Monday 21 March 2011

Learning to mount and frame

Last weekend I attended a two day introductory course in mounting and framing at the DCA.  There were six of us on the course which meant we got lots of help from the tutor.  You had to bring along something to frame and I of course came with one of my stitching pieces.  It was a very good and interesting course and we all ended up with a finished work of art.  Here is what I brought to the course, one of my Bargello pieces - Broken Ribbons.
The course starts with preparing the mounting board.  For this we used acid free Arcadia mount board 1400 microns thick.  This is the thinest size available and suitable for our artwork.  First up you need to work out the size of the mounting board you want for your particular artwork.  This in turn depends on how much space you want between the artwork and the frame itself.   A matter of choice and judgement.  As my piece was longer than it was wide, I went for a relatively narrow space - 55mm to be precise, though you add on an extra 10mm at the bottom.  Apparently you need to do this so that the eye “sees” the final frame as balanced top and bottom.  
The most difficult part of working with the mounting board was the initial cutting.  The board comes in very large oblongs 1120mm by 815mm.  So it was quite a challenge to cut this into sections.  The first cut was the whole 815mm which called for quite a stretch.  You had to keep the weighted ruler in place and needed a fair amount of pressure on the stanley knife to cut through.  We all needed three or four goes to get right through the board.  The other cuts were relatively easy.  We used two mounting boards - one as the under mount and the other for the window mount.  
The top mount, the window mount, has to be cut so as to leave a space - the window - for the artwork.   This calls for more measuring and drawing.  You need to mark out on the reverse side of the board exactly where the window has to be.  Cue for rulers, set squares, pencils and rubbers.   Once satisfied with the measurements you have to cut out the window.  This gets a bit more complicated as you need a special tool in order to get the bevelled edge on the inside of the window.  Here is a photo of what the mount cutter looks like.
To get the cutting right you need to place the weighted ruler along the line to be cut and then clamp the board to the worktable.  The mount cutter just slides into one of the grooves on the ruler.  You press the blade down through the board and push the cutter along the line the required distance.  You repeat this along the four edges and hey presto you have a nicely cut window.  This was easier to do than expected, though you do have to apply a fair bit of pressure to the cutter.  Here is one of my fellow participants using the mount cutter.
At this stage the mounting boards are put safely aside and we turned our attention to the frame.  For this we used a 20mm wide moulding made from obeche wood.  This comes from a tree native to West Africa and is good for almost all types of finishing.   Once again you start with lots of measuring and marking.  To add to the complications the shape of the wood is a bit strange as one side is slightly wider to allow it to support the mounting board.  As the cut pieces need to be put together to make a rectangle, each piece needs to be cut on a 45° angle to get a mitred edge.  This last requires the use of a special set square.  Then comes the cutting, which in this case is done with a special mitre saw, which looks like this.
 Quite a handy tool as the blade can swivel so that it can saw in both directions and straight across.  Once again you need to clamp the wood to the saw, making sure it is correctly lined up.  The sawing was OK, though it was difficult to get a steady rhythm.  Here you can see the saw in action in the steady hands of another of the participants. 
Once the pieces are all cut you glue the corners together and put on corner clamps to keep the frame nice and tight and allow the glue to set.  This was all for the first day as the frames are left overnight to set properly.  Here is my frame all clamped up.
The second day began by finishing off the frames.  Wood filler is applied to any little gaps and the wood is then lightly sanded to ensure a smooth finish to the edges.  To give greater strength to the frame V-wedges are pushed into each corner on the underside using a push tool.  Surprisingly difficult, as you have to get the push tool exactly vertical or the wedge will not go in.  Our tutor kindly ensured that our hands were in the right position.  Here you can see another participant pushing in the V-wedge. 
Then comes applying the finish.  It can of course be left as it is, but most people prefer to apply some kind of finish.  Beeswax is popular, which some like to paint the wood a different colour.  I chose white liming wax, which you apply with a cloth.  I gave it two coats.  Quite easy to apply though not so easy to get a smooth even finish.  Dries fairly quickly.
Back to the mounting boards and assembling the artwork into the aperture.  First the window mount and the under mount are hinged together with acid free tape.  The artwork is placed on the under mount and by trial and error you work out the correct placement so that the artwork can be seen through the aperture.  The artwork is then secured with tape and the window mount is closed over.
To complete the job you need glass to cover the window mount and the artwork and a back board to keep everything in place.  These were the only bits we didn’t cut out ourselves.  The tutor cut the glass and the back boards, made out of double sided craftboard, for us.  The final assembling consist of placing the mounting boards with artwork inside over the back board and placing the glass on top.  The frame is then placed over this “sandwich” and everything is flipped over for the final finishing.  Gummed brown paper tape is used to cover the edge of each of the reverse sides of the frame.  D-rings are screwed into each side about 1/3 of the way down and cord is attached and your finished frame is ready to be hung.  Below is what the reverse of the frame looks like.
And finally my newly framed Bargello work.  Most satisfying to have completed the whole thing from design to finish, more or less on my own.

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