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Basic Framing, Pt 2by Jenny Heidewald
In Part One of Basic Picture Framing we looked at the materials needed to frame your work; now we will cover production and assembly.
Frame: If you have purchased a ready frame then your work is pretty much done in this category. Use a letter opener or knife to gently bend back the tabs that hold the backing, mat and glass in the frame.
Inspect the frame for any scratches, chips or dents. Scratches can be filled with wood putty or, in the case of shallow scratches, a marker. Putty also works well for filling any open gaps in the corners of the frame. Wipe the excess off well, so that it doesn't transfer to any other materials.
For ultimate archival safety with wooden frames, apply an aluminum barrier tape to the rabbet. This prevents acid from migrating from the frame to your art.
Glass / Acrylic: Be sure to clean your glass thoroughly, spraying the cleaner onto the cloth (micro-fiber is recommended) rather than directly onto the glass before wiping. To make sure that no moisture is caught in the frame with the picture, let the glass dry a bit after cleaning it. Moisture can cause mold to grow on your picture. Avoid cleaners that have ammonia in them when cleaning UV glass or acrylic, as it will damage the coating, and any ammonia residue might also damage the art.
Acrylic will have thin plastic sheets to peel off before framing; removing this may cause static build-up, which can attract dust. Before peeling the plastic off, wipe the panel with water to rid the plastic of any dust and reduce static. Once the plastic has been removed you can wipe the acrylic again to remove any dust and / or static charge that may have resulted.
Mat: First cut the outside of the mat and backing board to the dimension of the frame, if you have an L-square use it to make sure the corners are square. Crooked outside dimensions will mess up the inside window. Depending on how close to the edge of the art you want to show, you can have from 1/16ď to 1/4ď overlap. It is easier to work with a mat that has a larger overlap.
The Mathematical Way : Measure your art, and subtract 1/4" to account for the overlap. Subtract these measurements from the outer dimensions of your mat board, and divide the resulting figure in half to get the margin needed. For example; an 11 x 14" piece of art into a 16 x 20" mat. For the width:
11" - .25 (1/4") = 10.75" (10 3/4")
16" minus 10.75" (10 3/4") = 5.25" (5 1/4")
5.25 divided by 2 = 2.625 (2 5/8")
Margin = (mat width - (picture width - 0.25)) divided by 2
Repeat for the length.
The Jenny ("Ack, Math?!") Way: Make sure your work space is clean, and turn the mat face down. Center the art on the mat with a ruler, a centering ruler makes this step easier. Measure between the outside edge of the mat to the art to find out how far in you need to cut your mat window. Be sure to write down the dimensions; I write a W (width) or L (length) before the measurements, so I donít confuse the two.
Next, measuring from the outside, mark the margin size in a few spots along the backside of the mat. Line the ruler up with these lines and draw a line with a pencil, repeating for each side. An L-square or T-square is handy for keeping the lines straight. Once you have marked your mat, measure diagonally between the inside corners of the planned mat opening to make sure it is not crooked. As a final precaution, take your artwork and check to see that it fits within the lines you have drawn.
Follow the mat cutter directions to cut the board, and change the blade on the cutter after a few mats. You can tell when the blade needs to be changed when the cuts start getting ragged. An emery board can be used to gently smooth any rough edges away. You can also use a bone folder to burnish down roughness, or any over-cuts. Use a piece of paper between the bone folder and the mat to avoid marking the mat. If you encounter under-cut corners, carefully insert a hobby knife from the front, keeping the bevel angle and sever the uncut paper.
After the mat is cut place it over the artwork to double-check that it fits correctly.
Double Mat: There is no limit on what size to make your accent band in a double mat, as long as it is smaller than the outside mat. In general, smaller bands are better for smaller works, and larger bands looks better with larger works. Manufactured double mats usually have a 1/4" border.
Take the first set of margin measurements and subtract 1/4", for example: 2 5/8"(2.625") - 1/4" (.25") = 2 3/8" (2.6"). You will use the result for the outer/top mat; the inner/bottom mat will use the first set of measurements. Once done cutting the outside/top mat, replace the fall-out in the window. Place just enough double sided tape around the back of the outside/top keep the inside/bottom mat in place, and a bit in the middle of the fall-out. When cutting the outside dimension of the inside/bottom mat make it 1" smaller around the outside than your outside/top mat. This is so you can use the lines from the outside/top mat to assist in cutting your inside dimension. Line up the inside mat with the outside mat and press to secure them together, mark the inner opening lines using the outside/top mat as reference. Double check the measurements, and proceed cutting as with the outside mat.
Mounting the art
There are a couple of ways to attach art to the backing board. In the past I have avoided attaching the art to the backing by having my art on paper that was the same size of the mat and backing. The advantage was that I didnít have to worry about any adhesives; the disadvantage was that the items move around, exposing the white around the art. So it might take longer, but do be sure to adhere the art to the backing.
Place your mat, art, and backing together, and line up the artwork in the mat window. You can place a weight on a piece of paper on the art to hold it in place when you lift the mat to mark where the corners of the art are on the mounting board. Make sure you place clean, acid-free paper under the weight to avoid damage to the art.
An optional step is hinging the backing to the mat; this makes it easier to keep the mat, backing and the artwork lined up. Simply get a piece of hinging tape and run it along the back of the mat, then, making sure the backing and mat are lined up, adhere the tape to the front of the backing board.
T - Hinging: Wet the Japanese paper where you intend to tear it, approximately 1" wide and 2" long. Tearing creates a feathered edge which prevents sharp edges from showing through to the front of the art. To help facilitate tearing, emboss a line before wetting the paper. Working on a piece of blotter paper, apply a thin layer of prepared paste with a paint brush to 1/4" of one end of each hinge. To avoid wrinkling the art, let the paste dry until it has a dull finish. Attach the strips to the back of the art, 1" to 2" in from the corner. Never attach a hinge to the corner, as it is more likely to tear. Lay blotter paper over the hinges, and place a weight on top, changing the blotter paper as necessary until the paste is dry.
Turn your artwork right side up and put in place on the mounting board. You can use a weight again to keep the art from moving as you work. Take another strip of Japanese paper and cover it with wheat paste, place one strip over the end of the Japanese paper extending from the art, at approximately 1/4" away from the art. For the other hinges place the second strip at the end of the first strip to make a looser hinge. This is to prevent any buckling that might occur with the expansion and contraction of the paper. Place blotter paper and weight over the hinge until dry.
To accommodate expansion and contraction of the paper, usually only the top edge of the art is hinged, but to secure the art against shifting, you can add loose hinges to the other three sides.
Photo Corners: You can use premade archival safe photo corners, or make your own. The former are easier to work with, as all you have to do is slip them onto the corners of the work and press into place.
To make your own corners cut four strips of paper approximately 1" by 4"; this size depends on the size of your art. Find the center of the strip and fold both corners down along that center, crease with a bone folder, and trim the tails.
You can also cut out a square of paper, and then fold the opposite corners together to make a triangle, crease, unfold and repeat the opposite way. After folding it into quarters, cut out one quarter triangle. Fold one flap in, use glue or tape to adhere the second flap to the first.
Use glue or tape to attach the corners to the mounting board, being careful to not adhere the pocket front to the back.
Once you have your boards and art together, place the glass on top of it, looking for any dust or other foreign matter. When you are satisfied, place the art into the frame. I always check one last time for foreign matter before securing the art into the frame. There is nothing quite as aggravating as finishing a frame assembly only to find one stray hair between the glass and mat!
Securing the art into the frame
If you purchased a ready made frame, all you have to do is bend the flexible points down to secure your art into the frame. With open back frames you will need to use a point driver, a staple gun, glazier points or brads to secure the art.
Whatever technique is used for open back frames, care must be taken that the glass is not chipped, cracked, or broken by a badly aimed staple or hammer blow. When turning the frame, lift it from the workspace instead of sliding it.
You can find point drivers, which operate somewhat like staple guns, at art supply stores or online; they can hold flexible or rigid points. They tend to be expensive, but one will pay for itself if you are framing with a lot of open back frames.
A regular staple gun can be used as well, but it's a bit trickier, and practice is recommended. Leave a space between the frame and the stapler so that the staple does not drive all the way into the frame. When done stapling the picture in, press the staples down so they are against the backing board firmly. Wear protective eye gear, and always shoot away from yourself.
Glazier points can be driven in with a screwdriver or ruler and hammer. It is easier if you brace the frame against a wall. Make sure you are working on a soft surface to avoid scratching the frame.
You can also use brads, though you need to be careful wielding the hammer.
Dustcover: You can use acid free paper, brown kraft paper, or frame sealing tape to ensure that bugs and dust are kept out of the frame. With frame sealing tape all you have to do is run the tape over the back of the frame where it meets the backing board. The down side of this is that when you want to get at the art it is harder to access.
For the dustcover, cut a piece of paper bigger than the back of your frame. Use double sided tape around the back of the frame, approximately 1/8" in from the side. Keeping the paper taut by pulling as you smooth it over the tape, start by attaching the paper to the top and work your way down the frame. Once the paper is attached to the frame take a razor blade and carefully trim the paper approximately 1/16" to 1/8ď in from the edge of the frame. A ruler helps to keep the cut straight. Take care to not slip off the edge and scratch the frame.
Hanging hardware: In order to hang your work, you will need either sawtooth hangers for smaller frames, or eye hooks or strap hangers and braided picture wire for large frames. Make sure you double check which side is up before attaching the hanging hardware
Sawtooth hangers: Center the hanger in the middle of the top the frame, and hammer the sawtooth into place, taking care to not bend the center of the hanger to the wood. Sometimes sawtooth hangers come with little nails; before you hammer them in make sure that these will not poke through the front of your frame.
Eye hooks or strap hangers: Measure 1/3 of the way down the back of the frame and place each hanger approximately in the middle of the frame leg. It can help to use an awl to make a starter hole before screwing in the eye hook, or drilling the screw in to secure the hanging hook. Next loop the wire through the first hanger a couple times before wrapping it back around itself, repeat with the second hanger, first making sure the furthest arc of the wire is below the top edge of the frame. When done attaching the wire, tug on it to be sure that the wire does not slip.
A final touch is to add felt or rubber bumpers to the bottom corners of the frame, in order to protect the wall and allow air to circulate behind the frame.
In Closing: This only scratches the surface (oops, not your new frame!) of the wide world of framing and conservation techniques. There is a wealth of information on the internet concerning various framing and conservation techniques. I encourage you to take a little time to research into the how and why of conservation framing so that you are better able to protect your art.
Acknowledgements: Many thanks to my husband, Alexander D. Mitchell IV, and my brother, Erich Heidewald, for helping edit and proofread, as well as Hale Adams, for double checking my math.
Logan, mat cutters, and framing supplies
Frameco, DIY framing supplies
Tru-Vue glass and acrylic
Nielsen Bainbridge, mats and more
Hinging, rice and wheat paste, and methol cellulose
Lineco, mounting and framing supplies
Picture Framing Magazine, valuable information on a variety of framing topics
to do THAT!" In addition to writing for EMG-zine, Jenny is a prolific artist who has worked in many mediums. Her current favorite technique is working with colored micron pens, and coloring either with watercolor or Photoshop. Jenny lives in Maryland with her husband. Please check out her Sketchfest, Portrait Adoption, Deviant Art, and Elfwood pages.
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