Floating Frames for Vintage Art

Thrift stores and antique malls are great sources for original and unique art, especially paintings.  Original artwork costs a pretty penny, and deservedly so, but it makes decorating with quality original art a challenge for those of us on a budget (#likeeverybody?!). I also get a little sad when I find a great painting in a thrift store, and feel that I must take it home to love and appreciate.

Too often, paintings in thrift stores are dusty, dirty, and sport fugly frames.  I loved these two paintings I found at an antiques mall but the frames were seriously rough: outdated, dingy, and ill fitting.


Cleaning paintings is easy.  Take a piece of white bread and gently scrub the painting.  The soft bread will pick up dust and grime.  Check out this before and after of my first and favorite thrift art find:

Reframing is a bit more complicated but still pretty straightforward with just a few tools.

1×2 pine boards
lattice, 1/4″
black spray paint
wood glue
kraft paper
picture hanging hardware

Tools & Equipment:
miter saw
band clamp
tape measure and pencil
wood glue

For these two recent finds, I made floating frames out of 1 x 2s (really .75″ x 1.5”) pine boards.  The painting of the boat is on a canvas which makes constructing a floating frame easy.  The city street scene is on canvas board which is only about ¼”thick, so I’ve provided instructions to make the framed painting appear to be on canvas.

I read a lot of tutorials before I got started and this one was my favorite, although I modified it a bit.

For the city street scene, I wanted to make it appear that it was a canvas so the frame needed to be just as deep as the one for the canvas painting.

First, figure out the total length of your painting’s four sides.  Add about 20 inches or more to that measurement to give yourself cut allowances when mitering the corners. You will need two pieces of 1×2 boards at that final length.  Paint the wider face of one 1×2 black and allow to dry. Spray paint or latex paint can be used. Once dry, glue the narrower face of the painted piece to the wider face of the other 1×2, with a ¼” on either side of the black piece.  See the picture to see what I mean.   Clamp and allow to dry overnight.  Also cut 4 pieces of lattice with opposing 45° ends.


In this cross section, you can see how the black piece is glued to the side.


This is where cut measurements are dependent on the dimensions of the canvas you are framing and how much of a gap you want between the painting and the frame.  I chose a ¼” gap.  Using your painting dimensions plus ½” on each side, cut your frame lengths, using your miter saw to cut the edges at 45°.


Go slow and measure twice, fitting the frame pieces to your canvas.  Lightly sand the cut edges if needed.  Fit the frame together and glue the corners.  Fit the band clamp around the frame and carefully tighten, making sure the frame doesn’t shift.  Turn the frame over and glue the 4 lattice pieces at each corner for additional support. Let it dry overnight.  Lightly sand and finish the frame with a stain or finishing product of your choice.


Apply glue around the edge on the back of the canvas board, and place the painting in the frame.  Cover the painting with a piece of paper to protect it and stack heavy books along the edge to weight the canvas board down.  Let dry for a few hours.  Glue a piece of brown kraft paper to the back, cutting it cleanly to the edge of the frame.  Attach hanging hardware.

These paintings are available for sale at my Etsy site.




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