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Topic: Framing 101?  (Read 853 times)
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« on: February 11, 2008 07:38:18 PM »

I have two awesome vintage maps in the living room (literally from about 1948, my grandma saves EVERYTHING, which is awesome, except when it comes to food Tongue)  Anyway . . . obviously, these poor old maps are getting abused by boyfriend, crazy/psycho cat, and various random friends, so they need frames.  However, when I called freakin' Michaels for a quote on professional framing, I was like OMG, I can't afford $1000+.  So . . . how hard is it to do a decent/ semi-professional looking framing job yourself?  I imagine I'd have to get the glass cut at a glass-shop, but how hard is it to miter the corners and how does one assemble it all? (You'd think as a fine art major I'd have some experience at this, but I DON'T!  I'm terrible!)  Any help would be most appreciated.  Thanks!

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« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2008 12:14:16 PM »

Framing is pretty easy, though it can be made super complicated when you start adding multiple mats, bevels, linen liners, fillets, et cetera. Here's somethings to keep in mind, though: You're not just framing these to make them prettier, you're framing them to protect and preserve them for the rest of their (and your) lives.

I used to work at a Mike's and then I worked at an A.C. Moore and then I worked for a local frame shop that did a MUCH better job at a MUCH lower price point. For many people, the only 'art' store in their town is Mike's/Moore and they FEED on this, jacking up prices and lowering quality. This isn't to say some Mike's/Moore do fantastic framing jobs, I'm just saying .... They're riping you off and they know it.

It's not hard to assemble a frame, but it takes TOOLS and framing tools are expensive. If you can find a pre-made frame that works with the prints and is the right size, that's fantastic. The first step is done. Keep in mind that some frames that are NOT made of solid woods (and made of compressed, particle-board woods) have glues in them that contain ACID (not to mention, frequently, formaldehyde). Acid is bad, it eats your frame, it eats your mats, your backers, your artwork. I have horror stories I could tell you about sweet old ladies that saved this-that-or-the-other and their kids or grandkids bring it in to have it reframed, except it falls apart in your hands as you're trying to get it out of the old, acid-filled frame it was in. Or how someone thought it would be nice to cut corners and use corrugated cardboard as a backer on their original 1900's prints and now the acids have leached into the prints and left a waffle/corrugation pattern throughout.

So, anyways. You found a frame, awesome -- here's what else you need: Mat board, backing, glass . If it's a very old, tattered map, you might want to put spacers in it so it can breathe and not rot while hanging on your wall.

Mat board - this is tricky to cut. No, you can't just use a straight razor or Xacto knife. Yes, you can buy precut mats (they come in limited colors and styles, but you can usually find something to match), but it's also relatively inexpensive to get custom ones cut in whatever color you pick from the frameshop's stock. Most of them can even cut them on the spot so you don't have to wait. Backing is mostly acid-free foam core. It's light weight, easy to cut (you can use an Xacto on this, no one will see it) and readily available. Your shop can cut this for you, too, if you want. It's probably not very expensive. Make sure you get ACID FREE, it's more expensive than the regular stuff, but it's worth it. If it doesn't say 'Acid-Free', it's probably not. Glass, you probably want the shop to cut as it's tricky (even with the fancy wall-mounted cutters they usually have), messy and the cutting tools are kind of pricey. Your pre-made frame probably comes with glass, anyhow. Bring your prints with you to the shop when you get the mats cut and they can tell you if you should use spacers or not. They're plastic strips with one sticky side that sticks to the glass and pushes your mat BACK away from the front of the frame.

Something else to consider is the type of glass you use - I suggest UV protective or 'museum' glass. It's just what it says, protective for fragile or irreplaceable things.

That leaves assembly. They make these little pointy things that have flat parts so you can jam them into the sides of the frame with a flat-head screwdriver. I forget what they're called, sorry! Put all your pieces together (ask the framer how to use hinging tape to secure your maps to the back of the matting!) and then put these little fasteners at the very end to hold it all together.

I hope this helps! And good luck!
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« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2008 10:56:20 AM »

The pointy guys are called glaziers points. There is also something called framers points, but I can't seem to figure those out. They should have points at either an art store or a hardware store, since they can also be used to make windows.

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« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2008 05:58:25 PM »

Thanks!  I appreciate the info!!  I may check out local framing shops, and see if they quote me at an affordable rate . . . otherwise, I may try to find ready-made frames, as I don't know if I have the time right now to do all this myself (sigh).  Thanks for the warning about acid leakage, too!  I wouldn't have thought of that!

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« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2008 06:21:01 AM »

I have also worked a custom framing job in a big box retailer and can confirm they intentionally raise all of their prices sky high to allow for those 50-60% off deals every other week.  There are some online shops that sell the same materials, cut to any size, for significantly cheaper prices. 

For example, Framing4Yourself offers custom cut sectional frames from a wide variety of moldings for a pretty good price.  Without the proper tools, they are the way to go (unless you find a ready-made in the exact size and depth you need for the art).  Sectional frames pop together with a little glue and a thumb insert or joint (the instructions won't mention the glue, but it's a safety measure - any wood glue will do).  The pieces come pre-cut and grooved and should fit together very well.  Framing4Yourself isn't even the least expensive, but it does have a lot of great information.

The rest of the possible framing supplies very much depends on the piece.  Maps (in general) can be done in various ways depending on your purpose.  Custom Framing should stress preservation with nothing done that permanently alters the integrity of the piece.  So it may be cheaper to have the maps drymounted to a piece of foamcore and shoved in a really cheap plastic frame, but it's probably not the best thing for the maps.

It's probably best to mat the maps, but size then becomes the issue.  The bigger the piece, the more matting you need (in general) to get it done right.  One possibility is to just order acid-free conservation quality matting at the frame shop and go from there.  If the maps are small enough, larger retailers (your typical Michaels or AC Moore) will have the mats machine cut for accuracy.  Just ordering the matting is sometimes worth the cost because of the difficulty cutting mats.

Glass is going to be the big issue.  It might be tempting to just have a piece of window glass cut, but that could very easily damage the maps in the long run.  For starters, typical window glass doesn't (as a rule) offer any UV protection.  The UV rays are going to fade the color on the maps over time, especially if placed anywhere near direct sunlight.  I recommend searching around and seeing if you can find some UV protective glass (or, if the maps are massive, protective acrylic) that can be cut down.  Regular glass is cheaper, but the cost savings aren't worth it if you really care about the piece.

As for spacers: it depends on the piece.  Glass isn't supposed to ever touch the art because it will stick over time.  However, matting can sometimes be enough space.  When I was working for Michaels, I always brought up spacers and explained why they were needed to the customer, especially since the computer automatically charged upwards of 5 dollars for them in the order.  I was probably the only person in the shop who actually used them regularly, as well.

There are ways to make custom framing cheaper, but you still need to be careful about the quality of the framing materials.  And even then, the materials don't last forever.

Good luck.
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