clear and concise tutorial on how to make a floater frame. The photos aided the explanation immensely.
    I had already watched several videos on the subject. Your tutorial was as good or better than them.

  • Reply Mary Cook January 4, 2020 at 12:13 am

    I have to agree with all of the comments above! This is the best construction and explaining out there, well done and thank you for doing this. I don’t have a miter saw, but I do have a table saw that can make angle and bevel cuts. I can’t wait to make a floater for an original oil I just bought from my daughter – you just made this so much easier!!

  • Reply Diane Brotherton January 5, 2020 at 5:48 pm

    Thank you for the video. It is going to be very helpful for me to use my new nail gun and miter saw on. I’m an artist and decided to start making my own frames. Yea!

  • Reply Barbara Lynch May 4, 2020 at 9:22 pm

    I just discovered you. Wow, you’re talented!!! The color harmony in these pictures is AMAZING…the wall color looks fantastic with the artwork!!! And thank you for the expertly explained and illustrated instructions for floating canvas frames!! Best Regards, Barbara

  • Reply Neil May 16, 2021 at 3:27 pm

    A Shim is a wedge? Suddenly the quarter inch timber and horizontal strut is added, without instruction, looks manufactured, please can you provide a source for this support?

    • Reply thesweetbeast May 16, 2021 at 9:50 pm

      Hi Neil. I may be misunderstanding your question but the horizontal strut pictured (in images where the back of the canvas is visible) is part of the canvas as purchased and not something we added. A shim can be a wedge or thin piece of material, in this case, we used a 1/4″ strip of wood to temporarily hold the space between the outer edge of the canvas and the inner sides of the frame while we secured the frame to the canvas.

  • Reply Randall Reynolds May 25, 2021 at 2:15 pm

    Excellent. thanks

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