Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Preservation of Art: Framing Hardware

One of the most baffling things I came across once I started framing canvas was what hardware to use. Until I took a class on Care of Paintings I just hobbled things together with nails and staples. Frames themselves are a great start as they protect the canvas. Even if not noticed right away, banging canvases around will cause eventual mechanical damage to the paint layers. I was kind of mortified when I learned this, and I now treat canvases very differently.

For those of you who would like to see your work or work you collect survive beyond your generation (or even beyond next Tuesday) here is the skinny on hardware.

For framing canvases you will need offset clips of varying sizes. These will be screwed into the back to keep the canvas flush with the frame. Second you will need ring hangers which are essentially d-rings with a sturdy metal tag that screw onto both sides of the back of the frame about 1/8 of the way down. Do not be tempted to use just one at the top, or to use screw-eyes, as you risk them pulling out, sending your painting crashing to the floor. So that means using 4 to 8 offset clips per canvas and two ring hangers. Between the hangers string hanging wire that is the proper gauge. The package will reveal how heavy the wire is gauged for. Wrap the wire around itself after threading it through the ring hangers.

Here are all of the hardware pieces I just mentioned. OOK is not the only manufacturer, but is more commonly available at art and hardware stores.
Here is how they should be installed. For a heavy frame use larger ring hangers that have two screw holes instead of one.

These are examples of OOK products that are not appropriate for canvases with significant frames. Sawtooths and prongs are meant for objects of a lighter weight. The heaviest object I would hang with prongs would be foam core. I would not use a sawtooth on anything heavier than an 8 x 10 framed photograph or drawing.

These items may also be useful to you. Picture hooks are great because they do not leave a large hole in the wall, but use two if the object is large or heavy. I prefer putting screws in the wall where there is a stud because I like the security. Moulding hooks are made specifically for houses that already have picture moulding usually set about a foot from the ceiling. So what some people mistake for decoration is actually a useful method of hanging pictures. The hooks come in different shapes, as they are meant to match the profile of the moulding exactly. Glazier points are those pesky little pointy things that keep the backing of glass picture frames for drawings or prints intact. Removing them is a pain, unless they are the type that bend upward for installing the work.

I hope this was a helpful guide. Please let me know if there are any questions.


  1. It might be worth to mention that not all frames are created equal. Some are made of a kind of synthetic wood product that is very hard. A heavy duty electric drill is your best bet for screwing in the offset clips and hangers.

  2. Very good point. With some you can get away with a screwdriver, but with others you need to pull out the heavy equipment, and not a rechargeable house drill, right Don?