Watercolour Framing - page 1 of 2
The choice of framing a watercolour painting yourself or taking it to a framer passes many artist's minds at some point.

Like many things in life, there is no simple or easy answer but it can be broken down into number of areas to make the choice.
The first thing to consider is cost, while you will/should be able to make the frames cheaper, how many pictures do you need to frame before the cost of the equipment is recovered (even for the basic 'hobby' level it's a few hundred pounds). In many cases the only real saving will be that of the labour.

The second is time, can you afford the time away from painting (or the many other things in life) to cover the saving you are making (this is double edged, as more paintings to be framed equals more time to frame them).

The third is space, to have the equipment to do a professional job (which I think should be the goal) a room no smaller than 8 foot x 16 foot is needed. This contains the equipment listed below, plus the storage of all the materials (stored in the correct conditions - i.e. not a damp shed or garage) again listed below.
Equipment Needed:
Morsø:
The standard machine used for mitre the corners. This machine is foot-operated - by pressing down on a bar, the two knifes then cut through the moulding.

A lever on the right hand side moves the knife block (horizontal) as you cut sections out. A longitudinal stop and measuring scale ensure accurate work. A second set of knifes is useful, for when you send the main set away for sharpening (needs to be done often).

The more expensive option is the Mitre Saw, which has two circular saws that cut through the moulding, starting at about twice the cost of the Morsø and increasing to ten times for the top of the range model.
Underpinner:
These machines are used for fastening the moulding sections together to make the frame.

Can be either foot or air operated and insert from underneath 'W' or 'V' shaped wedges (usually two or more - depending on the moulding size) that hold together two sections of moulding. This is repeated on all corners.

The foot-operated versions are more basic, usually having to hold (by hand) the moulding while pressing down with your leg to insert the wedge via a lever arrangement.

The air-operated versions have advanced over the years and now hold the sections of moulding in place as the wedges are inserted, adjusting for height, width etc automatically.
Point Guns:
One gun is needed for straight points (Framers points, either long or glaziers points - short) and another gun for Flexi points. If the glass, mount & backing board fall within the depth of the moulding a straight point is used, but if the glass etc comes close to the edge, flexi points are inserted and bent to hold the glass etc in place.

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Mount Cutters:
Today these come in many varieties, from the humble handheld models (for the hobby market) to the very sophisticated "all bells and whistles" electronic computer controlled versions. This equipment is used for two jobs - the first is to trim the board to the correct size and second to produce the 45º bevel sides for the window, again to the correct size and location.

Other cutters are used for circles or ovals. I use a KeenCut cutter that is mounted into one end of a specially constructed bench that is larger than a full sheet of mount board. The bench needs to be at the correct working height, plus this area is also used for decorating the mounts (lining etc). A good supply of blades is needed - I change after every five mounts cut and certainly after cutting backing board.

KeenCut produce a range aimed at the more advanced to professional framer with the 'Artist Plus' as the base model. Other Mount or Mat cutters are available from Fletcher, Alto's, Daler, Speed-Mat plus others.
Glass Cutters:
At the top end of the market this piece of equipment usually stands nearly vertical against a wall and the cutter slides up and down a bar to score the glass. Lower down, some form of hand held cutter, one with a tungsten carbide wheel - lubricated with oil (refillable) is the best option - used with a metal straight edge or in combination with your mount cutter.

Needless to say, care is needed both in the cutting, snapping, moving (avoid banging two pieces of glass together - the corners will scratch and ruin the other piece), cleaning (if possible not where you cut your board - use a different table) etc of the glass, wear special gloves and take your time.
Other useful equipment:
The other equipment needed is more general. Things like a Stanley knife, metal rulers, screwdrivers, cleaning products, brushes etc
Materials Needed:
Moulding:

Select a moulding that suits the painting. This is never an easy task, with the wide variety to choose from. Although many of the larger companies only deal with the trade there are companies selling mouldings to the amateur framer. Most lengths of moulding are around 3 meters (9 foot) in length (beware: some companies will only sell packs of four lengths, as this is how they arrive from some factories). As mentioned before there is a wide range to colours, shapes, effects to choose from and this also applies to the cost per metre/foot ranging from quite small and goes upwards. The greatest cost involved in framing a picture (if DIY) is the frame or moulding.

Types of moulding:

Wood - mouldings made out of wood are my preferred choice. Wood frames provide the largest choice of colours, shapes and sizes.

 

Aluminium - improved greatly in recent years, mouldings made out of metal are now very creative in colour, texture, and profile.

 

Plastic - improvements have been made in this area in recent years particularly in the finishing, however, the structural integrity of plastic mouldings is poor on middle to large pictures and many galleries do not accept works with a plastic frame.

Mount and Under Boards:
For the Window mount one of the many ranges of Mount Board can be used. These boards come in a range of colours and the choice is either to pick out a colour within the painting or one that matches the location it's going to be hung (I always go with what best suits the painting).

Single or multiple boards can be used (using the same or different colour or they may have lines, v grooves, or colour washes or paper applied as decoration.

For original works of art I use Crescent RagMat Museum Grade Conservation board (at least 1200 microns thick) both for the window mount and the under mount (at least 1200 microns thick) - the painting is then protected between these two boards. Using these boards does cost more - up to double - but the original will last longer. (The under mount is a barrier layer between the artwork and the back board and should be the same size as the window mount and hinged to it along the top side using museum-quality tape).

The mount I use is supplied by Crescent. Other main companies include: Arqadia, Bainbridge by Nielsen, Studland by Daler-Rowney.

The secret to getting a good quality window mount is accuracy. A good one fits the painting to the required size, the corners must not show over cuts, this is when the blade cuts into the mount beyond the corner and the cutting must be smooth and straight. This can be helped by ensuring that the blade is sharp, if not it will produce a mount that is ragged (remember to move scrap board underneath so blade cuts through into fresh material), distorted (bowed - blade/head moving) and probably does not fit the artwork (not square).

Check your mount cutter regularly for accuracy, calibrate it regularly, make sure that the depth of cut is correct, and that the stops do not produce over cut. Regular maintenance will produce quality mounts and it will give you years of good service.

A time saving option is to ask your local framer how much he/she would charge to cut each mount (giving them the sizes) if you supply the board or check the Internet for companies that now supply mounts cut to any size.
Hooks, D rings, Cord etc:
These are used to attach the wire or cord to the back of the picture. Picture hooks or screw eyes can be screwed into the vertical edges of a frame (about one third of the way from the top) to carry the picture wire or cord.

I prefer to use 'Single D rings' instead of screw eyes - they are closer to the moulding/frame (less damage to frame or screw eye if knocked) and better screws can be used (stronger). There are different sizes of both screw eyes and D rings and they are available in small packs or in a boxes ranging up to 1000.

Wire is available in different gauges or thicknesses and should be selected according to the weight of the picture to be hung. Low stretch cord is suitable for smaller and therefore lighter pictures.

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Glass:
Glass serves as a barrier between the painting and outside elements such as dust, moisture and viewers. The glass should not interfere with but enhance the viewing of the painting. Glass comes in a variety of surface finishes that work well within a variety of lighting and viewing environments: clear, non-glare (reflection) and anti-reflective (AR). These finishes can then have Ultra Violet protection added to meet conservation or museum standards.

Ultraviolet light can actually cause paintings permanent harm and it must be blocked to protect from embrittlement, colour deterioration, loss of brightness and other damage. Conservation glass blocks more than 97% of the most damaging UV-light rays, those in the 300-380 nanometer range. Regular clear picture glass blocks only about 47% of these rays. Conservation glass is coated with a microscopic, silica based layer of UV-blocking agents which are cured onto the surface of the glass. The coating and the glass it is applied to will remain clear and protect artwork from ultraviolet rays indefinitely. This make conservation glass ideal for framing original watercolour paintings, high value limited edition prints etc. The glass must be cut to allow sufficient clearance inside the rebate of the frame.

Normal picture glass (float glass 2mm or 3mm with sheet size from 920x1220 (48x36) to 1840x1220 (72x48)) and a non-reflective glass (diffused glass 2mm).

Moving up the scale in quality and price are a number of companies, for example Tru Vue, who supply a range of picture glass products. They (and others) do a number of surfaces from Clear, Water White, Non-Glare, Low-Reflection and Anti-Reflective. These surfaces are all repeated in the Conservation range by the addition of UV protection.

Ask your local supplier or framer about costs of all the above glass as the price keeps changing.

Some glass cleaning materials are needed (before the glass enters the frame) and if money is available compressed air aids removing those tiny specks of dust. Final cleaning fluid should contain only de ionized water and/or perhaps industrial methylated spirit.
Back Board:
Back or backing board needs to be strong, rigid and flat, eg Greyboard with Neutral pH (1mm to 3mm thick), Art Cor, which has a low pH level, or Conservatek Board. Some framers add a 500 micron barrier board or Melinex sheet between the under mount and back board.
Hinge Tape:
I use Filmplast 'P90' tape for making the hinges that hold the painting and the two boards (either side of the painting) in place. For conservation I seal the glass, two boards and backing board with this tape before placing into the frame.

When fixing artwork into mounting never use self-adhesive tapes (i.e. masking tape) these nearly always contain chemicals and acids, which will damage the paper.

Archival tape is now readily available and should always be used to attach artwork of any significant value.
Framers Points:
These secure the glass, mount and back board to the frame, depending on moulding/frame and thickness of glass, mount, backing board either straight or flexi points need to be used.
Brown Gum Tape:
Used to cover the framers points or flexi points plus acts as a secure seal and protects the surface of the wall on which the frame is hung. A special roller tool, or a sponge and small plastic tray containing water, is needed to dampen the gum strip, this must be carefully applied.