Options for Securing the Contents of a Frame

Logan Dual Drive Point DriverThe term “frame fitting” refers to that part of the framing process where the contents are secured in the frame.  The contents might consist of a canvas stretched on stretcher bars, needlepoint stretched over cotton batting, or most commonly a stack of glass, matboard, foamboard and art.

 

The preferred method for securing contents in a frame is to use points.  If you are unfamiliar with points think of the metal tabs found at the back of a gift frame, the ones you can bend up to get the promotional contents out so you can put your own picture in.  Those points are called flexible points because they are easily bent.  Most professional framers, however, use rigid points because they are thought to be more secure and because most professionals cover the back of the frame with a paper dust cover anyway, making the points virtually inaccessible, thus no need to bend them.

 

Rigid (Regular) PointIn addition to rigid and flexible points, there are also multi-points which provide a slightly broader holding area but which are not as common because many point inserting tools don’t accept them.  Glazier points are sometimes used in framing but must be pushed in with a handheld tool called a point pusher, making them impractical for hardwood frames and for larger, heavier pieces.

 

To muddy the waters a bit more, points are sometimes called inserts (they’re the same thing) and are sometimes substituted with brads.  Brads are small wire nails.  Before points were invented, brads were used by hammering them into the inside wall of the frame recess.  Driving brads with a hammer was a problem, however, because they had to be driven at an angle which didn’t provide much holding area on the back of the contents.   The solution was a brad nailer, a gun that drove the nails perpendicularly into the inside of the frame recess. 

 

Brad NailAlthough some framers still prefer brads, most have traded up to points.  Even though they can now be driven at a proper right angle, brads don’t provide much of a holding area.  The main advantage of a point is that it is flat instead of round and covers a broader area against the surface of the stack.

 

The most important tool you can buy for framing is a mat cutter.  Arguably the second most important tool is a point inserting tool.  The majority of frames are wood.  Unlike metal frames, the means by which you hold contents in a wood frame are not provided with the frame.  In those cases, you must use points.  Bottom line: you will probably use points most of the time.  You should own a fast, easy, reliable tool to insert them.

 

Framing ToolBoth Fletcher and Logan offer inexpensive point squeezing devices that work on the principal of a vise.  Curiously, these tools are so generically named that some people people are confused into thinking they’re essential.  Fletcher calls theirs the FrameMate and Logan refers to theirs simply as the Framing Fitting Tool.  What these are in fact are inexpensive, second-rate versions of what good framers really need.

 

These vising tools are loaded one point at a time and adjusted to the width of the frame.  When the handle is squeezed, the jaws close, squeezing the point into the inside of the frame recess.  Leaving aside the tedious and time consuming requirement of loading the tool one point at a time, vising tools like this do not work well with hardwood frames like oak and maple, and unless adjusted properly will hang up on the point, requiring the user to readjust after each point is squeezed, a slow and cumbersome process.

 

When you get to the end of the frame job and can see the matted, glazed artwork in the frame, you will want to move along to completion, you will not want to find yourself fumbling with a finicky, time-consuming tool.  You will want a point driver.

 

FrameMaster Point DriverVise-style point inserting tools do have one advantage over point drivers.  Because they squeeze the point rather than fire it, they are preferred by framers working with loose media like pastels or charcoals where the jarring that a point driver involves can cause loose granules to shake off the face of the artwork.  In all other circumstances, however, a point driver is preferred.

 

Picking up on the concept of a brad nailer, a point driver drives the point perpendicularly into the inside wall of the recess.  They are spring-loaded and have tensioning nobs that can be adjusted to increase the drive strength to penetrate hardwoods or softwoods.  They are magazine loaded, meaning the points come in a stack and the whole stack is loaded into the gun.  When the gun is triggered, a single point is fired off the bottom of the stack and the next in line is aligned in the breach.  Point drivers are fast and efficient.  What might take several minutes with a vising tool is accomplished in seconds with a point driver. 

Offset ClipFitting becomes another matter altogether when the situation does not allow for a point driver.  Case in point: when the stack of contents is thicker than the frame is deep, prohibiting access to the inside wall of the frame recess.  This is a fairly common problem in framing and is the main challenge in framing canvas stretched on stretcher bars. 

 

The easiest way to deal with the problem is to employ an ounce of prevention.  There is no standard depth to the recess in picture frames.  From one style of frame to another the recess (also called the rabbet) can vary from ¼” to 3½” deep.  When you buy your frames at Framing4Yourself, the rabbet depth of each frame is provided for your information.  Look them over and choose wisely. 

Offset Clips on FrameAs a rule of thumb, you will need at least 3/8” depth in the rabbet (the recess) for most frame jobs involving a mat, foamboard and glass.  If you opt for a double mat, you will be safer with about ½” depth in the rabbet.  And properly mounted needleart will likely require 5/8” depth in the rabbet.

However, it is not unusual that the frame you have your heart set on is not adequately deep for what you want to load into it.  In these cases, go ahead and buy the frame and then work around the problem.

RabbetSpace Rabbet Depth ExtendersThe most common work-around are off-set clips, metal brackets with offsets of 1/8”, ¼” or ½” that screw into the back of the frame and reach up to overlap the stack.  In fact,  ½” offset clips are deep enough to hold stretched canvas in most frames and are a quick, easy solution to the problem.

A more elegant solution are RabbetSpace rabbet depth extenders.  Working on the same principle as offset clips, they reach up to overlap the back of the stack but unlike offset clips they run the full length of the back of the frame, making for a seamless, inconspicuous fastening of the contents in the frame. 

At first glance frame fitting seems like a simple, straightforward question of holding the contents in the frame, but the potential problems are several and making the wrong choices can lead to frustration.  By carefully considering your options in frame fitting and making the right choices you will insure a much smoother experience when securing the contents in a frame.