Sean’s Diploma Frames
By Sean Soard
Added on March 1, 2018
After making some pinned half-lap frames as Christmas presents, I was asked by a colleague to make a matching set of frames for her college diplomas. She wanted the frames to match, but wanted two different approaches: an “artsier” frame for her undergraduate degree and a more professional frame for her law degree.
For the undergraduate degree, I started by making blanks for the top and bottom similar to how you would fashion a cutting board. Two strips of walnut and two strips of maple were glued together with pipe clamps and then planed down to a consistent thickness approximately 3/4 of an inch. The blanks and two additional pieces of maple were ripped to width and cut to length. As I didn’t have a dado blade at the time, the half laps were made with a router and a simple jig. After gluing up the half laps, I rounded the corners using a flush-trim bit and a 2 in radius guide. The backside received a 1/4 in rabbet to accompany the glass, mats, and diploma. I then routed a simple chamfer on the front inside and outside edges, finished off by hand with the chisel.
For the law school diploma, I started with 3/4 in maple, ripped to 3 in wide. These received a half-lap and, because they were a little too “beefy,” I trimmed an 1/8 of an inch off after glue up. I cut the inlay grooves on the table saw to approximately 1/4 in by 3/8 in deep. I found that matching the depth of the inlay to the depth of the half-lap was sufficient to ensure that the inlay wouldn’t stop short of the end of the frame once the chamfer was added. I then glued the walnut inlay in, piece by piece, to create the square weave pattern. I found that gluing a full piece whenever possible and then chiseling out the intersection for the next piece was the easiest and most accurate method (I did accidentally deviate from the weave in one section, however). After the glue dried up, a belt sander flushed the inlay to the frame. Again, I rabbeted the back inside edges to 1/4 in, and chamfered the front outside and inside edges.
Both frames were then sanded down to 220 grit and finished with many coats of lacquer. The mats were ordered from a chain craft supply store and the glass was sandblasted with the school logos. First, I applied contact paper (the kind you would use on kitchen shelves) to the surface of the glass. Then I pasted on a printout of the logo and cut it out with an Exacto knife. The glass was then sandblasted with aluminum oxide. Removing the contact paper and cleaning the “goop” off the glass was the hardest part of this project.
The glass, mats, and backer (1/8 in MDF) are held on by turn buttons and the frames are hung by a sawtooth hanger.