Finally, you are ready to assemble all the parts of your photo and frame. Here are a few hints to help it all go smoothly.
Though it may seem obvious, it is nonetheless critical to begin with cleaning all of your components. Ensuring that both sides of your glass are clean, for example, will save you the headache of later discovering that the annoying fingerprint in the middle of the image is on the inside of the frame, and requires disassembling everything to remove. Wiping down your mats and backboards with a dry, lint-free cloth will help to keep distracting flecks off the final image, and don’t forget to wipe off the frame’s rabbet – you might be surprised at how much dust and other particles are lurking about there, just waiting to announce themselves after everything is all sealed up. After cleaning the glass (and anything else that you might use a cleaning agent on), be sure to allow sufficient time for all of the moisture to evaporate from the components. The last thing that you want to do is to trap moisture or fumes inside the frame.
The next step is to attach the print to its backing board. There are several ways to accomplish this, depending upon the size of your image, its value, and your personal preferences. You can use anything from traditional photo corners to acid-free, double-sided tape. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. One advantage of photo corners, for example, is that the print can be removed from the backing board with no damage whatsoever; a disadvantage is that the corner might be slightly visible, depending upon your framing choices. If your print is of particular value, it is a good idea to discuss your options with a professional framer before using anything that will stick to the print in any way, such as tapes or other adhesives. It is important that you choose materials that will not cause damage to the print over the long term. (General household glues are not recommended under any circumstances.)
If you are using multiple mats, it is a good idea to use double-sided tape to keep them together. This allows them to shift, expand, and contract without losing their spacing in relation to one another. In other words, if you get them properly lined up and taped together, one mat won’t slide over to one side, leaving the bottom mat more exposed on one side than on the other. (There’s nothing quite like having no bottom mat showing on one side, while the other side is extra-wide, to drive this point home.) Then, for similar reasons, you might want to tape the mats to the backing board, making certain, of course, that your image is properly positioned before securing everything together.
Carefully place your clean glass back into the frame, ensuring that the proper side is facing the artwork if using a specialty glass (see Part 3 of this series: Glass). I find it useful to wear cotton gloves when handling the clean glass, as they prevent me from leaving fingerprints. Lay the mat / print / backing board package on top of the glass. If you are not using a mat, be sure to use a spacer to keep your print away from the glass (see Part 1: The Importance of Breathing Space). At this point, I find it useful to hold the print package in the frame with my hands and carefully flip the entire piece over to check for any distracting dust flecks that may have snuck onto the image or the mats. There are almost always some there, and it is much better to find and remove them now than after the next step. Repeat this process until the piece is speck-free, or at least as speck-free as you care to get it. Be patient. This can often be the most frustrating phase of framing.
Securing the print package in the frame can take one of several forms. Many ready-made frames come with glazier points already in the frame. If this is the case, simply bend the points down over the backing board. If your chosen frame does not come with points pre-installed, it is a relatively simple matter to do install them yourself. Glazier points are available in most hardware stores, and they can be installed with either a flathead screwdriver or an inexpensive tool made specifically for this purpose. (Electric glazier point guns are also available, but these are expensive, and might not be worth the money to the home framer with only the occasional framing job to do.) A word of warning, however: while many woods are very easy to work with, some woods are quite hard (and all knots are hard). Glazier points do not go into these woods without difficulty. It is not uncommon to slip with the screwdriver or the glazing tool, which can lead to bruised or scraped knuckles. Perhaps more dangerously, if you use your other hand to push on the frame in order to give you leverage, a slipped tool could result in an impaled hand. Work carefully. Wearing good gloves is never a bad idea during this stage.
Alternatively, you can use offsets, which are “s” shaped pieces of metal, to hold the print package in place. Offsets are available in several depths, and are also widely available in hardware stores. To use an offset, you first need to drill a pilot hole in the frame to keep the frame from splitting. I suggest doing this part prior to cleaning the frame, as it will introduce wood shavings into the frame. Then secure the offsets over the print package with screws. Note: be sure that the screws you use are not too long for the depth of your frame. Pay particular attention to the depth of the frame at the point where the screws will be attached; many mouldings have greatly varying depths throughout the moulding.
If you would like to add a dust covering, now is the time. Simply cut a piece of craft paper to the proper size, and attach it to the back of your frame with double-sided tape.
Hanging hardware that uses a wire is usually attached about a third of the way down the frame from the top. Sawtooth hangers are attached at the top center of the frame. While both are equally effective for smaller frames, wire hangers are a better option for larger frames, and my preference overall, as I find it easier to adjust the positioning of a frame on the wall with a wire. Regardless of the type of hanging hardware that you choose, ensure that it is strong enough to support the framed piece. If you choose a wire, ensure that it is wrapped securely around the “D” rings, and that they are properly screwed into the frame. (Watching a frame fall because the wire unraveled itself does not make for a pleasant day.) It is not difficult to secure the wire to the “D” rings, but it is critical. If you have questions about how to do so, ask your local framer for a demonstration.
Adding bumpers to the bottom corners of your framed piece is the finishing touch. These bumpers serve two purposes: first, they protect your wall by keeping the frame away from it, and second, they allow air to circulate behind the frame, which helps to control moisture.
Voila! You are finished, and are now the proud owner of a beautifully framed piece of art – that you framed yourself. With practice, all of these steps will become second nature, and you will be able to get more and more creative with your framing. Good luck, and have fun!
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