First post, how do people, looking for some advice

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10 Feb 2020
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I'm trying to carve out a hobby for myself. I don't have a workshop I have a work bench. I'm looking to make some picture frames for art work. With my limited space and experience I'm looking at a sliding mitre saw or a small table saw. I can decide which to get, I don't want to spend lots so It would be In the budget range but I feel a bit overwhelmed and don't want to buy on impulse. Can anyone guide me with some words of wisdom?
Welcome Dave.

Firstly, picture frames really aren't easy, no matter what saw you have. Mitres have to be absolutely perfect, and there is very little strength in the joint. Secondly, if you haven't got a workshop then a tablesaw is going to be an issue. They consume an awful lot of space because of the area around them which you need clear to work within. If machinery is the way you want to go I suggest you buy a sliding compound mitre saw, or a sliding mitre saw. When you get it, chuck the blade and buy a decent new one, and you'll have something of a chance to eventually cutting something somewhere near acceptable mitres. Possibly.
Firstly, welcome.

I would suggest a bench mounted guillotine.

A word of warning though, picture frames look like the easiest projects going, but they are far more complex than they look. Joints need to be spot on, and need reinforcing somehow, lengths need to be identical pairs, backing needs to be mm perfect and square and that is just the frame. Mount boards need cutting to size and that requires a load more kit.

If there is no workshop, do you have space to store mouldings, glass, board etc.
You can make life a little easier for yourself by skipping the mitres and using half lap and butt joints. They are more easily accomplished on a table saw and you can do mitres with a table saw as long as you make a good sled. You also have the option of pull saws that we don't but at any rate take your time and read about the different table saws and mitre saws and after a while the fog will lift and you'll be able to make a more informed choice.

My first question is if you don't have a workshop where are you intending to work?

If it's in a room in a house then I'd suggest that both table saw and mitre saw will be far too noisy and messy so unless you live on your own and are prepared to trail sawdust everywhere it's a mistake imo. I've done it, it doesn't work well ! :roll:

As said, picture frames aren't easy however with care you can use a decent hand mitre saw, Nobex or similar and get passable results, reinforcement slots can be cut with a fine tenon or dovetail saw. Oh and a quality steel rule is an asset to get those sizes identical.
Of course a guillotine is better but expensive unless you can get your hands on a used one.

A mount cutter needn't be too expensive and if you're happy to cut glass then a tenner or so will buy you a cutter otherwise buy it from a glazier ready cut
I make a lot of picture frames for my OH art, I have a fully equipped workshop, but none of it gets used to make picture frames, it's all down to the Nobex mitre saw and a guillotine, you will need a proprietary board cutter as you can not be accurate enough with a knife and it gives the option of 45deg bevels to the edge, also get yourself a V nailer preferably an overhead lever one, it's surprisingly difficult to put V nails in by hand. ... kit-104883 ... mer-951813 ... 01-1-p1942 ... .l4275.c10

The above is the minimum you will need when making picture frames from bought in sections, try Lion picture frames for inspiration on sections:

Hope that helps.
I am a newbie like you as well.

I would certainly echo what has been said here.
Having bought a table saw too early, I now use it only when I need repeatable long cuts on multiple workpieces and when I cannot square the edges of strips / boards by hand.

I actually sold my sliding compound mitre saw after merely using it for a few days. At least with a table saw you can somewhat get on top of dust collection. Mitre saws are just too messy.

On the face of it, table saw and mitre saws all look like good options. But don't fall for it. You have noise and extraction (bigger issue than you think) to think about. And then there is space, power, good quality blades, push sticks, mitre sleds, safety equipment (PPE) - just not worth it if you don't have a dedicated workshop and don't intend on spending a fortune (which you will for a decent one of either saws)

My most sincere suggestion is to learn to use hand tools first. You can make accurate mitres using a good hand saw (browse for types and specs), a hand plane (again, the same) and build / buy a good shooting board which does mitres.

Invest your Table saw budget (saw+ blades+ extraction+PPE+power) in the following (not in any order):
1. Good workholding for your bench - a solid vice
2. Good and accurate set of marking, measuring and layout tools
3. A good light source
4. Either a good book into picture framing by handworking or some sort of video tutorial
5. Actual cutting tools - hand saw / hand mitre saw or both, a general purpose hand plane, card scrapers (I don't have one, but according to some people this may help you finish the frames better than having to invest in sanding power tools - NOT MY WORDS)
6. Good quality glue, sanding paper and other bits and bobs.
7. Good quality clamps(or cramps) and a fair few of them

If you look carefully, by buying the table saw / mitre saw, you are still having to invest your money in everything on this list except maybe a hand saw and a hand mitre saw.

So you are better off without them to begin with, plus your lungs will thank you and your neighbours will too.

Food for thought.

P.S- this isn't my preach speech - this is actually what I would start with if I were to do it all over again. And please invest in QUALITY.
Fantastic replies from all of you. I'm not against hand tools and learning from tutorials/books. I have looked in to quality hand mitre saws and they are more expensive than a used quality sliding mitre saw. Maybe I can keep looking but they hold there value even the very old ones. It's good to see a wide variety of answers from you all and appreciate you putting in a bit of time to help and guide me. Top draw
This might not be what you are after, but If your intending to make a frame from rough timber that's not profiled..
I will suggest some tools which I would think necessary for the job at hand.
The tablesaw will defiantly be too dusty for you I think.

If your not intending to make a lot of mitred frames, you could get by with planing them instead
on a mitred shooting board.
You need a good bench and good lighting sorted.

A hand plane or two is the first thing I would be looking for, incase you don't have any yet.
You would be have to be pretty lucky to get good mitres without having flat stock to begin with.

Search on the bay or for a few Stanley Bailey/Record's or the likes of tooltique. (type this to into ukworkshop search engine and you will find other sellers)
Not much wrong with rusty ones.

I would get some Ultex hones on half price annual sale, or the cheap ebay DMD ones for 3 or 4 quid each.

I have amassed a nice selection of long stainless steel rulers from Homebase for less than a tenner each. (bout the only thing not a rip off in there)
I would get a nice square like this cheap one for a tenner ... es-ax23310
These are pretty nice Japanese mitre squares in there for little money, at something over a tenner,
which I definitely would buy also. ... are-510015

A marking gauge would be nice, the cheapest wheel type marking gauges are 30 quid
and I will be shot for even mentioning it :D

There's not much more you would need to do a few
You could get by with a fine cutting hand saw like the Bahco laminator if you scribe lines
to avoid breakout beforehand.
I have used on of those mitre saws freehand for a good while, it has server me well, very easy saw to use.
Those might be cheap without the box, and they have replaceable blades, and you could make your own mitre box.

I'll leave out the complicated parts like the groove and the glazing for others to comment on. :)
You might find it a challenge to get the groove cut... "should" you choose to cut one for the glass.
You could laminate some strips if in a pinch.
A good few variants of planes would be able to do that job, should you stumble across an ebay listing for a cheap shoulder plane or combination plane or other tool that can do the job instead of the TS

Good luck
a shooting board with mitred attachment is your friend, but you have to be quite skilled with the hand plane, I use a home made mitre box and then the shooting board, no power tools needed, the hardest part is the last piece to fit in perfectly, it's very easy to overcut it just slightly and the whole thing goes out :D mitres are notoriously difficult to get right!
thetyreman":pdeurb6n said:
a shooting board with mitred attachment is your friend, but you have to be quite skilled with the hand plane, I use a home made mitre box and then the shooting board, no power tools needed, the hardest part is the last piece to fit in perfectly, it's very easy to overcut it just slightly and the whole thing goes out :D mitres are notoriously difficult to get right!
As lots of others have mentioned, picture frames appear easy but are one of the most difficult things to get 'spot on'. I do all mine with a shooting board and 45deg attachment but this little snippet I penned when I was working for Ax might be helpful (or not as the case may be) in getting all the bits to exactly the right size...and they have to be exact! - Rob
@Destructive Dave: 1st, welcome to the Forum. Friendly & helpful place.

2nd. In the following, please bear in mind that I have NEVER made a picture frame (and only the odd 1 or 2 mitres). But the following MAY help:

Scroll Saw Mitres-C.jpg

I hope it's clear. It's from a B&W paperback (rather old) which is "OK" in the original, hope this scanned version is more or less readable. Just FYI, it's from "Scroll Saw Handbook" by Patrick Spielman (Sterling Publishing, New York - ISBN 0-8069-4770-5 pbk).

I'm NOT suggesting you rush out and buy a scroll saw, it's the start of a fairly steep slippery slope (DAMHIKT - BUT these machines do have a lot more capability for "just general work" than is often realised - the above is only 1 example), but the "jig" shown is obviously easy to make, and you MAY have a mate or a club with a scroll saw nearby.

Anyway, HTH, and enjoy your time, that's the main thing.


  • Scroll Saw Mitres-C.jpg
    Scroll Saw Mitres-C.jpg
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I've just looked at the pix above and seen that on my screen anyway, they're NOT all that clear (ditto, part of the text). mIf that stuff is of any interest to you, just post here and I'll scan again, this time, pic by pic. Should be clearer then. If no interest, fine.