Save Money on Picture Frames by Re-Purposing Custom Frames

On a visit to my favorite antique shop, I picked up a photo frame. It held a piece of crochet art that formed a bright scenery. The crochet landscape could have been hung above the mantle in your grandmother’s house without anyone noticing its apearance. But on this particular visit, I was in the market for a frame not artwork. So the colorful yarn didn’t distract me from the potential of the frame which was holding it. I bought the frame and carried it home, ready to give it a second life!

how to reuse old picture frame
The original frame, with crochet artwork.

The Story

Despite my excitement, the frame sat in my closet for weeks. Okay, it was actually a few months. I stalled on this project not for lack of know-how or motivation, but because I didn’t have anything worth framing. That is, until I found a rolled-up poster in my partner Kaia’s closet. Perfect!

the handy chef lex
Photo 1. The poster before I painted the frame.

The new occupant of this old frame is a promotional poster from Kaia’s first film festival, BlackStar Film Festival 2017. The poster is special to Kaia so it deserves to be framed, not just thumb-tacked to plaster.

The poster fit well into the frame and the gold lettering looked awesome in the gold-flecked frame (see Photo 1.) But the chipped, gold flecks were not enough. I knew the poster would truly pop if the entire frame were painted gold.

When I first opened the back of the frame, I discovered that the crochet art was done on the back of the painting that originally occupied the frame (see Photo 2.) So someone before me had already given this frame a second life! This made me wonder just how long this frame had been around, how many crafty hands it had been passed through. But without any brand name or year marker couldn’t uncover that history.

how to reuse old picture frame
Photo 2. The original painting, hidden behind the crochet art.

With some snips and pulls, the crochet yard came cleanly off the original painting. From then, I was able to give this frame a third life.

See the steps I took to transform this old frame to a sparkly new gift for Kaia.

The Tools

A proper frame fitter would probably scoff at this list of tools, and recommend just buying a new frame from a frame store. But this is how I made my antique frame shine again.

How to put new photo in old picture frame
Photo 3. Dissembled photo frame with the tools I used.
  • 1 flat shaped wedging tool (I used a blunt butter knife)
  • 1 can spray paint (optional)
  • 1 background paper, if needed
  • Replacement nails, if needed
  • Cloth for cleaning
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Photo 4. Handy Chef Lex cleaning the wooden frame.

The Process

  1. Pick out a picture frame that is in tact, with glass front and a photo. already in place. The photo can be flipped to serve as the backdrop for your new photo.
  2. Open the back of the frame by carefully sliding the wedge underneath each nail and bending it toward upward to release the content of the frame. Some nails may break, that’s okay. You can replace those nails with the identical nails you’ve purchased. If you don’t want to preserve the old nails, simply remove all the nails and replace them all.
  3. Once the nails have been opened or removed, take out the photo, cardboard, backdrop, glass or whatever contents fill the frame. Carefully set them aside.
  4. Take the wodden outer frame, clean it with warm water and mild soap. Dry the frame thoroguhly. Spray paint the frame if you wish.
  5. Clean both sides of the glass with a mild window cleaner. Try not to get your fingerprints on it.
  6. Fill the frame with your new photo, which can be attatched the the reverse side of the old photo.
  7. Secure the nails by wedging them back into place or by gently hammering new nails into the back of the frame.

The Results

I enjoyed this project not only because the process was simple and fulfilling, but also because I repurposed something that had already been repurposed by someone else. This frame could have ended up in a landfill at any point in its many lives. But instead it lives on, freshly painted and newly cherished.

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