Make a Crappy Old Picture Frame Awesome or How I Learned to Love Goodwill
by James L. Carey
Repurposing: the act of taking something that is outdated, beyond repair or just plain…*yuck* and making it seven shades of awesome. Not necessarily the tool of the uber-crafty, it can be a fun and inexpensive way to put some sweet stuff in your crib.
Putting cookie-cutter particle board furniture in my room is something I loathe. Where’s the history? Where’s the soul? Sure, it’s relatively cheap, but it will never age gracefully, only become worn down and hideous. We’ve become a plastic, disposable society that tosses everything in the city dump when it’s done with something because we can’t even be bothered enough to find someone who might be able to use our old stuff usually screwing ourselves out of a couple bucks that we might be able to put in our pockets during the process or at the worst, helping someone out who doesn’t have any money for new stuff.
That said, I like old stuff. I like things that look like they’ve got a history. I am a history nerd after all. This week I decided that I needed to start a new project. I needed to make some old, creepy stuff. I’m the guy who goes to The Haunted Mansion for designing tips. Love that place. So with that thought I decided to find some old picture frames at my local Goodwill and see what I could do.
First thing you’ll find, is that Goodwill is a great place to find picture frames. The reason that is, is because you can still find real wood frames there. They’ve been hanging on the wall of Uncle Al’s for 40 years or something and now they can be yours for pennies. The crap you find at your local framing store is a poly-carbonate bullshit blend of crap, it’s not real. Trust me, I had a summer job working at a framing store, but that’s another story. Most of the store stuff is crap and if you opt for the rare real wood frame, it will cost you an arm and a leg. Even more if you want a specific size.
Going to Goodwill is like an exercise in Zen, accepting what comes. Find a frame with some cool features and make it work. If it isn’t the perfect size, well that’s what the mats are for. The picture frame aisle is also where you can see some of the most tragic art choices ever to blight humanity.
I like frames where the frame protrudes out from the inside, like the frames of paintings in museums. The flat, boring, or reverse frames, I just don’t understand. That said, let’s get to making something look it was pulled off the wall at Castle Dracula.
Step 1: Find a good old frame and bring it home! It will, more than likely, have a print of a lovable woodland creature in it, like bunnies for instance…(Hint: you can click on the pics for larger than life bunnyosity)
Normally I would say take this sappy nature scene and cast it into the nearest fire, but some of these old prints I keep finding in these frames are from the 70′s and actually go for $10-20 bucks on eBay. Crazy, I know, but that pays for like 6 picture frames. Or give it to a fluffy bunny loving niece. Or tape it in the bathroom stall at work. It’s too ridiculous to just throw away. Be creative.
Step 2: Pull the backing out, save the masterpiece for later and carefully take the glass out. Be careful with the glass. In fact, wear some sturdy gloves just to be safe. Most picture frame glass is cut roughly and old pieces like this are near 40 years old and have edges worn into something akin to a samurai sword.
Step 3: Don’t slice your thumb open like the idiot writing this…
Step 4: Carefully clean the glass with dish detergent to get the years of oil and grime off and feel like you’re really accomplishing something because, hey, look at how clean you just got this shit, then realize you haven’t really started anything and carefully stash the glass where no one is gonna get impaled on it. Then, wipe your frame off. NOTE: don’t use Pledge or other wood cleaners. Those are waxes and if you use them, the paint you’re going to use in the next step won’t adhere to the wood, just get the dust off, overachiever.
Step 5: There’s really no end to the variation of how to actually paint your frame. You can do as others suggest and lay down an initial layer of paint in white, then paint another layer in a darker color so the white shows through, etc.. That’s all well and good, but I’m not trying to get into Country Living, I’m trying to make something that looks old, not fake old.
Take a candle and rub it on your frame, just get a bit of wax on there, it’ll make it easy to rub the paint off the edges of your frame. You don’t have to do this, but it’ll make wearing off the paint harder to do and give you a wicked shoulder cramp.
Here’s the cleaned up frame, ready for paint and a second life.
Step 6: Paint that sonovabitch. I use a flat black Rustoleum spray paint. You can brush paint on too, whatever floats your dingy, but I think spray paint is a nice, light coat and the key is I’m trying to add age to this thing, not reinvent the wheel.
I really only spray the top once and the bottom once, and both of those lightly. Just enough to darken the wood, I’m not going for a full coat here.
Now comes the irritating part. You gots to let that stuff dry overnight. If you start trying to “age” it now, the paint comes off in chunks and that’s not what we want. So be patient. Make a salad. Read a Neil Gaiman book. Watch an episode of Doctor Who on Netflix. We’ll have loads more to discuss if you do.
Step 7: Take a scotch guard pad or something similar to wipe your frame down. The key here is that you rub down (giggity) the corners, the edges, the parts that wear with handling and age, not everywhere, then you’d just wipe off the coat of paint you just applied. Don’t be a dingbat.
After you’re satisfied with how your frame is, you’re pretty much done. I add one more step in that I use a matte sealing spray on the frame. You can get cans of this hallucination-inducing magic at Hobby Lobby’s or Michael’s. But don’t go to Joann Fabrics, because they’re worthless unless you’re five years old or a scrapbooker. Even better, find a small, local art supply store and give them the business. Not, like, profanely, strictly your money is all I mean.
Here’s my frame post aging….
And after that, I typically add something I painted myself…
Much better than fluffy bunny rabbits. This picture would rip that other picture to bloody chunks of bunny flesh. Metaphorically speaking that is.
Now go make something slightly evil-looking and get back to me.
Also, I threw this one up on Etsy for those interested in some macabre decor.
P.S. If you want to pay good money for a print of fluffy bunny rabbits, hit me up. My prices are fair.