Do something different with your family photos: tutorial reclaimed wooden window type frame


In my never-ending quest for finding different, fun and creative ways to integrate photography in my interior, I’d like to share a recent project with you.

I’m a sucker for reclaimed wood, you literally find it everywhere in my house (even in my toilet!).  I love combining a rough reclaimed wooden surface with something unexpected; shiny, slick or new.

For this family photo display project I was preparing for a friend who has four kids I did just that: I combined the old and the new… the rastic and the plustic (my word joke didn’t come across, did it?). I wanted to make sort of a window frame, very three dimensional and chunky. But nothing too difficult, I didn’t want to have to router or chisel into the wood or slot the forex into anything. So I decided to just simply glue and screw a frame ON TOP of a big print.

In the array of ways to display large images without breaking the bank, these are my two favourites:

1: I combine multiple images in one big file in photoshop (think A1 or A2).  I leave it on my computer and whenever I come across a good offer or discount code for an online photo printing service I send the file off to be printed on the biggest size poster available. Once I receive them, I cut all the individual images out with my stanley knife and cutting mat and then I mount them onto a nice sturdy sheet of mdf. I find this is an amazing way to create huge artworks / photographs that look like gallery pieces, but at a fraction of the price you’d expect. When I get round to my next print-and-mount-session I’ll share a tutorial with you, promise!

2: The magic word is….forex print. What is forex, you might ask? Well, let me briefly explain. Forex is a relatively low cost type of hard foam plate, it usually consists of three layers: two hard outside backings and a foamy interior, sort of like a sandwich. Forex is ultra light weight and strong, it’s a material which is used a lot in the advertising/display/signs industry. It’s perfect to print high quality photographs on, it’s durable and scratch proof enough to use outdoors, but so light you can hang it on virtually any surface. And that is a big advantage, especially if you like BIG art on the wall. If you use my earlier mentioned photo mounting option,  anything larger than 80cm by 80cm can turn into a seriously heavy display! If you have the right tools and wall plugs, then, by all means, go for it. But if you don’t, stick with the forex! Considering this particular photo display was going to be 100cm by 100cm AND I was using chunky wood to make a frame window; I went with the forex!

So here is my forex print as it arrived to my house. Even though forex is sturdy, my studio is always dirty and messy, so I used some fabric to protect it anyway.



-a big photo printed onto forex

-7 bits of wood: four for the outer frame, one long bit in the middle, vertically, and two shorter bits to go across horizontally.

-wood glue / pva glue

-acrylic paint

-bunch of screws with a mushroom head


-drill/ screwdriver bit

-very thin drill bit

In case you want to hang the piece on the wall:

-2 D-hooks

-a bit of string or metalwire

STEP 1: decide your type of wooden frame and make it easy on yourself by drawing the frame on top of your photo before ordering your print.


Before combining my four photos in a photoshop file, I decided on the type of wood I wanted to use to  ‘window frame’ this foursome with. I went for reclaimed scaffold wood, nice and weathered and, grey, yet straight enough for me to easily cut four pieces to size. Why do you need to decide this in advance? Because to make it easier on myself I added the lines where I was going to add the wood on the photo, and I made them slightly smaller because I didn’t want them to peep out from underneath the wood. The width of the wood strips was 3cm, so I made 2.5 cm lines. It’s all in the preparation, people!

STEP 2: cut the pieces for your wooden frame to size.

I cut the pieces so they only had one cut side, which I was obviously going to hide/ glue onto the forex surface. I also cut the end s into 45 degree angles. Honestly, cutting angles in wood is NOT  as difficult as you might think, just give it a good practice before you start on the real thing. It’s always nice to feel confident in what you do and practice  always makes me more confident.

Right, next step.

STEP 3: Paint the edges of the forex board.

Since I was going to make a frame to go ON TOP of the forex board, the edges of the forex would remain visible. I didn’t like the thought of that and so I decided to simply paint the edges. With some acrylic colour I mixed up a shade that resembled the colour of the wood. At first, I was insecure whether the forex would be too ‘plasticy’ to paint on to, but I didn’t have any trouble.





Comparing the painted edge colour to the colour of the wood… emmm ..close enough for me.IMG_1382

STEP 4: A bit of puzzling to see which bit goes where. To be honest.. I left the three inside pieces a bit longer, just in case I messed up any of my measurements. You can always cut OFF, and never cut ON.IMG_1384 IMG_1385 IMG_1386

Step 5: scratch/scour/assault the cut/ NON SHOWING side of the wood.


Use a knife, use a screw, use your nail, as long as you make sure the surface is prepped for the glue. I am a firm believer that scratching before glueing really helps the two components to bond properly.

STEP 6: Glue the four outer pieces onto the board.


IMPORTANT: glue a THIN line towards the OUTSIDE of the wooden strips. You don’t want glue to seep through on top of your photograph. If it does, it’s not the end of the world as a wet finger/ cloth can get rid of the glue when it’s still wet. But better to avoid it. The good thing about reclaimed wood is that things don’t have to be too precise and clean, you can wiggle a bit to see which bits connect nicely. And if at this stage you discover you haven’t measured properly, don’t worry about it, make the frame stick out over the edge a little bit. hey, that might even save you from having to paint the forex edge all together!

STEP 7: place something heavy on top of the wooden strips, let glue dry for 15 mins and them turn the piece over.

STEP 8: Pre-drill holes for screws.

Obviously measure the width of your wooden bits, and the distance you want your screws to go from the edge of the frame. I’m quite the lazy maker usually, but I really recommend pre drilling for the screws. Forex has a porous and soft base and you don’t want to risk anything going wrong in the process of screwing it onto wood. Pre-drilling eliminates that risk.
IMG_1391STEP 9: screw two screws into each of the four outer corners, securing the forex board to the wood.


IMPORTANT: use mushroom headed screws. They’re the kind of screws that have a head that’s round and domed but a bottom that’s FLAT. Why, you might wonder? Well, since the forex is soft on the inside, a standard type screwhead would pull the forex with it and will try to force it to go into the wood. We don’t want that.IMG_1387



Tadaah.. Two screws securing the forex board into the reclaimed wood.IMG_1392

Make sure to keep checking if the wooden bits are aligned and close to the edge during screwing, the easiest way to do this is to place one finger along the edge.

STEP 10: Now screw one screw in the middle of each side.




STEP 11: Turn over and cut the last three bits of wood to size.IMG_1386 STEP 11: repeat the scouring, glueing, waiting and then turn the piece over.

So Now we’re almost finished. Pre drill and screw another four screws to the inside wooden bits the same way as you have done earlier with the outer bits.

STEP 12: Attach the D hooks to the back of the frame. PRE DRILL and SCREW. Attach string or metal wire.

I usually attach my hanging hooks something like 10 cm from the top of an artwork, just so you have a bit of space to play with. You never know in advance how much a certain type of string is going to give, or how heavy the piece is. It saves you having to cut the string, knot the string and then recut the string every time.


So here we go.. that’s it.IMG_1399 IMG_1397 IMG_1398

And this is how it looks in its new home! I haven’t seen it up on the wall yet, I took this photo when I went by to drop it off. I absolutely love the way the piece looks in its new surroundings, what a gorgeous wall colour!!! Combination with the black and white photo, old wood… stunning!





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