Frames have existed in one form or another across every civilisation for centuries. A frame gives importance and power to the image within, drawing the eye and holding the viewer's attention. Decorative painted borders are perhaps the first kind of frame. The most basic "frame" surely is to take the floor as the first horizontal, the ceiling as the second, and to create the vertical lines with pillars. This creates an area to view within four borders. Many cultures experimented with this concept.
To make a frame, you only need to spend a small amount of money: a mitre block, wood glue, a saw and some nails. However, there is equipment on the market that helps to ensure straight cuts, seamless corners and good right-angle frames. I will list the simpler equipment you need, along with a few more expensive items. Allow yourself plenty of time and find a place to work which gives you enough room.
A traditional piece of equipment which is used in conjunction with a tenon saw to create accurate 45 degree cuts. This is vital when creating a traditional square or rectangular frame as you must ensure the moulding is cut precisely. A mitre block is not very expensive and is available from most hardware or DIY stores. You will also need a piece of 5 x 2.5 cm (2 x 1 in.) scrap timber to put inside the block when sawing your moulding.
Although any ordinary hand saw will suffice, a tenon saw is recommended for use in a mitre block as it is sturdier and will give you more control.
These form the basis of most traditional square or rectangular frames. There are many stockists of mouldings. For the widest selection, contact a framing specialist, although timber merchants, some builders' merchants and DIY stores stock mouldings, and it is worth finding somewhere which stocks a wide selection and sells small quantities. If you can obtain a catalogue of mouldings, it is fun to browse through this at your leisure in the comfort of your own home.
Small drills are available for intricate work, but a standard hand drill can be used for framing. If the drill bits are too large, you can cut the headings off moulding pins and use these instead.
Moulding pins or Veneer pins
These are better than panel pins as they are sharper and thinner and they will not split the frame when you hammer them in place.
Used for gluing mouldings together, white PVA based wood adhesive is available from hardware and DIY stores.
Choose a middleweight hammer. Anything too heavy will probably be difficult to handle; likewise if the hammer does not have sufficient weight, you will have to use more force than is necessary.
All frames will need sanding to smooth joints, or in preparation for paint or stain. Use a fine grade sandpaper available from any hardware or DIY store.
This will ensure you can glue and nail your components into a true right angle. It holds the wood by clamping it tightly together. Some clamps have an extension so that you can put right-angle moulding pins in from the back of the frame. This is recommended if you are doing a lot of framing. This will only be available from framing specialists. A simple mitre clamp should also be available from carpenters' suppliers.
This will hold your frame at true right angles while the glue dries. It is not very expensive to buy from a specialist supplier, but you can make your own from four solid 45 degree angles and piece of string.
These are used with screws or split pins to hang the picture on the wall. The advantage is that they keep the frame fairly flat against the wall. They are available through some glass merchants or through framing catalogues and stockists.
You may prefer to use these as an alternative to D rings, but they will hold the frame slightly away from the wall.
Cord or Wire
I prefer using nylon cord to traditional picture wire. However, a very heavy picture will require wire. Nylon cord is available from DIY stores, picture framers and haberdashery departments.
If you plan to make a lot of frames, a mitre saw is an easier way of cutting to an angle. It will also allow you to make hexagonal shapes as you can choose the angle you want to cut. A mitre saw is available from DIY stores or tool stockists but is generally expensive and, if you are inexperienced at using one, it will take some practice to develop the skill to operate it.
Mounting materials must - above all - be clean and straight-edged, and the blade in your knife must be sharp. The better the conditions of your tools, the more professional the result will be.
There are many colours of mount board available: from white to black, marbled to mottled. Keep the board stored in a clean, dry place and preferably flat rather than standing on its edge. Most suppliers should let you have a sample book which you can keep at home for reference.
Coloured mount board is basically a white board with decorative paper adhered to both sides, so no matter what colour you buy, the edge will show white when you cut it.
Mount board is available from art suppliers, but framing specialists will stock a larger range.
This is an essential part of mounting, providing a safe and clean surface on which to cut your board. The mat is a self-healing rubber which allows you to put pressure on your knife without damaging the blade. Ensure you have plenty of space around the mat as a cramped space creates wobbly cutting. Most art and craft suppliers will stock cutting mats.
A "T" square with a rubberized backing is very useful for cutting. it does not slip and will ensure you cut at a right angle.
Choose a strong steel craft knife.
A small, hand-held mount cutter is quite inexpensive and easy to use. Most art and craft suppliers will be able to obtain one for you, even if they do not have one in stock. Buy extra blades so that the one you use is always razor sharp.
The mount cutter is still only a piece of hobby equipment and not a professional item, so it is not extremely expensive. It is very easy to operate and will guarantee a straight and accurate line every time. It is a good investment if you are planning lots of framing and mounting.
There are a variety of tapes on the market, but brown paper tape is the most useful to the framer. Use it to stick artwork on to a background. Because the tape is made of paper it will react to ambient conditions in the same way as the art work itself, so you will avoid any creasing or buckling. A ready-gummed brown tape is good for sealing the back of the frame as it will prevent dampness from entering and mouldering the mount and picture inside.
Although masking tape is handy, it is best only used for temporary positioning, as the brown tapes are longer-lasting and superior.
Only use scissors for tape or paper. Do not attempt to cut board with them as you will never achieve a completely straight and true line.
A clean, clear ruler is useful for measuring and drawing lines. Use an "H" pencil with a sharp pint for accurate line drawing. Keep an artist's soft eraser to hand for removing dirty finger marks or erasing mistakes.
Later on I will give you some information about Stains, Paints and Wood Finishes.