Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Back to Framing

After 10 weeks of recovery, I'm now back at it. Late last year I was forced to take a good look at the state of my shoulder and decide to either continue living with it or put an end to all the pain. Too much pain, not enough sleep and a crimp in my agility and strength made for a really cranky Bobbie. So I finally gave in and had the surgery. All I can say is it is not for the faint of heart, but having said that, I'm glad I did it. It has been worth it. Although not yet ready to take on any arm-wrestling or swimming, I am ready to take on my framing with even more vigor.

So what's involved in making one of your frames? Well, let's start with the frame itself. There are three ways a framer can provide a frame to you. Some framers who have the space to store mouldings in their inventory can order your choice of moulding as one long stick then cut it, or chop it, to the size needed to frame your art. Other framers who don't have the space can order your moulding already chopped to fit your art. That's what I do. I receive a long, skinny box from my vendors with a well-padded, tightly bound inner package containing the moulding you ordered and it's already cut to the exact size I need. The third way a framer can provide a frame to you is to order your frame "chopped and joined", that is, the vendor will cut the moulding to the size needed then put it together for the framer then ship it to him. I have ordered some frames this way. If the moulding has an odd shape or is really wide or I think I might have difficulty joining it, I will ask my vendor to join it for me. I haven't done this too often, but occasionally my experience will tell me that this moulding will be really difficult for me to join. The vendors have some super-duper equipment that I don't have that can join mouldings that I can't join.

So how are the frames put together? Well, I line up the corners then glue them together. If the corners have not been cut straight or exactly at a 45 degree angle, then I have to sand them to make them straight. I have a pretty nifty sander made expressly for this purpose. When the corners are stable from the glue, I will either shoot some nails into the corner from the outside edge of the frame or I can use my underpinner. The underpinner is a pneumatically operated contraption that shoots a "V" shaped "nail" into the joint from the underside of the frame. Both techniques are equally good and depending on the size, shape and composition of the moulding, I will use one or the other.

OK, so now we have the moulding put together but your frame design isn't done yet. If you chose a mat board or two or three, these have to be cut and put together. Again, some framers keep many, many mat boards in their inventory. I don't have the space so I order them as I need them. Let's say you need an opening to accommodate your art that is 10-3/4" x 12-5/8" and you want 3" of mat at the top and sides of your art and 4" at the bottom. Out comes my calculator and I start punching in the numbers and... Well, not so much today. Actually my pricing software will calculate all of this for me. Once all calculated, some framers will cut the opening by hand using a manual mat cutter. In my case, I have a computerized mat cutter (CMC) so I have to enter the dimensions into my mat cutting software and the mat will be cut automatically for me. This wonderful CMC allows me to easily cut multiple openings and various shapes and, in general, design much more elaborate mats than ever before. In fact my CMC includes a design program that allows me to design almost anything to be cut or debossed. (See my earlier blog about Mitchell Subaru for a description of debossing.)

Now the two or three mats you ordered are all cut out and they have to be assembled. If you ordered a fillet in your design, it is at this point that I will cut, assemble and install the fillet. This is also the point at which absolutely precise measurements are required. There are no shortcuts at here. It all has to be done by hand and it has to be done accurately. Once cut and glued together, the fillet is installed into the mat opening with more glue and foam core shims to keep it in place.

When all the above steps are done, I will mount your artwork. Depending on what it is, I will either permanently mount it onto some foam core or mount it in an entirely non-invasive, removable process. In general, the value or origin of your art will determine which technique I will use. There are many, many ways to mount art and objects and all of this has to be determined during the design process. Permanently mounting art in my vacuum press is fast and easy - but not fool-proof. Every framer has a horror story of things gone wrong in the press. The removable mounting is not fool proof either, but by its very nature, it is reversible and can be re-done. It also takes much, much longer to do; at least 10 times longer.

Now the art is mounted, the mats are cut, the fillet installed and the moulding joined. The last item is the glass. I have a wall mounted media cutter on which I cut my mat's outside dimensions, the foam core that goes into the art package, and the glass. Once the glass is cut, I seam it, that is, I use a little tool that lightly sands the edges of the cut glass. By seaming it, it helps prevent cuts on my hands and it makes the edges more stable while I handle it and install it. After cutting and seaming, it has to be polished, or cleaned. One would hope that when one takes the glass out of the box it would be clean and usually this is so. But not always. And despite all my precautions of wearing gloves and gingerly handling the glass as little as possible, I usually manage to get a finger print or smudge on it. So now I have to polish it.

Finally all the parts of the puzzle are assembled. The moulding, the art with the mats and fillet and the glass. With the moulding upside down, the glass goes in first taking care to install it with the UV coating toward the inside, next to the art. Finally, I install the art package, which includes the mounted art and all mats. At this time I will flip the whole package over and examine it once again looking for those pesky, little dust motes, stray hairs, or other nasty little things that don't belong in there but have escaped my earlier brushings. With a clean bill of health, I use framer's points to anchor the package into the moulding. Finally, I put the dust cover on the back then add the hanging hardware, wire and hooks. The last step is to put my identifying sticker on the back, and add information stickers about the glass and mats. Voila! A beautifully framed piece of art!

Not everything that comes in can be framed this easily and some are much simpler, but this covers about 90% of the art I get to work with. I hope this little tutorial has helped you understand some of what's involved in creating your finished product when you bring it to me.

So bring it on! I'm ready to get back to it! I can do it all! I am the Arnold Schwarzenegger of framing! OK, so maybe I exaggerate but you get my drift. I look forward to your comments and questions and I certainly look forward to meeting your special piece of art.