How to resize
an IKEA picture frame

November 1, 2009

IKEA Ribba frame ready to be slaughtered. It didn’t know what was coming

To hang an artwork recently acquired on a trip to China, I set out on a mission to frame it. I could buy a frame together with the artwork for a small fee, but couldn’t carry something big and fragile on an airplane. There were no stock frames of the right size anywhere online – including IKEA – either.

A few quick calls to local framing stores revealed a inevitable fact – framing would cost way more than the artwork itself. Yet IKEA was generously offering a large stock Ribba frame for only CA$ 30. Could I resize the frame to suit my needs? I toyed with the idea. After all, if successful, I could save over a hundred dollars.

Needed two L’s

I wanted the project to be as simple as possible. That meant using little time, effort and materials to finish. The key design was to split the frame in half, creating two L’s, keeping two joints intact and minimizing the number of joints I had to make later.

To determine how much of the frame to cut off, I subtracted the artwork size with the size the frame was designed for. In my case, the artwork was 65cm x 65cm while the size of the frame was 70cm x 100cm. Thus I needed to remove 5cm on the short side and 35cm on the long side. It didn’t matter what the actual lengths on the frame were.

Schematic view of how the dissection will be carried out

Preparation

Marking the 5cm line using a metal ruler and a knife 1 I indicated where to cut.

2 Then extended the indication marks to cover the thickness of the frame.

A paper template laid inside the virgin frame 3 It was helpful to have a template to check the size of the frame in each step of the project. I simply laid the artwork on top of the labelling paper that came with the frame, then traced its outline with a knife.

Ribba frame innards labelled "top" 4 Not assured that my measurements on the artwork were correct, I distinguished the orientation of the frame. That way the artwork will fit even if my measurements were wrong.

Ribba frame innards labelled "bottom" 5 Did the same for the bottom part as well.

Cutting the frame

To make a nice, clean edge, the joints had to meet at 45° angles. A mitre saw will make this task tremendously easier, but I didn’t have one. I tried my luck with a jigsaw instead.

Homemade mini cardboard triangular set squares drawn 6 First, I needed a couple of mini triangular set squares, made using a cardboard mat that came with the frame.

Drawing a 45 degree line on the Ribba frame 7 I marked the inside with a 45° angle...

8 ... then the same on the outside.


Marking unused portions of the frame with X’s 9 I marked unused portions of the frames with X’s to prevent mix ups later on.

Frame anchor positioned at the cut off line 10 This anchor was placed too close to the edge where I will be cutting. Like a bad tooth, I had it removed.

Frame anchor pulled out with a pair of pliers 11 Anchor pulled out. Simple as pie.

Joining back together

After cutting (with much difficulty) with a jigsaw, I put the two L’s together.

12 The joints didn’t line up perfectly, but the discrepancy was acceptable.

13 I held them together temporarily with masking tape...

14 Notice the very pronounced gaps. With proper cutting tools – and experience – the size of the gap could be minimized. I was lucky that the gaps were visible only on the back.

15 To fill the hole with as much glue as possible, I used a syringe, found in an inkjet cartridge refill kit. The glue was so thick it barely trickled into the syringe when I tried to fill it through the needle...

16 It was easier to pour it in from the top.

17 The gaps were filled to the brim with glue. It’s important to make sure that the masking tape used to restrict the flow of glue be adhering to the frame as tightly as possible. I found that the glue, despite its high viscosity, managed to ooze in between the tape and the frame.

18 When dried, the gap reappeared again, but by then the glue had bonded the joint together.

Backing board

19 Next up, I prepared the backing. First, I sized it up with the artwork.

20 I removed the stabilizers as they were not in a correct position.

21 Using a triangular set square, I drew perfect right angles.

22 I marked the lines using a knife and ruler.

23 No band saw? No problem.

24 The “stabilizers” – L joints that improve the frame’s rigidity by connecting the backing board to the frame – were stamped into the board using sophisticated tools. The stamping procedure not only shaped the L joints into a four-point nail but also forced the points outwards. The result was a grip so firm, it was impossible to remove them without destroying the board.

25 To reuse them, I straightened the points, then clamped them down manually with a pair of wrench pliers – one side at a time.

26 As the points punched through the board, they popped out on the other side.

27 I stamped in only three stabilizers (I misplaced the fourth). It was more important to bond with the bottom edge as it carried the weight of a piece of glass. You can see them in the picture below – one at the bottom, two on the sides, where the hanging wire ends on each side.

28 I used clips and wire that came with the frame.

29 I predrilled holes on the frame to allow the stabilizers to anchor into the frame with screws. The frame may have been predrilled properly before I modified the frame. I found it impossible to screw in otherwise.

Finalizing the frame

30 There was still some work left in the frame. First, I needed to cover up any imperfections with good, old-fashioned paint.

31 I got a “flat” paint, but the original paint on the frame turned out to be glossier.

32 The glue may be solid, but it may not be strong enough to carry the weight of a large piece of glass. I added extra support.

33 I predrilled holes, stuck in a few nails (leftovers from other IKEA products no less)...

34 Laid the artwork and backing in...

35 ... then joined the nails using leftover wires.


36 Notice the crack around the top nail. I originally hammered the nail in, but the frame cracked halfway through. It’s important to predrill and work delicately on IKEA “wood”...

37 To “top” it off, I covered the joint reinforcements with cardboard paper from the mat to prevent the nails from scratching the wall once I hang the frame.

Voilà!

The resized frame is completed, joining the chorus of frames yet to be hung.

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