How to Refinish an Old Wood Picture Frame

By Pat Olsen ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Oil soap
  • Soft sponge
  • Chamois
  • Wood putty
  • Finishing Nails
  • Hammer
  • Wood glue
  • Clamp
  • Medium and fine grit sandpaper
  • Stripping agent
  • Tack cloth
  • Stain
  • Disposable foam paintbrushes
  • Lacquer

Many people have old picture frames in their attic or garage. Depending upon the condition of the frame, you can throw it, salvage it or restore it. This is a labor of love that allows the wood worker to enjoy restoring an old piece and making it useful once again. The average picture frame will take an evening, plus drying time, and will be worth the effort.

Assess the picture frame. Even if there is termite damage, you may be able to fix it with wood putty. If the frame is disintegrating, toss it.

Remove dirt from the frame with oil soap, such as Murphy's Oil Soap, and a soft sponge. Chamois the frame dry. If there are pits, dents or small broken areas, use wood putty to fill or build up. Take your time when building up a piece of broken wood. Allow it to dry before smoothing on another small piece of putty.

Fill the mitered corners with wood glue and countersink finishing nails into the sides to hold them. Reglue any decorative pieces of wood that have come loose. Clamp the frame after you glue it to make a better bond.

Use the medium and fine grit sandpaper to smooth away splinters. Paste on a wood stripping agent to remove old stain and wax build up. Carefully remove the old stain and lacquers. Use oil soap to get rid of any clinging residue. Wipe the frame with the tack cloth so it is completely free of debris and ready for stain.

Use the disposable paintbrush to put on two or three coats of stain. Allow the stain to dry between each coat.

Finish the frame with two coats of lacquer, drying thoroughly between coats.

About the Author

Pat Olsen has over 35 years of experience as a professional journalist in California. She attended San Francisco State and Pacific College. Olsen has several published books, is a staff writer for Mill Creek Living Magazine, and currently writes for Demand Studio. She is a retired educator who still teaches twice a week.