Classic Whistler frame
Classic whistler, a design that continues in use to this day. The combination of beads and flats can produce a multiplicity of variations. This example is made from four frames of basswood; the inner, a small cove, then 2 beads of ascending size, narrow flat between , with a larger flat leading to the middle frame. The middle frame has a quarter round face, beaded, with a flat leading to the large, outer frame, beaded, with a small flat seperating the quarter round faces. The fourth frame is a “blind frame”, a frame hidden to view on the back of the main frame. It is used to make the thickness of the main frame larger, as well as providing increased structural integrity. The three visible frames are mitre joined, while the blind frame is butt joined, glued and nailed to the back of the main frame, thus overlapping the mitre somewhat. Mitres are the weakest of woodworking joints, but a neccesity for molded frames.
My method of choice for the beading, is a combination of milling and hand work, utilizing a scratch stock for the beads. A scratch stock consists of a handle holding a flat steel “blade” and an adjustable fence. The molding stick is shaped in the desired quarter round shape. The scratch stock, with a shaped blade is pulled over the stick, scraping the bead. Properly set up, the bead is actually cut into the wood, like a plane, producing tiny shavings. I generally mill the flats first, and use them as a register. As the beads progress down the face of the stick, previous beads act as a guide for the new beads. Even though basswood is a relatively neutral wood, usng a scratch stock will sometimes produce a ripple in the bead; something I've spotted on original frames.
The most common finish I have seen is a matte gold leaf, and rarely, water gilt gold leaf, with the beads being burnished. Frequently, the outer vertical part of the frame is painted, in a very soft, yellow ochre, or even black.