Preparing for a show – building frames and mounting the work

I’ve been getting some paintings ready to show, and thought you would be interested to see what goes into that.

Since I generally paint on wood panels, the panels themselves need to be supported on cradles. I build these myself. The work looks so much better when it is framed, even simply framed, that I decided to build simple frames for the pieces in this show. As well, the frame protects the painting. If it gets dropped by mistake, for example, it will be the frame that is damaged, not the painting.

I was building so many that I made a careful plan of the rough and finished size of each piece, and how many pieces of each type of wood I would use.

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Careful planning will minimize the waste from the wood. So I measured all the cuts first. The wood you see here is oak and poplar, which is what I use for the visible parts of the frame.

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I allow for 1/4 inch of waste from the power saw — you actually use close to 1/8 inch just to the cut itself.










Next step is to make all the preliminary cuts with the power saw. I did this outside the sun room, which I temporarily converted into a framing studio.  Way too much sawdust to do this inside, so I bundled up and did it on the deck.

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Next up is trimming the rough cuts. This bad boy tool is called a mitre trimmer, and it has razor sharp blades that cut a very thin slice off the corner of the wood. I love the way the trimmed corners feels – smooth and perfect.

mitre trimmermitre trimmer in use

Here’s my giant pile of trimmed cradle pieces, ready to be glued up. This year I acquired a v-nailer, which greatly simplifies and speeds up the process. You glue, clamp and nail one corner at a time.

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I also paint the edges of each of the cradles. Usually a dark purplish – charcoal color that I mix up myself. So if you buy a piece without a frame, you can hang it on the wall. In the finished frame, you can see just a bit of this edge, so it is important that it look good.

In the picture on the right, the thin pieces that are painted are going to be the back part of the frame. Thin pieces of oak and poplar will be mounted to the edge.

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These cradles are all mounted to the individual paintings with carpenter’s glue, then clamped until the glue is set.

The thin frames are a little trickier, since they have two parts — the profile is an L shape. Each one has eight pieces to be fitted and glued. I use corner clamps, but this year I also pressed some yoga equipment into service — see the colored rubber bands? I wrap and clamp these as well, to make sure the corners all fit nice and neat.

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Before I put the painting into the frame, I apply a coat of matte varnish. This is painter’s varnish that protects the painting from UV and minor bangs, as well as grease or dust. I also mark the back of the painting with a title, date, and conservation information (so any future conservator knows what materials were used — what kind of ground preparation, paint, and varnish.)

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Here are a few of the pieces for this show, all framed and ready to go. These are hung in my home for us to enjoy before they go make their way in the world!

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I’m quite pleased with how these all look. All set to be hung!

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