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Artists often prefer to make the frame of their paintings themselves and to stretch the canvas on which they will paint. Economical, this choice does not present any particular difficulty and makes it possible to produce canvases out of the standard formats.

to make his painter's canvases

Practical advice

To avoid deformation of the sides of the chassis during the tension, the laying of spacers is required beyond 500 mm in length.
Uncoated fabrics can be slightly moistened with a sponge before being nailed. They will stretch on their own as they dry.

Classical, the embodiment described here relates to the manufacture of a frame of 350 mm x 500 mm. It uses planed fir cleats (18 x 45 mm). After treating the rods with an insecticide product for interior woods, the assembly is made with miter cut with false tongues.
● The canvas is cut from a thick piece of cotton cloth, and cut to the frame dimensions by adding 100 mm to allow tensioning with a strap clip and its attachment to the edge of the frame.

The preparation of the chassis

The framer saw is the ideal tool for miter cuts (at 45°). Some reciprocating saws allow the realization of composite tabs. In addition to the 45° bevel, the cut is skewed a few degrees in the vertical direction.
● When assembled, the cleats are slightly inclined towards the inside. The stretched canvas is therefore only on the outer edges of the frame, not on the flat cleats. If the saw does not allow this combination of cuts, the bias can be achieved with the abrasive mounted on a hard shim.
● The assembly of the frame by false tongues is the best method, for its solidity and its precision. It supposes to have a suitable machine, ripper or lamelleuse. Otherwise, mounting is done by gluing-nailing angles.
● After applying the glue and placing the flat dowels, the assembly is kept in press until completely dry.
● Cut with an overhang of about 50 mm on each side, the fabric is first held by a seed upholsterer in the center of one of the short sides. Turn the frame 180° to stretch the fabric and fix it in the same way in the middle of the other. Next, nail the fabric in the center of the first large side, then on the opposite side, stretching it out at best. Ideally, try to align its frame on the cleats.

Tense like a drum skin

The large, flat seed head prevents rips. Nevertheless, they must be planted very straight until they come to press the canvas against the wood.
● Continue by placing a seed every 50 mm from the center to the corners, and alternately on either side of this midpoint.
● Using a pair of pliers is more comfortable and less tiring than grasping the web between your fingers. This tool with wide beaks offers the great advantage of adjusting the tension perfectly and easily, so that the fabric has no creases. Fold down the corners, so as to create the minimum thickness.
● A taut canvas resonates like the skin of a drum when you tap it with your fingertips. The fabric is slightly sagging as it passes the undercoat of primer (Gesso, at Lefranc & Bourgeois), but retires as it dries.

Adjust and tilt the blade

prepare the blade before cutting

Set the 45° cutting angle on the turret of the framing saw.
Then give a slight inclination (5°) to the blade guide holder to directly obtain a compound miter cut.

the inclination of the blade of a painter's canvas

Assemble the chassis

chassis assembly

The ends are grooved to the lamellar to allow to assemble the frame with flat dowels.
Glue the grooves and insert before the dowels swell.

Check the squareness

checking the squareness of a painter's canvas

Check the squareness before clamping the frame with a frame press.
A simple method is to measure the diagonals.
But a square does the job perfectly.

Cut the canvas

cutting of the painter's canvas

Lay the frame on the canvas.
If it is ready, place the prepared side underneath.
Cut the fabric leaving an edge of about 50 mm on each side to secure it.

Plant the seeds

fix the canvas on the chassis

Point a seed in the middle of the short side.
Pull the cloth on the opposite edge to plant the second seed, opposite the first.
At this point, manual tension is sufficient.

Tender and nail

stretch the canvas to secure it

The pliers can accurately measure the tension of the fabric.
Work alternately nailing on opposite sides.
Space the nails approximately 50 mm.

Prime the rough canvas

application of gesso on the painter's canvas

Prime the raw canvas by applying a suitable product (Gesso type).
This slightly pasty coating is an opaque undercoat suitable for both oil and acrylic.


Video Instruction: Painters Corner #7 How to Make your own Canvas Panel