Taking Inventory: Item Frame

Picture it!

Most of Minecraft’s items are very common. Sapling. Torch. Seeds. Flint. Even those that are a little more unusual are often straightforward to craft if you wanted to. Horse Armour. Cookie. Bucket of Fish. Tripwire Hook.

But some of Minecraft’s items are quite a lot rarer, and not possible to craft. Rabbit’s foot. Phantom membrane. Dragon’s Breath. If you can acquire one of these items, it’s usually a good sign that you’re a talented player. So why not showcase your talent in your home by framing the trophy you acquired? For that, you’ll need our item of the week⁠ – ⁠the item frame.

Item frames were added to Minecraft in the Pretty Scary Update in October 2012, which also added command blocks, anvils, pumpkin pie, and the Wither. They only have one purpose⁠ – ⁠to show off an item contained within.

You can get hold of item frames from some high-level cartographer villagers, but they’re pricey at seven emeralds. You can also loot them from an End ship, where they generate naturally. But probably the easiest way to acquire one is just to craft it ⁠– ⁠surround a piece of leather (the background) with sticks (the frame).

You can place an item frame on the sides, top, and bottom of any solid block, as well as cactus, pressure plates, fences, trees, slabs, walls, chests, and doors⁠ –⁠ making them very versatile. Once placed, grab the item you want to put in it and hit the “use” button while pointing at the frame. Voila. It’s beautiful. Hitting use on a full frame with an item in it will rotate the item, and that rotation can be measured with the use of a redstone comparator.

There’s also a cool bit of functionality involving item frames and maps. Putting a map in an item frame will enlarge the map to the size of a full block. This is a great way to create a huge map of your territory on a floor or wall⁠ – ⁠something else to show off to your friends.

In the real world, we usually call item frames “picture frames” and they’re widely used in many cultures. They serve a few purposes⁠ – ⁠first to protect the picture within, sometimes with a sheet of glass or plastic over the top, but also as a way to set a picture apart from its surroundings and integrate it aesthetically within them.

The earliest picture frames are thought to have been the ones that surrounded portraits of upper-class Ancient Egyptians that had been mummified⁠ – ⁠one of the only remnants of the art of that time. About 900 of these portraits were found in the necropolis of Faiyum, preserved by the hot dry Egyptian climate. In many cases, the portraits were framed by plaster, or sometimes layers of cloth wrapping of the same time that held the body itself.

But the first carved wooden picture frames, as we know them today, didn’t emerge until centuries later⁠ – ⁠in the twelfth and thirteenth century in Europe. The first examples were made of a single block of wood, with an interior carved out that could then be painted on. A more efficient technique of surrounding a painting with strips of wood was invented over the next century or so, which proved highly popular ⁠– ⁠especially in churches, which built them into their architecture.

Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a real-world home that doesn’t have a picture frame of some sort in it. So make sure that when you’re figuring out how to decorate your next cobblestone mansion, you leave space for a handful of item frames. They’ll turn your Minecraft house into a real home.

Duncan Geere
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Duncan Geere
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