Photography Information

Picture Framing for Photographers - Part 1

Imagine being able to frame all your own photographs just as well as a professional. You can save enough money to easily pay for all the necessary tools, and the convenience of being able to do it yourself frees you from having to get someone else do it. If you're an amateur a mount cutter, a frame clamp and a hand-operated frame joining tool is all the equipment you need to make professional looking frames. These days the tools are easy and safe to operate, inexpensive, and give you a good result. Picture framing can be divided into four areas. Cutting the bevel mount, cutting and joining the frame, mounting the photograph, and fitting and finishing the job. The tools required to perform each one of these functions are as follows.

1. Mount Cutting: A hand-operated bevel mount cutter is essential for all photographic work. The most important feature of modern mount cutters is to have one that runs on its own ruler or straight edge.

2. Frame cutting and Joining: The professional framer uses a guillotine to cut wooden frames, and an automatic v-nail joiner. But the cost is prohibitive for the small volumes of frames required by our industry. However, there are tools that give you a professional result at a fraction of the cost.

3. Mounting Artwork: Dry mounting presses and laminating machines are not the only way to safely and effectively mount down all your artwork ready for framing. We will look at vacuum press mounting, hinging methods and other less expensive options.

4. Fitting and Finishing: There are a number of hand-operated tools on the market to make this job quick and easy. These can be used safely by any person to give a professional finish to all framing jobs.

Our series of articles over the next four issues will examine each one of these processes.

Mount Cutting And Decoration

Mount cutting is the creative face to picture framing. What distinguishes one framed photograph from another is the creative use of mounts. There is a wide choice of mount board brands and colours, possibly too many! Supplies are easy to come by, and the cost of the boards is not prohibitive. The best thing about cutting your own mounts is that once you cut it you get to keep the fallout from the middle, which can then become a mount for a smaller photograph. This saves money and helps qualify the investment in the mount cutting machine.

Most hand-operated mount cutters available in art shops come with the cutting head only and not with a guide rule. For successful bevel cutting and good clean corners a guide rule that the cutting head runs on is essential for good results. The FrameCo systems are ideal for the DIY framer or small workshop.

Mount cutters also come attached to a base board or just with the straight edge rule. The baseboard makes the system steadier, easier to use and more reproducible, however to cut a few mounts per year for you're own photographic works, the head/ruler systems are quite sufficient.

Another consideration is the sizing or cutting down of fullsize sheets. The large professional mount cutters are large enough to take the full size sheet. But a sharp Stanley knife and straight edge can be used to cut down full-size sheets into the blank sizes ready for bevel cutting. A straight 90 cutter is available from FrameCo, which will also attach to the rule. This can be used for cutting the mount board to size, and is safe and easy to use. The advantage of this optional cutting head is that it can also be used for cutting foam-core board up to smm thick. It uses the same blade as the bevel cutter.

Cutting a Single Bevel Mount

The technique for cutting bevel mounts is quick and easy. After cutting the mount board down to the right size to fit the frame, rule lines on the back of the mount board to the border size that you require. The bevel cutter head then attaches to the rule, so it's steady when cutting. Another feature of the head is that it has a start/stop indicator line. Following the ruled lines on the back of the mount makes it easy to get good straight bevels, but to get clean crisp corners you need to know where to start and stop the cut. The indicator mark guarantees no overcuts on the corners, giving you a professional cut mount every time.

Cutting a Double-Bevel Mount

Rule lines on the back of the mount. Start and stop line guarantees perfect corners.

Cutting a Double Bevel Mount

Double mounts enhance most pictures. A narrow show of colour can pick out the dark spots in the subject, which will increase the contrast between light and dark, and thus sharpen the image. So a double mount is not only decorative, but also functional. The "secret" to cutting a double mount, so that the edges of the inner mount are exactly parallel to the edges of the outer mount, is NOT to cut two separate mounts and then stick them together. The best way is to cut the top mount first, then stick the two together with double-sided tape (ie: the top and the bottom mounts, then cut the bottom mount). The reason for doing it this way is that you use the same edge as a reference point to measure from. The mount will then be in line with one another and will look OK.

It can sound confusing, but it's not once you get the hang of it! The most important aspect of mount cutting is that with the right tools you can get a professional result relatively easily.

Once you've mastered cutting single and double mounts you can also add decorative finishes to the mounts, which will enhance the image and add value to all your mount work.

The Decorative V-Groove

One of the most important techniques in decorative mount cutting is the "V" groove. This is a small v-shaped cut set into the front surface of the mount. The v-groove adds a stylish look to all your framing. It is that creative touch that gives any picture a professional finish.

The professional framing industry uses existing large mount cutters to cut v-grooves. It is a twostage process because it involves cutting two separate bevel cuts to make the "V" cut. This is difficult to do and there are no guarantees for a perfect accurate v-groove. FrameCo has introduced the GrooveMaster. This is a hand-held v-groover, which cuts the "v" directly into the top surface of the mount. The GrooveMaster also attaches to the rule that you use for bevel mount cutting, which means it is accurate and easy to use.

Now v-grooving is within reach of any DIY picture framer. And the technique is easy to master. You can purchase pre-cut mounts and decorate them with a v-groove, adding value to the mount, and making it much more versatile.

Doing your own framing is ideal for the amateur, portrait or weekend photographer. You can save on framing costs to more than offset the investment in tools and accessories. You control the mounting and matting stage, and there is a great satisfaction in doing it yourself. However if you have a retail outlet handy then I wouldn't suggest you try and compete with the mass market of ready made frames. These frames are cheap and well made. But there is a significant market for the one off odd-size frame that is not available in the ready mades. Either cut an odd size mount to fit a standard frame or make up the frame to suit. With your own framing, however, you can produce your own work and save money doing it over the longer term.

An experienced picture framer, Gary Leete is the owner of Melbourne- based FrameCo, a company that specializes in DIY frame construction kits. For further details ph: (03) 9872 3600 or visit the website:

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