Making a Frame

Today the Old Schwamb Mill continues to produce high-quality handmade wooden oval and circular frames. There is an interesting variety of frames and frame styles that can and have been produced since the Schwambs first began operations in 1864. At the Mill you may see the production of a frame and hear what the aritisan who produces the frames has to say about h trade. Learn how the lathes work and have been working for 134 years.

Our heirloom-quality frames are custom made to order, utilizing the original 1860s belt-driven oval faceplate lathes in their original setting. The four oval faceplates lathes, possibly the last of their kind, are capable of producing oval frames ranging in size from 3 inches by 3 inches up to 6 feet by 4 feet.
Representing the intersection of human craft with the machine, the oval and circular frames are characterized by:
– solid hardwood construction: mahogany, cherry, walnut, maple, oak, poplar, bass, or another wood of your choice.
– assembly from four straight-grained sections, finger-jointed together to insure strength and stability. The wood is not bent or steamed.
– shaping of profiles by hand-held chisel, which carves the wood as it is rotated by the original belt-driven, oval faceplate lathes. No router or shaper is used. With this approach, an infinite range of profiles and sizes are possible.
– availability in any size you wish, with any combination of length, width, size and rabbet.
– availability in any profile (cross section) you request, with any depth and width.
– in-house finishes including oil, oil and wax, or shellac. Gilding is available on request.

For inquiries, please contact Vice President Janet O’Riordan via email at