Crafting like a Man with Patrick Murillo: Picture Frames (Part One)

Some people are crafty, some aren't (i.e. me). It's the way of the world. But taking a cue from Mantastic Crafter Patrick Murillo, I'm training in the art, and hoping to work my way up

to something truly mantastic, all while trying to avoid what Murillo calls a "craftastrophe."

My crafting session for this week at the Murillo household was a lesson on homemade picture frames.

From an untrained eye, this seems like one of the most basic crafting project there is. But, like everything else about crafting, I'm learning that it's never easy. In fact, we're splitting this instructional post into a two-part-er -- one for building and one for decorating.

First, we'll tackle building the frame, and how I almost lost a finger.

1. To start off, get some shims. They can be purchased at any hardware store apparently, but when we started I honestly had no idea what they were.

Murillo: First, you need shims.

Me: ...OK.

Murillo: Do you know what shims are?

Me: ...nope.

They're sloped pieces of wood. I'm calling a false start; I like the name "crafting sticks" better anyway.

2. Before you start gluing anything down, use a saw to cut some shims into the correct sizes. They come in a huge bundle for a few bucks, so don't worry about messing up a few times.

Here are the sizes you'll need:

  • (9) 6-inch pieces
  • (2) 3-inch pieces

The shims kept coming loose while I was hand-sawing and so I moved up my hand to get a better grip on them. Not the smartest move, since a few times the saw got a little too close for comfort. A power saw works too, but Murillo says he prefers to do things "caveman-style." Works for me.

After you've cut a sizable groove in one of the shims, you can just snap the rest of it. Revenge is a dish best served cold, shims.

3. Next, make a square out of two of the 6-inch shims and the two 3-inch shims. Match the thick edges of the shims to the thin edges to make sure it holds and looks nice. Use a hot glue gun to put it together.

"You have to hurry before it dries," Murillo tells me. Hot glue doesn't stay hot for long, I guess. This probably stressed me out more than it should have.

4. Using three more of the 6-inch pieces, add a back to the frame, alternating between thick-side to thin-side on each piece.

5. Finally, take two more of the 6-inch pieces and glue them across the top and bottom to give the frame a professional look.

And you're done.

As I was leaving the Murillos', I started to realize that, to be a great crafter, you need to know how to do everything. In the past few weeks, I've sawed, glued, baked, and painted my way through four projects.

If crafting were an Olympic sport, it'd be like swimming, biking, skiing, hurdles and bob-sledding in one marathon event. Then, even if you won, you'd have to design your gold medal from pipe cleaners and glue lying around the house. And right now I'm feeling like I'm the underdog country... until next time...

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