How I saved 100 bucks and learned something

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Project by SawDustnSplinters posted 03-30-2009 02:14 AM 3797 views 2 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Well is is funny but with the economy shifting at the last three shows we do in Fredericksburg, Texas we sold more art then furniture. Sign of the times..I guess…so anyway I have all this art on canvas that has stacked up over the years from my Mother’s art gallery in Dallas. Well I took the biggest one around 50” x 27” and went to a local big box hobby lobby and they wanted over 100 bucks to just stretch it on a 3/4” x 1.5 inch pine frame. Well I bought a canvas stretching pliers and a box of 3/8 inch staples and the first one I did was not tight, so I did another one and learned the secret in case any of you might have a need to do this one day.

First, get a pine 2×4, 8 feet long and rip it into 3/4 to 7/8 thick strips, then measure where the width of the painting till it meets the white border and subtract 1/4 inch so the white part does not show around the edges. Cut your strips in mitered sections so the outside of the pine frame is the measurement you took above. Take a roundover bit and rout the edges a little facing the canvas so canvas has something smooth to stretch over . Glue and nail all 4 corners tight and align with the factory edge corners of a sheet of plywood to insure it is square and clamp to sheet till glue dries. Then take your stapler and fold your canvas onto frame and shoot one staple at all 4 compass points while pulling taught with pliers. Then go back to first point and working clockwise pull taught again and shoot a couple of staples and go to next point pull taught, shoot a couple more, etc.. keep going clockwise around and around till you reach corners, fold the corners neatly kind of like an accordion and your done and it will be tight as a drum…

Well I saved 100 bucks and seeing as I have 100 more to do maybe more then that :) Now my next project is to build a nice frame, I will use Mesquite or Pecan and perhaps leave a natural edge, I have not decided yet…any suggestions ? :)


-- Frank, Dallas,TX , , “I have a REALLY BIG chainsaw”

14 comments so far

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18290 posts in 3703 days

#1 posted 03-30-2009 02:37 AM

What is the first picture? Is there that much extra around the painting?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View SawDustnSplinters's profile


321 posts in 3808 days

#2 posted 03-30-2009 02:43 AM

Hey Topa, typically there is, but usually the master canvas is prestretched and then painted, but in my case the master was digitally reproduced onto canvas, it is called a Giclee print, so I have the white border so I can stretch it onto a frame. This is more of how I beat the big box out of taking my money kinda project, and who knows some LJ might want to take up painting one day, it is just another medium, and instead of buying high dollar prestretched canvas they can make their own :) Thanx

-- Frank, Dallas,TX , , “I have a REALLY BIG chainsaw”

View Julian's profile


880 posts in 3553 days

#3 posted 03-30-2009 03:28 AM

Construction lumber is way too wet to use for stretchers unless you rip them to rough dimension and let them acclimate.
I build stretchers for a local artist using 2x construction lumber also. I first put the wood in my kiln to get it down to an acceptable moisture content. I tried building one without drying it further, and it warped pretty bad.

-- Julian, Park Forest, IL

View SawDustnSplinters's profile


321 posts in 3808 days

#4 posted 03-30-2009 04:03 AM

You are right Julian, I let it acclimate and dry out plus, heck it is Texas does not take long to dry :) it was the premium grade which was straighter and seemed more solid and tighter grained. There is a sawmill south of me milling pine I might look into 1x lumber kiln dried from them for the future plus my summer project is to build a solar kiln. Thanx…

-- Frank, Dallas,TX , , “I have a REALLY BIG chainsaw”

View reuser's profile


13 posts in 3390 days

#5 posted 03-30-2009 03:30 PM

I can’t believe the timing of this post! My daughter just had me buy raw canvas over the “net yesterday, because she wants to do some odd sized painting, and I was wondering how to do this! Thanks so much for the trick, because I would never have had a clue!

-- reuseit!

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 3902 days

#6 posted 03-30-2009 03:57 PM

I built some window screens for a turn-of-the-century house, and they had to match the originals. I put a block under each end of the frame and clamped down the middle to bow the frame while attaching the screen. When the clamps were removed the frame straightened out and pulled the screen very tight. I don’t know if something like that would work with canvas …

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View mtnwild's profile


3474 posts in 3554 days

#7 posted 03-30-2009 05:57 PM

Hi, I’ve stretched a few canvases, and I also stretch Linen over board for pastel drawing, which is a great surface for pastels. Anyway, I’ve found if you get the four compass points lined up properly so that the center of the stretch is square and firm, fabric weave horizontal and vertical, then I work towards the ends and it comes out tight but not too tight. The key is to get an even pull all around. I try to get the fabric just taunt at the start, not tight. Pay attention to the weave pattern on the fabric and keep an even pull along the stretcher. Work all sides a little at a time to the corners and it comes out great. Size of the stretchers I vary with the overall size I’m going for. Thanks…

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View kewald's profile


127 posts in 3608 days

#8 posted 03-30-2009 06:23 PM

Professional framers use basswood or poplar for their stretcher material because those woods are very stable. Pine will warp – no ifs ands or buts. Also, we seal the wood with shellac or a special aluminum faced tape so that the tannins in the wood don’t leach into the canvas. Tannins are acidic and will cause the canvas to rot. It is also best to not only round the edges, but remove some of the material from the face of the stretcher that faces the obverse of the canvas to reduce the overall contact of the stretcher with the frame.

True stretchers are keyed at the corners so that the canvas can be retightened later. Stretchers with fixed corners cannot be adjusted and are known as strainers rather than stretchers. (There is an ongoing confusion/controversy about the terms stretcher and strainer, but this is my usage of the terms.)

When stapling, the staples should not be parallel to the weave, but angled so that they catch several rows of thread. Otherwise, the material will tear over time. Also, use either coated or stainless staples to prevent rust.

When framing canvas, line the rabbet of the frame with an aluminum faced tape to prevent migration of acids from the frame to the canvas.

Of course, if it is just a cheap print, then some folks would not bother – I would. How many posters have you seen that once cost pennies and are now valuable collector items?

-- Always do the Right Thing the Right Way the First Time - if you can figure out what that is! Ken, Spring Branch, TX

View mtnwild's profile


3474 posts in 3554 days

#9 posted 03-30-2009 06:40 PM

Thanks kewald, terrific information there. Will incorporate that in my next stretches. I already rounded and angled my front surface and angled my staples but I’ll pay more attention to the wood I use and the tape barrier.

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View SawDustnSplinters's profile


321 posts in 3808 days

#10 posted 03-30-2009 06:57 PM

Thanks alot Kewald, I knew there would be someone (LJ) out there that knew what they are doing :) I will incorporate your tips on my next stretch today…especially the one about the rabbit as I will be using Mesquite, Pecan, and Oak, etc…Thanx again…

-- Frank, Dallas,TX , , “I have a REALLY BIG chainsaw”

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 3902 days

#11 posted 03-30-2009 09:47 PM

Ken (Kewald) – a lot of paint grade cabinetry is done with poplar, but I’ve quit using it because of the warp. Sometimes when you are machining a piece of wood, it warps or twists as the stresses are changed/released, but I’ve found that poplar has a tendancy to stay nice and flat until about six months after it is installed in a client’s home and then it warps and twists. I don’t think I’ve ever done a poplar job where I didn’t have to go back and replace at least one door. I’m surprised that this effect isn’t much worse with a canvas frame.

I’m interested in the keyed corners that allow the canvas to be retightened. Can you tell us a little more about those?

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View gagewestern's profile


308 posts in 3377 days

#12 posted 03-31-2009 12:34 AM

Hi Frank Good job. Thats the way it goes, if you apply what you do every day (building things) add some comon sen. then stick with it. You can do a great many things. nice work and web site brian

-- gagewestern

View a1Jim's profile


117126 posts in 3604 days

#13 posted 03-31-2009 04:37 AM

nice canvas and painting.


-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3715 days

#14 posted 03-31-2009 04:10 PM

Great tips , beautiful painting : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

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