Build a photo frame collage

Turn simple MDF into a picture-perfect gift

By Cathy Dalrymple

picture frame

Photo by Roger Yip

This quick project is great for those family vacation photos or any other group of shots that look good together. I used MDF because I wanted to create a painted Cape Cod look. You’ll also find this inexpensive material easy to work with.


Picture Perfect

You should adjust the dimensions to suit the finished frame that makes sense for your photo collection. I used with 3"-wide MDF, with 5/16"-deep x 3/8"-wide rabbets milled on the inside edges. Complete these rabbets with several passes over a dado blade on your tablesaw, or with a table-mounted router and fence. Once you have the rabbets cut, saw the long and short frame sides to length.

Join the mitres with two 3/8"-diameter dowels. You could use biscuits too. Once the frame is glued and dry, you can determine the exact dimensions for the picture dividers. For these, I used 13/8"-wide MDF cut on the tablesaw to a thickness of 7/16"-the same as that part of the frame that's ahead of the rabbet. Use a dado blade to create half-lap joints where the vertical and horizontal dividers overlap each other.

Once all the pieces have been cut to size, apply a finish. If you are using MDF, use an alkyd primer before painting. Sand the primer, then the top coat. To create a worn look, simply sand right through the paint lightly on the edges. Add a clear coat over the paint for added protection. Visit a glass shop and have a piece of 3-mm glass cut to fit in the rabbets.

To assemble, put a dab of glue on the lap joint, then push together the vertical and horizontal dividers. When this piece is dry, apply clear silicone to the back face of the dividers and fit the assembly into the frame, sticking it to the glass from the front. Cut the small divider and silicone it in place too.

Finish the project with a piece of backing material. I used 1/8"-thick plywood, but heavy cardboard also does the trick. Use frame turns to hold everything in place.

This collage frame makes a lovely gift or a fun project over a weekend.

Tools & Materials

Part Material Size (T x W x L*) Qty.

Long frame sides MDF 3/4" x 3" x 20" 2
Short frame sides MDF 3/4" x 3" x 16 7/8" 2
Vertical divider MDF 7/16" x 1 3/8" x 10 7/8" 1
Horizontal divider MDF 7/16" x 1 3/8" x 14 3/8" 1
Small divider MDF 7/16" x 1 3/8" x 3 3/4" 1
Glazing glass 3 mm, trimmed to fit 1
Backing plywood 1/8", trimmed to fit 1

* Length indicates grain direction

Recommended Tools


Build a photo frame collage

Illustration by Len Churchill

No comments

To leave a comment, please log in

Don't have an user account? Register for free


How do you heat your home?

Loading ... Loading ...