Balsa wood comes from trees found in the rain forest regions in Central and South America. Considered a "weed tree" for hundreds of years, balsa grows singly very quickly, reaching 1 1/2 inches wide and up to 12 feet tall in a six-month period. Known for its lightweight quality, balsa is often used in crafting projects and to create model airplanes. Balsa can be purchased from craft or hardware stores, usually in sheets, blocks and stick form. When using balsa to create a lightweight frame for a photograph, use natural elements to create an interesting piece.
Measure the photograph and add 1 or 2 inches to each side. Cut the balsa wood sheet using a craft razor and a straight-edge so that it coincides with these measurements.
Glue a piece of decorative craft paper to the sheet using a glue stick. Make sure there are no bubbles in the craft paper. Then, cut the excess paper off so that the edges line up with the edges of the balsa sheet.
Attach the photograph to the center sheet with the glue stick. There should be a 1- to 2-inch decorative border around the photograph. Let dry.
Hot-glue a clawed photo hook to the back of the balsa sheet. The hook should be positioned at the top and centered.
Cut the balsa sticks so that they are 1 to 2 inches longer than each side of the balsa sheet. Sand the ends smooth.
Mix a few drops of any color acrylic paint into a few tablespoons of water. For a natural wood look, use brown acrylic. Dip the brush into the watered-down paint and test the consistency on a white paper towel or piece of paper. The color should be transparent, with no lumpiness.
Brush the acrylic all over the sticks of balsa. More than one coat may need to be applied.
Let the balsa dry completely. Then, apply one or two coats of clear acrylic varnish. This will give the balsa a shiny look. Let dry until the varnish is no longer tacky to the touch.
Attach glue dots to all four corners of the front of the balsa sheet. Be careful to avoid the glue dot touching the photograph.
Place a balsa stick horizontally across the top of the balsa sheet so that each end is secured into place with a glue dot. Do the same for the bottom of the sheet.
Place the two remaining sticks vertically so that they close the frame and sit on top of the horizontally placed sticks. The ends of the sticks will cross over each other, giving the frame corners a natural look.
Wind twine or leather cord around the perpendicular-met corners of the frame to hold the vertically placed sticks (the left and right sides of the frame) into place.
About this Author
Elizabeth Chaplin has been writing professionally since 2005 and has published articles with eHow and Answerbag. She works as a freelance children's book illustrator and graphic designer, and is knowledgeable in crafting, interior design and photography. She is also an amateur hairstylist who has been cutting and coloring hair since 2003. Chaplin has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration from Columbia College.