Picture Framing for the Hobbyist and the Professional.

I thought I would chuck this thread up and see if there's any interest from Arrsers to make it a worthwhile thread for those of us who are framers.

I have just started to learn the art for two reasons.

Firstly, it's quite something to be able to take an object, be that a photograph, a print, a painted picture or even a rugby shirt and mount it in a frame for presentation to anybody who passes by, be that your living room or hallway, a public display such as the workplace or even a gallery or if you aren't interested in any of that, just for your own pleasure.

Secondly for me, it's a service that we are going to offer to customers as a part of our photography business. To do it efficiently and provide a first class product does take some investment and you might as well at least try and get some of your money back. It might even take off and help pay the bills. Who knows!

This is just a short list if you like. There's a lot more to it but I thought the thread would look at equipment across the framing spectrum, best and worst practice when trying to put together a good frame, suppliers and who's offering deals on stuff, and opportunities for framers to get better known for their work and even get a return on their efforts.

This is just a brief outline of my progress so far.

We are still very much in our infancy with regard to framing. I've practised photography for many years at one stage doing weddings, portraits and a small amount of local press work back in the days of film. My gear was a couple of Nikons, an F3 and an FE with an assortment of lenses and a Hasselblad for the wedding work again with a couple of lenses. As far as framing goes, I've always brought off the shelf up until now.

It seem's a logical extension of what we are doing to get into framing and so for the last few months, I've been exploring the internet picking up tips and getting some equipment and a workshop together. I have just this week purchased a framing underpinner to add to the mitre guillotine we brought a few weeks ago and the mount cutter that we brought a few weeks before that. There are like most hobbies etc, a long list of little bits and pieces that I have also got hold of. Some of them you might call essentials and other things probably just make it more convenient to do the work.

I am finding it quite fascinating and in a strange way, rewarding being able to turn my hand to making framed pictures etc that show off the work to enhance it to it's best for viewers. Although for some reason, nobody can come forward and say they have seen the proof, :) It's said that modern "fine art" printers can produce pictures that if framed with the right materials will last for at least two hundred years. That's a fascinating fact on it's own that your work could still be seen when you are just dust and long forgotten.

So......... Any Arrsers want to come on board and participate?
 
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Slime

LE
I'm going to tag into this thread as I know there are other ARRSE picture framers and it will be interesting to get their views too.

As a starter, and for business sense more than anything else always make sure you show your Z clips to new customers wanting grand or swept frames. This will reinforce to them that they are getting a quality frame done in a traditional way. To many customers even the use of Z clips that won't be seen make the frame worth more and enhance the artwork.
 
I've made nearly all of the picture frames in our house, a lot of them "fake antiques", largely self taught through trial and error and I think I have patiently re-invented the wheel more than a few times (and then suddenly found there is an existing commercial ready made solution..)
Very interested though don't think there's much I can contribute.
 
I'm not good enough with my hands but would make some of the photos I take look good if I could do it
 

DaManBugs

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I wish picture-framers in the UK would really learn to frame properly. I've seen some truly awful examples of their "work", with overcuts on matting, valuable graphics mounted on hardwood and all sorts of really dire stuff. The object of framing any picture should be to be certain that everything is reversible. That means that the picture can be retrieved from the framing at any time and be in the same condition before it was framed.

The framing is also meant to protect the picture, but that's often not the case. If framing a graphic, it should form a protected unit with the glass, and not just be popped in the back and then pinned in with the cardboard doing nothing to prevent the ingress of dust and mites. There really is an art to framing and it appears that UK framers just don't get it.

MsG
 

Slime

LE
Bugs
Even though your assessment that the framing is there to protect the 'picture' (your are the only framer I know who says picture) doesn't really tally with some of the worlds best paintings and their frames I'm a bit surprised you got a negative rating for your post.

Going back to protection and tape/glass I was looking at a beautifully detailed oil painting a month or so ago. The painting was about 4 X 2 metres and if I'm honest I certainly wasn't thinking 'this would be so much better if it was protected behind a bit of glass. It could have had a glazed panel that size as the painting was done in 1907, but it would have hidden a lot of detail.
 

Slime

LE
Bugs
I'd better add a caveat:
I have no objections to recent or modern works having glass to protect them, but don't think it's right on older work.

As an example five of the six paintings in the room I'm typing in have glazed panels in the frames. There are three watercolours, an acrylic, an oil and a regimental display.
 

DaManBugs

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Bugs
Even though your assessment that the framing is there to protect the 'picture' (your are the only framer I know who says picture) doesn't really tally with some of the worlds best paintings and their frames I'm a bit surprised you got a negative rating for your post.

Going back to protection and tape/glass I was looking at a beautifully detailed oil painting a month or so ago. The painting was about 4 X 2 metres and if I'm honest I certainly wasn't thinking 'this would be so much better if it was protected behind a bit of glass. It could have had a glazed panel that size as the painting was done in 1907, but it would have hidden a lot of detail.
I'm sorry, I may have phrased that wrongly and caused a misunderstanding. Oil-paintings are very rarely placed under glass, although that apparently doesn't apply to the "Mona Lisa". They already have a protective coating in the form of varnish, thus making glass unnecessary. And anyway, at that size the glass would have to be at the very least 4 mm thick. It would also weigh over 50 kilos, putting a lot of strain on the holding wire. Glass in 2 mm thickness is only available up to 60 cms wide, and 3 mm glass up to 1.4 metres.

The only ones I can think of off-hand are those paintings of the 18th Century that were sized with asphalt as a base to give that "warm glow". It was discovered that the paint surface was gradually slipping down the canvas and the only way to stop that was to lay them down horizontally. Glass was then fitted over them to protect them from dust.

I was a professional framer in West Berlin for over five years and that's where I learned to frame "pictures" properly and from real artisans. I'm also a picture-restorer by profession. I hope to contribute to the sum of knowledge of the subject on this thread. But I'm sure there'll be a bit of conflict with others when I explain my methods.

MsG
 

Slime

LE
I remember your framing history from another thread.
:)
Protection of artwork is something I agree with, but also reminds me of some funny incidents with my own work.
I remember a lovers chair I made for an exhibition. It was in a corner with a plinth in front of it detailing its name and price. When I had a look around the exhibition to check on all my pieces I found an older lady sat on the chair with a cup of tea balancing on the upholstery :)
 

DaManBugs

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Anyone contemplating taking up picture-framing as a hobby or as a professional will have to be able to cut glass to fit the frames. I personally use a cutting diamond, but they take a lot of practice to get used to until you get the “singing” sound signifying a perfect cut. It’s also necessary to get used to the holding position, which can be either very upright or dragging (called “stechend” and “schleppend” in German). Failing that, a “Silberschnitt” glass-cutter does the job, but because much more pressure is needed on them, it’s rarely possible to cut the glass straight into the frame, particularly a very narrow frame, for a perfect fit. I’d recommend the “Silbeschnitt” glass-cutters with only one (Hartmetall) cutting-wheel in them, as opposed to those with six cutting-wheels. The “Hartmetall” cutters last 12 times as long as the others and the cutting-wheel can be reground at very low cost. That makes it interesting because the original 11-degree cutting angle becomes 16 degrees, which makes for a very nice cut. Here are some piccies of various glass-cutters to illustrate the point:

glasschneider - Google-Suche

MsG

Edited to add. The diamond glass-cutters are the ones with a larger, flattened grip and a sort of hammer-head with only one nibbler cut-out on each side. Good ones can be had for about 50 euros, but the more you can afford the better the quality. They also never wear out, but from time to time the diamond has to be reset.
 
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DaManBugs

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Another (hopefully) useful little tip is that once the glass is cut to fit the frame, it’s good policy to use the little knibblers on the side of the glass-cutter to snap off the sharp corners on the glass. That’s because the adhesive used to stick the frame together often squeezes out into the rebate, which will effectively prevent the glass from bedding down properly in the frame. Nipping off the corners prevents that.

Another tip: if you’re putting a mirror into a frame, paint all of the rebate black. That’s because the mirror backing will be at least three millimetres from the front of the rebate and reflect it. Painting the rebate black prevents that and makes it look a whole lot tidier.

MsG
 
Your framing is not going to work unless you can cut spot on 45 degree mitres so that your new frame fits together exactly when when it's glued and pinned.

The cuts really do need to be exact. If they aren't, the frame will look terrible when it's displayed on the wall or your sideboard.

As a former builder, I could turn my hand to a bit of carpentry but I was a jack of all trades, master of non and if first-class carpentry work was required for a job, I brought a carpenter in to do the work.

But..... How hard can 45 degree mitres be? The answer is actually quite hard if you don't have the right tools for the work. The really ball breaking bit is spending time and effort trying to get it right and failing. The only thing worse than that is trying to get it right and failing several times!

Fortunately, there is some decent equipment for picture framers that will help you achieve the results you want. You still need to acquire the knack to get it right though even with the tools for the job. It is also a question of budget. There are a number of tools that are advertised as being the answer to your 45 degree mitre needs but like most things, you get what you pay for.

My first thoughts when I started to look into this problem was to use an electric chop saw. I figured that with a little diligence, I could get perfect mitres. Having said that, I also knew that it wasn't the best solution. I have access to a couple of electric saws so that wasn't a problem but while most chops saws have angle indicators incorporated into the face of the saw, they are often not absolutely exact enough for the kind of result you want in a picture frame.

I did some research and I found that while there are some chop saws that are designed for picture framers, the general favourite tool for cutting mitres seemed to be mitre guillotine machines. Further research came up with the name "Morso." Morso Guillotines are the professional picture framers tool of choice for cutting 45 degree angles on picture frame moulding.

They also come at a significant price. The more basic manually operated machines start at around £1500 although you can find second hand ones on eBay etc for half that money. Even so, a new or second hand machine is still a fair wack of money for a beginner to shell out.

Further research came up with what I thought was a good solution at a fraction of the price of a Morso. A name I hadn't heard before was Axcaliber. This company make a rang of tools and seem to be popular among kitchen fitters, especially those fitters who make the kitchens as well as fitting them. Hence the Axcaliber guillotine. Research into this machine showed that it could produce perfect mitres. Some picture framing tool suppliers do actually sell them to framers either under the Axcaliber name or a different name. Reviews not just from picture framers but also from kitchen fitters raved about them.

It was the tool that could produce perfect 45 degree mitres. It was also around £160. A fraction of what you would pay for a Morso or something similar. You could also buy a kit to bolt on the front of it to help you measure and cut your picture frame mouldings exactly and the lot came to just under £200. I brought one!

Here it is.



Still looking nice and bright at the moment although there is some waste material waiting to be cleaned off. It is as simple to use as it looks. It is also a serious danger though both to your fingers and if you have children around the place, don't let them near it. The blades or knives are razor sharp. It will have your finger or fingers off without any problems. It will mutilate your kids before they even realise whats happened if they get the chance to mess around with it.

Here's a close up with one of the knives on show.



Even closer. The knives are rather deceptive looking because their large size may look to those not used to this kind of equipment like they are not too dangerous if you handle the equipment casually but great care must be taken even if you just shove the guillotine out of the way on the workbench because you could easily seriously cut a finger just by accidentally pressing on a knife edge.

Here's a close up of my spare set of knives.



One set of knives obviously come with the machine. They will get blunt though over time and so you need a spare set for when they need swapping over while you get the blunt set re-sharpened. A set of knives is currently about £68. I'll probably get a third set in the near future.

So far, I think the route I've taken has been a good compromise and I'll get excellent mitres without spending a minimum of £1500 on a Morso or similar or still quite a bit of money for a second hand machine. My outlay for the Axcaliber and a spare set of knives has been less than £300 for brand new gear.

It's getting late now so I'm going to talk about using the machine, the pro's and con's in my experience in my next post. There are obviously some very experienced framers on ARRSE. I'd welcome their views on this machine and what they use to make mitres.
 
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JoeCivvie

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Is the guillotine literally that - it shears through the wood?
 
Always sorta interested in this hobby/profession due to getting my 'stuff' mounted/framed, to the stage of wondering 'how hard can it be'?

Would like to give it a go. Will be following this thread and might have a 'crack at the title'.
 
Is the guillotine literally that - it shears through the wood?
Yes it does but with caveats. The larger more expensive Morso machines will cut through the whole picture frame moulding. They do it in chunks until you get right through it but you end up with a perfect cut.

Axcaliber machines like the one I have shown here don't have the power to do that. What you do is cut the moulding with a sharp handsaw in a wooden mitre block slightly generously longer than where you want to be by a couple of centimetres. You then shave very small sections off both ends of the moulding until you get the required length.

The machine easily slices from a millimetre to a cigarette paper width off until you get where you want to be. Repeat the exercise with the other three pieces using the small wooden stop on the railing and you get all four pieces at the exact length required.

A square picture frame would obviously have four lengths the same. An rectangle picture frame would obviously have the sides the same length and the top and bottom the same length. Just set your work out on the bench and do the mouldings in sequence so you don't get mixed up on your lengths.

With diligence, you will get perfect mitres on each end of your picture frame mouldings.

One other point. I think, the thinner you slice, the less wear on your knives and so the longer the knives last. Certainly if you try to slice too thick, the machine will struggle.
 
So I've got a mitre guillotine. It does perfect mitres and it's a great price compared to the big Morso's.

Given the price difference, how good is it really?

Well there is always something that marks out cheaper stuff then the more expensive gear and it's the same with the Excaliber guillotine compared to the Morso's etc. Morso's are big chunks of steel and you need a fairly large workspace for one. They are the dogs nuts for cutting picture frame moulding though with their large knives and the built in measuring systems. You are guaranteed a perfect mitre every time provided the knives are sharp and the length will be spot on.

The Excaliber guillotine needs more work by the operator to achieve the same results and you need to be careful that you get all the mouldings cut exactly as you need them. It's not an onerous job though and the immense saving of gelt makes up for the extra work needed and of course if your workshop isn't particularly big, the Excaliber guillotine is much easier to incorporate into your smaller setup.

The Excaliber guillotine itself is a simplistic piece of kit and it's well made. It's a combination of pig iron, honed steel and with some exact machined settings. The extension kit that I brought with the guillotine is a very useful addition to the guillotine but it isn't as well made as the guillotine. The extension kit is simple to assemble though and it fit's onto the guillotine easily enough. The metal L sections are aluminium. This isn't the best material for this function. Aluminium is easily damaged. Steel L sections would have been better but at the end of the day, it is what it is!

I managed to inadvertently scratch the top of the L section with a saw. This was a rather stupid thing to do but the damage was minimal, in fact barely noticeable and made no difference whatsoever to using it. The other thing I did was if you look at the picture of the extension kit, there is a small wooden stop that fits on the top of the L section. Basically, once you almost have cut your first length of moulding, for the final pass with the knife, you set the stop behind the moulding so the you then have the exact measurement for the companion moulding for your frame. A simple system and it works.

The problem is that because the L section is aluminium, if you over tighten the screw on the stop, it will gouge into the soft aluminium metal. Do this a few times and the resulting damage may make it difficult to set the stop exactly where it's required on the L section. So the message is, tighten the screw on the stop gently and especially don't overtighten it.

The other thing I found was that the knives on the guillotine needed re-sharpening within a few weeks of using the guillotine. This surprised me but there could be a couple of reasons for this, one of which may be my own fault.

Firstly, the knives were very sharp when the machines delivered. There's no doubt about that. A little nick on one of my fingers resulting in blood being spilt (thankfully only a tiny bit) when I lifted the machine off the floor onto a table testified that the knives were very sharp.

After about ten days or so though, I noticed that the picture frame mouldings were beginning to feel a bit rough especially on one side of the guillotine. Closer inspection showed that the moulding was being crushed rather than cut by the blade. The first thing I did was order a second set of knives.

The knives do go blunt and you will need a spare set. Unless you have somewhere on your doorstep where you can get them sharpened, it can take a week or even two weeks from sending your knives off for sharpening to get them back from wherever you sent them.

But why had mine only lasted probably not even a few weeks? I did wonder if while they were sat on the shelf in the shop unused if that somehow contributed to them initially not lasting as long as they should do. A more likely explanation though was that while experimenting with the guillotine with various picture frame moulding off cuts, firstly I had used it probably more than I thought I had and secondly, I had tried to cut excessive amounts of moulding rather than just trimming it back in small slices.

The second set of knives came fairly quickly from Axcaliber. We fitted them and to be honest, I thought there was still a bit of an issue with the cuts. In the meantime, I had found a place not too far away to get my blunt set re-sharpened. They came back fairly quickly and we re-fitted them to the guillotine. The results were perfect which was a bit of a relief. We did a picture frame and were very pleased with the results of the mitres. I'm going to drop the second set of knives off soon to get them re-sharpened. This place I found was roughly £12 to re-sharpen the pair of knives. I drop them there and pick them up so that doesn't include postage or packaging.

So. we had some teething troubles but hopefully that's all behind us as far as the guillotine is concerned. The lessons are firstly, watch your fingers. Secondly find somewhere to get your knives resharpened. If you post them, you may have to buy a special box to send them in the post. Thirdly, treat the aluminium extension rail with some care especially when tightening the screw in the wooden stop.

At the moment, I'm very pleased with the guillotine. Time will tell if my pleasure is going to continue. Provided the knives last a decent period, I think it will and I think the key to that is to make sure I slice small amounts off the picture frame moulding and make sure I don't overdo it which can cause the knives to go blunt too quickly.

I'm interested in what other picture framers think of what I've posted so far. Am I on the right track? Anyway the next major piece of kit is an underpinner. I brought a new one and I'll put up a post about that in the near future.
 
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I've no knowledge of picture framing, but if you invested in a set of plastic plates, backing onto diamond sharpeners, you should be able to keep the edge, if you keep on top and not allow the blades to get too blunt.

I do it with my wood chisels and even Stanley blades........ they are only about 3 for a tenner.
 

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