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Author Topic: Framing your own prints  (Read 2074 times)
Colorado David
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« on: March 06, 2014, 10:15:26 PM »
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Who is framing their own work and what was your investment to do it?  I don't want to go into the framing business and I don't want to put thousands of dollars into equipment.  I would like to be able to buy frame molding and frame my own work on a small scale.  Thanks.
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Justan
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« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2014, 10:39:40 AM »
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If you use aluminum you can get pretty good values and pre-cut to size but not necessarily pre-assembled parts. If you use wood material you can do the same and either get raw moulding, or chopped or cut to size pieces after which they will need a variety of processing including the need to be cut to size (again) and glued/joined.

A tool called an underpinner is typically used to join wood pieces. There are manually driven underpinners which arenít too expensive, but most are pneumatic. A good compound miter saw comes in handy as well. One or more good corner clamps is/are also needed and mostly lots of practice.

The notes above are probably overly summarized.

Framingsupplies.com is one of several places that sell underpinners:
http://framingsupplies.com/SearchResults.html?cx=010404312515117890782%3Aofktchwaue4&cof=FORID%3A9&ie=UTF-8&q=underpinner&sa=Search

I looked into making frames at one point but found it was a lot less expensive and way less time consuming to go to a custom wholesale framer. I buy up to 30 or more frames per month and my framer makes them to 1/16" tolerance for me. I donít especially like working with power saws or having to clean up large rooms to keep the environment from being overwhelmed with saw dust. Some donít mind that...
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bill t.
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« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2014, 01:09:10 PM »
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Yours is a good question for http://www.thegrumble.com because I don't have time to write the 20,000 or so words needed to cover the subject.  But a lot of those guys do.

But what the heck...

I average just over 2 very large frames every day.  Typically 30 x 65, with 3 to 4.25 inch moulding surrounding a mounted print.  My profitability per frame is at least $200 over cost of production, which I feel more than offsets the 1/2 hour or less it takes to cut and join the frame itself.  My investment in tools is less than maybe $3000, not counting the space required.  If I were a gearhead, that amount would be more.  And if I sold the Morso chopper I no longer use, that amount would be less.

An important part of my equation is that I don't use liners, mattes, or glass.  I just slam a frame around a mounted canvas (or well coated paper print) and call it a success.  So for me framing is a very quick operation with none of the fiddly little time consuming operations introduced by cutting mattes etc.  I do manly framing only, none of that prissy stuff.

It took a long time to get to the point of making frames that joined perfectly every time, even with wiggle-waggle moulding, without any hassles.  And I had to invest nearly $2 in special tools beyond the normal frame making stuff to make that happen.  Frame making can be hugely frustrating for a beginner, and you can waste gobs of money getting to a point where it all comes together the way it should.  Or not, it just depends.

A lot of the frame/no-frame decision has to do with your personal inclinations.  I sometimes find a certain therapeutic value in the Song of the Saw.

Hint: frame making life gets a lot easier if you restrict yourself to using mouldings that are inherently trouble free, well packaged, and not easily scraped, marred, or dented.  Not all mouldings are like that.  Framers don't have that option, but you do.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2014, 08:52:56 PM by bill t. » Logged
Colorado David
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« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2014, 01:38:09 PM »
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I already have a very good compound miter saw and a fair amount of woodworking experience.  The learning curve might not be as steep for me as for someone starting from zero.  My biggest concern is joining the miters and the tools required to do that in a fool-proof fashion.  I would be framing large canvas prints that are mounted on gator board, no mattes, no glass.  So far I've used an online frame making company that is pretty reasonable, but oversize shipping is starting to cost a lot.
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bill t.
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« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2014, 03:13:47 PM »
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I use a DeWalt 715 compound saw, and it makes perfect miters as a reward for perfect technique.  I had to fiddle with the adjustment arc a little to perfect the angles.  If I were to replace it I would buy a 716 version, since the upward pointing thing on the right side wing of the 715 tends to bounce dust back onto the fence table, the 716 directs most of the dust away from the table.  A lot of framers use the DeWalts and seem to like them.  Mine has gone several years with almost daily use, and all that's threatening to fail so far is the switch.  The bearings still seem fine.  It's best to avoid the sliding style miter saws since those tend to track poorly during heavy cuts.  And some people think 10" saws make better cuts, although my 12" DeWalt gives me nothing to complain about.

The back fence is an old Phaedra, which is just a plain old aluminum back fence by another name.  It has a convenient stop block, that's its best feature.  And there's a very accurate measuring tape affixed.  I never applied the fancy measuring decals that came with the Phaedra, they offended my sense of purity.  And I can easily break it down and lean it against the wall if I need.  The saw itself is supported on something like a 1950's TV dinner tray on steroids.  Each of the two fence wings is supported by something like a two-legged tripod.  The thing is so amazingly accurate for how it looks!

The blade matters a lot.  The 100 tooth "framers saws" are probably not optimal for DeWalts and other "construction site" saws because they are intended for constant rotation on traditional double-miter saws and will oscillate for a while after the sudden accelerations you get with the construction site saws, and also during the cuts.  ATB Freud "Diablo" finishing or cross-cut blades from Home Depot in the 72 to 80 tooth range make beautiful, smooth cuts in wood, and Freud 72 tooth TCG blades are perfect for non-melting cuts in polystyrene.  But use a blade intended for your DeWalt or whatever, not an official "framer's" blade.  The blades you want are designed to be stabilize quickly after those abrupt accelerations, and they are also optimized for the higher RPMs you get from the DeWalts etc, rather than the slower RPMs of classic double miter saws for framing.  That difference in RPM is also why the coarser 72 to 80 tooth blades are optimal, because then you have that same "tooth rate" as the slower rotating classic saws with higher tooth counts.

Beyond that, be sure that the moulding is clamped down real good.  There is a tendency for the blade to draw the moulding towards the saw during the cut, that's a contributor to miters that don't fit properly, right after warped moulding.  Now there's a subject in its own right.

OK HERE IS THE BEST MITER CUTTING ADVICE YOU WILL EVER RECEIVE:

Most of the problems with non-fitting miters occur not because of your equipment or bad clamping, but because the moulding is slightly warped.  You can easily overcome the problems caused by warping.

Buy some 1/4 x 1/4 x 36 "hobby wood" from Lowes.  Cut it into 3 inch lengths.

When you cut the moulding, be sure one of the those 3" lengths is between the moulding and vertical part of the back fence very near the blade, and a second one is between the moulding and the vertical part of the back fence near where you will later cut the second miter.

Long story short, this keeps the warped part of the moulding between your two sticks away from the backfence, and prevents inaccurate miters due to the moulding rocking against the fence.  The two miters will be in perfect relation to each other, or as perfect as your saw alignment permits, while the moulding in between may still have some wiggle-waggle.

The moulding between the miters will still be warped, but the miter cuts themselves will have the proper relationship and when you get to joining that elusive 4th corner you will amazed.

Yes, safety issues with that type of support!  Clamp.  Be careful.  Wear a face mask.  And of course a nose and mouth filter.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2014, 03:17:54 PM by bill t. » Logged
bill t.
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« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2014, 03:50:08 PM »
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To actually answer your question, you should underpin miters made in wood frames, but not in polystyrene frames which should only be joined with glue and perfect miters.

Underpinning has been getting difficult in recent years, as a lot of affordable moulding in now made from hardwoods.  Many underpinners just don't have the oomph to drive v-nails into the hardest of those.  One solution is to use thumbnailers or biscuit joints.  But the best solution is simply to select moulding soft enough to accept classic underpinner v-nails.

Foot operated underpinners work fine for limited use, and most of the them can drive nails into more difficult mouldings that can air-operated versions.  I have an old foot operated one from Inmes that I absolutely would not recommend for general use, but which works fine for me because I have made custom underpinning adapters for each of the mouldings I use.  Those adapters bypass the shortcomings of the underpinner.  The foot operated machines from Fletcher and Cassese seem to be quite nice and quite suitable for general use.

The cleanest technique for joining mouldings is to buy 4 good framers clamps, glue up all the corners one at a time, and then underpin the already glued frame within say 1/2 hour while the glue is still pliable enough to account for spreading issues from the v-nails.  For speed you can bypass the clamping step and glue and then immediately underpin each corner in sequence.  This tends to produce one or two hmmm-hmmm corners per frame, but overall is how most framers operate.
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bill proud
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« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2014, 05:32:28 PM »
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Colorado David,

I've been building my own framing for 10 years, most of my frames are for 32x40 pieces.

I buy wholesale from Larsen-Juhl through a friend who has a framing shop.

I use a 10" De Walt chop saw and Avanti, 60 tooth, fine finish blades from Home Depot, you can find these as a double pack, which saves a bit of money. I don't clamp the piece down, just hold it firmly, and safely, hand about 4-6" away from the cut. I built an in feed table to support long pieces with a stretched out tape measure on the table. Don't push too fast through the moulding. I measure and cut for the outside dimension which of course varies for differing widths and profiles.  

I don't re-sharpen blades as the sharpening process seems to add a bias to the blade causing open corners. You will get a feel for when the blade is dull and no longer good. Just pitch it or use it for other wood projects and go to a new blade.

I also have an ITW AMP 10" miter sander for when I happen to have screwed up the cut. Curved profiles also can draw the blade sometimes as Billt said. You have to be careful with this as you can over sand if you are too aggressive. You can also fill small gaps with colored putty but I use black frames for the most part. I don't use this piece of equipment much and have been considering going to all canvas with no frame.

I use a small compressed air brad gun for corner strength, with glue, pinning it top and bottom and filling with filler so the brads don't show on the sides.
This isn't as pure as the bottom pinning method but I haven't had any complaints.

I have two heavy corner vises, don't know the brand.

Total cost around $600.00-800.00 including the chop saw, I guess/

Good luck, it isn't difficult, be safe and always pay attention. I'm also in Colorado.
  


« Last Edit: March 07, 2014, 05:35:01 PM by bill proud » Logged

Colorado David
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« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2014, 06:21:20 PM »
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Thanks everyone for the answers.  My biggest concern is anchoring the corners.  I had thought of getting a biscuit cutter as I could use it for other woodwork joinery.  I'm going to buy a nice set of legs for the miter saw with an in-feed.  I can justify that for rebuilding the deck. Wink  I have a couple of air compressors and a few pneumatic nailers.  I wish there was a simple hand-held pneumatic tool for setting the V-type underpinning.  I have seen some frames assembled with 1/8" birch ply corners glued and screwed to the back of the miters.  I plan to pretty much use one type of frame molding, a 2" wide black distressed molding.  Thanks again.
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Justan
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« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2014, 07:30:52 PM »
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Have not come across a hand held underpinner but they may exist. I have seen some table top underpinners.

In the event no one mentioned it, be sure to check out used underpinners as they can be a good value but check that the manufacturer or a reseller can replace any parts that may be needed.
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Colorado David
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« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2014, 10:50:26 PM »
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bill t., your link doesn't work.
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Justan
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« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2014, 03:17:23 PM »
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^minor typo. The URL is

http://thegrumble.com

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bill t.
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« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2014, 08:52:36 PM »
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For a few hundred years before v-nails, the usual technique was to drive two very thin "wire" nails into the each flat sides of the moulding very near the corner.  Some people like to pre-drill the holes.  Hide the holes with colored putty, there are elaborate kits available for that purpose from framing suppliers.

If you search "v-nail gun" you'll get some results.  Woodworker Supply used to carry a hand-held pneumatic v-nail gun, but dropped it recently.  Not sure that's the best solution, or even a good solution, as it presents you with the problem of how to support the upside-down corner so the impact doesn't tear apart unsupported sections of the corner.  Maybe you could build a jig to hold the gun while pressing on the moulding opposite the driver, which would start to look a lot like a commercial underpinner.

Underpinners come up pretty often in the For Sale section of thegrumble.com.  Also lots of sad for-sale ads from closing framing businesses.  Not a good time to be a framer.
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BobShaw
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« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2014, 07:54:34 PM »
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Hi,
Look good framing equipment is expensive, like good photography equipment. If you don't want to put thousands of dollars into equipment then that is the same as saying you can't afford a Canon or Nikon so you will be a top photographer with a point and shoot.

I started framing because I wanted to frame my own photos. I was extremely lucky to buy a guillotine cutter, underpinner, medium cutter and mat board cutter for just over $5000. I could have easily paid $20,000 for the same. Cheap equipment is crap, performs crap and you will sell it within a year. Best to do it properly or not at all in my opinion.
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