diy project: tramp art frames

The history of tramp art woodworking has its mysteries. Some say it’s the work of self-taught hobos; others say it’s the work of detail-oriented craftsmen. The main method of wood carving used in this art form is called chip carving. Chip carving creates notches and pyramid shapes into your wood material. I am a huge fan of self-taught and outsider art. I am always drooling over tramp art pieces in galleries and antique stores, but the price tag on these works make them unobtainable for me! For my frames, I channeled the spooky Halloween season, but for a more modern version, you can use vibrant colors. If you feel the same way about these mysterious beauties, here is a quick and cheap DIY to ease your desires. Have fun and channel your inner tramp. — Halligan

For more information on the history of Tramp Art, click here to check out Amy’s Past + Present post on the topic.

Read the full how-to after the jump!

  • cutting board
  • X-Acto knife
  • ruler
  • balsa wood
  • 1/2″ steel metal pyramids
  • photo frames (I used the IKEA NYTTJA; it fits the 1/2″ studs nicely.)
  • strong glue (I suggest E6000.)
  • spray paint
  • medium-grit sand paper


1. Using your pliers, fold the tabs into the underside of the metal pyramids.

2. Using your X-Acto, cut the balsa wood to make frame extensions. For square edges, cut four squares 1/2″ wider than your frame thickness. For an extended cross frame, cut strips 2″ longer than the total length of your frame. Or for a more elaborate frame, I made this quick template that you can print and use.

3. Use a nice sized glob of E6000 to glue your metal pyramids. Be sure to keep your lines straight.

Here are samples of how to achieve some basic tramp art looks. You can stack your pyramids for height!

Here is an example of how to decorate the more elaborate frame:

4. After your glue sets overnight, you are ready to paint. Spray a layer of white paint first and let dry. Then pick your color and spray several layers until your whole frame is covered.

5. After all the paint is dry, use a medium-grit sand paper to slightly knock off the edges of the pyramids.

You’re done!

  1. pouch says:

    wow, a simple yet effective idea to personalise a generic Ikea photo frame, will have to give this a go!

  2. Blakslee says:

    absolutely love this! it’s on my rainy day list of things to do!

  3. These are inspiring so many ideas right now! My head is going crazy! They’re just lovely.

  4. Blakslee says:

    If anyone is looking for more design inspiration to create these frames, check out this site I found with some great photos of original tramp art:


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