Who will frame tiny things?
October 10, 2020 9:24 AM   Subscribe

I have a collection of old photographs that are in the 3" x 3" range, and a few even smaller. I'd like to have them framed individually, rather than putting a bunch of them in one larger frame. I've called several custom framers in NYC and they all say they can't frame anything smaller than 6" x 6". Do you know someone who can? Please recommend me your renegade framers.

I am in Brooklyn and my ideal would be to find a framer here who's game to frame tiny stuff. But I'd also consider mailing them someone elsewhere, ordering pre-made frames that come in many small sizes, or doing this as a DIY project if that's truly the best option.
posted by Mender to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
Can you ask for a 6"x6" matte with the small photo inside?

You can also buy pre-made tiny frames like this one.
posted by migurski at 9:44 AM on October 10 [3 favorites]

I'd suggest looking for them in second-hand shops. I have quite a few old ones, which are almost all some sort of metal, though I also have a fine little bamboo frame. The same goes for a couple of contemporary tiny frames. I guess it's hard to work the little details with ordinary wood framing materials. It isn't difficult to do the actual framing yourself.
posted by mumimor at 9:56 AM on October 10

I have had really great experiences with Framebridge. Their website allows you to go down to 4x4, but they have super responsive customer service so I'd reach out and ask about smaller stuff.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:00 AM on October 10

The issue with building a frame smaller than 6"x6" is that it's very hard or impossible, depending on your setup, to cut frames from stock any smaller than that. The cutter can't grip them safely and they wiggle around and the joins come out ugly or they splinter the stick. If you're just calling around asking "can you make a 3x3 frame?" this is why you're getting this answer-- it is physically impossible with typical custom moulding. Depending on the situation of the framer, they may not actually cut it in-house, so they might not be able to fudge the 6x6 dimension at all. When I was a framer, we could go down to 5x5 by special request, but the joins would get uglier and uglier the smaller you went down past around 8x8.

My suggestion is to either a) use a mat around your photo to make it a size that they can make a frame for-- so if it's a 3x3 photo, use a 2-inch or larger surrounding mat to get up to size, or b) get a high quality scan of your photo that you can enlarge to 6x6, or c) scout out table-top frames you like and ask a custom framer to help you make them work (probably by making a mat to fit.) 3x3 is a relatively rare size but you can find it pre-made at places like Michael's or TJ Maxx or whatever (2.5x3 is more common since that's the size of a playing card) but I strongly suggest you work with a framer to mat the piece larger-- the mat offers protective benefits and makes it look nice, too.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:54 AM on October 10 [2 favorites]

I bought some 3x3 frames at Michael’s a few months ago, so I can vouch for the fact that they exist but they don’t necessarily come in the coolest finishes and styles. I think they’re often marketed as place card holders.
posted by mskyle at 1:15 PM on October 10

Here is a 3x3 frame on Amazon. Seems expensive to me, but much cheaper than a custom frame.

I have also made my own mats from thick cardstock/artboard, when I needed a custom size and didn't want to pay a framer. You can get it at nice craft stores, and just cut the window using an exacto knife (it won't have that gorgeous beveled edge, but it'll be fine). Then you could collect square frames of any size, or even rectangular frames, and just create a mat with a 3x3 window.
posted by amaire at 11:00 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]

As a handy person, making picture frames is one of the easier things to do. Pretty much anyone who is compatent with wood could make frames that small. I would see if there is any custom furniture makers in the hood. Or someone with a woodshop.

The idea about matting is good one too.

As for framing the pictures, that is very simple as well. I am sure there is a video on youtube about how to do that.

Lastly, if you are crafty, you could likely make the frame out of popcicle sticks.

Best of luck to you.
posted by Airos at 12:00 AM on October 11

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