Options for Securing the Contents of a Frame
The 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.
In 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.
Although 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.
Both 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.
Vise-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.
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.
As 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.