The Frames I Make

At Stafford Framing Company, I design and build handcrafted closed corner hardwood frames from scratch, as well as offer a curated collection of other closed corner frame styles from makers around the world.  To decide on a frame that’s in perfect harmony with the picture, I offer custom framing design and full preservation framing services.  At my home showroom I display hundreds of designs and constantly develop new ones, but because my capacities are unlimited, I’m able to provide completely individualized framing — frames that will serve as perfectly fitting displays as unique as the subject.  My frame styles range from delicate “drawing” frames to massive architectural designs, from simple and modern to detailed and decorative, in textures and finishes from industrial to rustic, antique to contemporary.  I use time honored joinery with sensitively shaped and proportioned profiling, and finishing techniques like hand-carved details, precious metal leafing, paints to match colors, and stains, oils and waxes to enhance the grain and clarity of the wood.  It’s best to visit me, if at all possible, with your artwork, but I’m also fully prepared to meet your needs with an in-home consultation anywhere in Southern Arizona.  Contact me for an appointment or to plan your visit >>

My In-House Frames

The frames I make in-house are closed corner frames and are made to order and from scratch.  While most frames today are joined from mass-produced, pre-finished molding, closed corner (also called finished corner) frames are finished after joining. Before framing became a big business, frames were joined in the raw—using time-honored joining methods—and then finished, as a piece of furniture would be. The traditional method makes for stronger, cleaner and more even corners—and more enduring and beautiful frames.

Why I make Closed Corner Frames

The problem with the vast majority of frames available is that they are made from mass-produced molding, finished in length and then chopped down to make individual frames, glued together with metal fasteners driven in from below by pneumatic power.  The corners of such frames are neither as strong nor as clean and even as they should be. Frames made this way don’t allow for the sound joinery we expect of quality wooden furnishings. And at best, the finish, by necessity, is broken where the sides meet.

The conventional joining methods of the framing industry have the advantage of being low-cost because they are quick and require little skill and training. But, being mechanically inferior, they don’t hold up to either time or close scrutiny. Even when they’re not abused, the corners of conventional frames usually break down before too many years, simply because, unlike proper wood joints, this joinery isn’t designed to withstand natural wood movement caused by humidity changes and the normal glue failure seen when the end-grain soaks up glue as it dries.

Closed Corner Joinery

The corners of a frame, the joints, are its main points of strength and integrity, and are a primary concern for the serious frame-maker. Finishing frames after they’re joined allows for much stronger, more durable joinery like dovetail keys, splines, mortise-and-tenon and lap joints rather than relying on the dubious strength of nails and screws.

Making my frames this way also means the joints are more even, since they can be sanded, planed and carved to meet perfectly. And the joints are cleaner, since the stain and varnish are continuous over the joint. Of course it also means I’m not limited to a molding factory’s limited color offerings, but can finish the frame to exactly the right color and shade for your picture.

Inspiration from Tucson design history

Tucson’s rich architecture and design history includes the Territorial / Victorian / Queen Anne Style starting in the 1880s with the arrival of the railroad, The Craftsman Period of the early 1900s, The Spanish Colonial and Mediterranean Revival structures of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, and the Mid-Century Modern Period of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  To produce frames that are at home in these quintessential Tucson interiors, I use moulding milled into vintage profiles for my antique finished frames, as well as beautiful decorative hardwoods like walnut, oak, cherry and maple in the humble shapes of Craftsman and Modern styles to let the unique color and grain pattern of each species shine.  I use hand applied stains, paints, oils and waxes to bring out that character, as well as distressing and patinating glazes to give them the character of age.  With the use of these time-honored techniques and materials, I’m striving to restore the legacy of workmanship and design all but lost in the framing industry of today, a legacy of frames built from scratch and designed specifically for the picture.

Other styles from around the world

I also work with a curated collection of studios making hard to find closed corner styles from distant sources, each uniquely beautiful.  These include colorful, distressed and industrial looking welded steel frames, as well as polished or powder coated welded aluminum frames from the museum trade.  I also sell frames clad in punched and dyed leather from saddle makers in Peru.  There are futuristic looking frames carved by computer controlled routers from solid sheets of polished and frosted acrylic, and I work with century-old companies in New York City who still gild wooden frames in precious metals with old world techniques to produce period designs.  My decades of experience and connections in the field have allowed me to build a roster I believe to include some of the best frame-makers in the world today.

Catalog of Frames

Browse my vast & detailed catalog of frame designs, from the natural beauty of modern decorative hardwood designs to the warmth and character of our vintage and antiqued collection, including special corner designs and in-house stain colors.  The catalog also shows pre-finished and closed corner styles made in far flung studios that aren’t available anywhere else in Tucson.

Framing Services

I provide complete and expert preservation framing for your paintings, prints, drawings, posters and photographs. I believe the frame must serve the picture by first protecting it, then by aesthetically enhancing it – they are not exclusive.

Past Projects

Browse categorized examples of custom framing jobs we have done over the years — and find inspiration for framing your own pictures.