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Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Tue 28 Aug, 2018 1:01 pm
by David McCormack
I made the struts from 10.5mm thick PAR pine which I picked up in B&Q. It was 92mm wide so that was a perfect width for the base of the strut. The overall size of the larger frame is approximately 12 x 15 inches.

I cut the struts to length and chamfered the short edges on the Morso. I then cut the trapezium shape by hand with a tenon saw and chamfered the long edges with a bench plane.

The backs are 3mm mdf. As I was planning on using brass hinges held in with screws, I needed to beef up the mdf. I glued a small piece of 6mm obeche (R&H F15) to the back of the mdf to give the screws something to hold on to. I also glued on each edge a length of SL4 to make the back nice and rigid. This also provided the necessary packing to bring the mdf up flush with the back of the frame.

I painted the struts and backs with Prussian Blue acrylic and Polyvine dead flat varnish. The hinges are attached with 10mm screws. As the hinges open up to 90 degrees I needed to attach some ribbon to act as a ‘stop’. I used 10mm grosgrain navy ribbon and folded over the ends and glued with Evacon-R to make sure the ribbon wouldn’t fray and would be strong enough when screwed in place. The backs are held in place with black turn-buttons.

As with a lot of new projects , it is the problem solving that can take up your time. Once I started this job it didn’t take too long to complete and I will certainly make these strut backs again. I only make hand finished frames and it seems right that the strut backs should also be hand finished.

I’ll see what my customer thinks of them tomorrow :D
Backs.jpg (780.04 KiB) Viewed 4084 times
Hinges.jpg (490.66 KiB) Viewed 4084 times
Strut-Backs.jpg (824.76 KiB) Viewed 4084 times
Ribbon.jpg (538.13 KiB) Viewed 4084 times
Finished.jpg (707.09 KiB) Viewed 4084 times

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Tue 28 Aug, 2018 1:40 pm
by Steve N
Very nice David, really look the business, are you taking orders for them :clap:

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Tue 28 Aug, 2018 3:27 pm
by prospero
Very NIce. :D

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Tue 28 Aug, 2018 5:12 pm
by vintage frames

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Tue 28 Aug, 2018 5:14 pm
by poliopete
Very nice work David :clap:

Thanks for posting the pictures and method.


Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Tue 28 Aug, 2018 6:34 pm
by YPF
Brilliant stuff!

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Tue 28 Aug, 2018 6:53 pm
by Not your average framer
Very classy work. I also thought that the choice of prussian blue for the finished colour was inspired _ so classy! I noticed that you also use the polyvine dead flat varnish. I've been using this myself for a few years now and it really does look amazing.

I must admit that I never even considered using pine PAR for the strut, but it looks perfect and as a finished item looks faultless. Very reminescent of the quality that belongs to a bygone era.

I'm really impressed - well thought out and superbly executed. :clap: :clap: :clap:

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Wed 29 Aug, 2018 12:04 am
by +Rafe+
Very sharp! Thanks for sharing.

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Wed 29 Aug, 2018 3:55 pm
by David McCormack
Thanks for all your comments, particularly from Mark as I know you are in the process of making your own handmade strut backs.

Delivered them to the customer today and they were very happy :D

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Wed 29 Aug, 2018 9:10 pm
by Not your average framer
Hi David,

I'm just wondering what you think about the potential for further sales for quality strut backs. I'm thinking about producing some top quality hardwood ready made frames with box jointed corners. I would need to produce my strut backs to a lower specification than your own and they would be jigged and the back and the strut cut on a table saw.

The quality of what we can buy from normal distributors has been gradually coming down to whatever quality equates to the lowest price, which I think is nuts because the difference between what framers can produce is not of sufficiently discernibly better quality that the cheap imported stuff sold by shops which have nothing to do with picture framing whatsoever.

As time goes on, I always looking to produce items that are perceived as being superior quality to appeal to those who are looking for something special and are willing to pay the extra to get it. I imagine that your strut backs took a fair bit of time to produce and wondered if these are just specials for own customer, or are these intended to be something that you will also produce as stock items as well?

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Thu 30 Aug, 2018 4:25 pm
by David McCormack
These two frames were a one off bespoke job for a regular customer who is always willing to pay for quality handmade products. They were supplied complete with the photos mounted and framed by me i.e. not just sold as an empty photo frame.

I don't get asked for free standing frames that often and have in the past just used pre-made mdf strut backs, but never liked them at all. When asked for free standing frames by this particular customer, I knew I could have a go at designing and making a handmade strut back and that they would pay for a hand crafted product. They did take some time to make but they will be much quicker to repeat in the future, now I know how to make them. If asked by any other customers, I can now say my strut backs are hand finished, just like my frames.

But I don't stock finished fames so I won't be stocking any finished strut back frames. I'm only a small home-based business and just frame to order. I guess the thing about stocking photo frames is that people buy the frame and take it home to put their own photos in and the strut needs to be designed to stand as an upright or landscape, which my struts are not!

So the truth is I'm not sure what the potential is for quality strut backs on ready made frames, albeit quality ready mades with beautiful boxed jointed corners like the ones you're talking about. As part of a bespoke job yes, but for ready made photo frames I guess it depends on your location, type of customers and what sort of shop you have. But if you think you can sell quality ready made frames then they deserve to have quality strut backs!

You should make a couple of really nice samples and see what sort of feedback you get from your customers?

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Thu 30 Aug, 2018 7:40 pm
by Not your average framer
I was not particularly expected much to terms of volume sales, but I like to put a reasonable amount of items on display which will be instantly recognised as a cut about the rest and it is my experience that there are those who are used to paying a bit more for something that they really like. There are a lot of second homes around here and for those second home owners who also live in central London are quite often used to paying central London up market prices and don't think twice about paying up market prices. It's just a question of waiting for the right customer to come along.

Offering nice items for sale can create a bit of kudos for your business and there are always those occasions when a customer is looking for something special for a special occasion. I do sometime agonise over pricing, but there is a need to make sure that you are not tempted to be too cheap. My answer to this is that nice things hardly ever are being offered at discount prices, so I try to keep my nerve charge what I think is a proper price.

Somewhere I've got an old Punch cartoon of a couple on honnymoon where the groom is painting and the bride is suggesting that if he halved the prices that he charged for his paintings that he would sell twice as many. We think that we live in an age where it's apparently all about competitive prices, but I'm not really sure that is true. Top quality items are really hard to come by these days, I don't see why it shouldn't be me who sells the quality items, at least that's what I try to do. Generally, I reckon that everything sells eventually, but sometimes it takes a little patience,

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Fri 07 Sep, 2018 7:07 pm
by Not your average framer
I'm preparing to upgrade to a better router when I get the chance and this will leave me with two quarter inch collect size routers surplus to requirements, so I'm thinking about making a jig with both routers permanently mounted into the jig to cut the profile and add a small 45 degree mitre onto both the struts and the backs.

The plan is too feed the strut back materials in their own jigs through a accurately made tunnel with the router and dust extraction located in the middle of the tunnel, as a result the air flow is being drawn by the extracion system from both the entry end of the tunnel and the exit end and should not allow any significant level of dust to escape at all.

If this works to plan, I will be looking to make these strut backs from 12mm MDF. Previously, I was planning to avoid machining MDF due to the hazards from MDF dust, but I'm thinking that this should solve this issue.

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Fri 07 Sep, 2018 8:11 pm
by vintage frames
I was just wondering, Mark, if you thought of using say F7 R&H flat fillets instead of 12mm MDF. F7 is 9mm thick and a quite wide 74mm obeche. I say this because such thick MDF will quickly wear down your router bits. And if you foresee any sort of production quantities, then the cost of new cutters could soon mount up.
If you wanted a wide strut back, you could glue two or three fillets side by side on a bed of 2mm MDF.

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Sat 08 Sep, 2018 9:50 am
by Not your average framer
I had no idea that MDF would be a problem with the router bits, I just thought it would save money to use MDF, obviously the wrong move! Most of my router bits I got from cheap sets and they are not tungston carbide, so I guess it will wreck the bits. Thanks for pointing this out.

I'm thinking about perhaps mounting the R & H F7 onto some 2.25mm solid kraft board that I already stock, it very dense, stiff, cuts very cleanly and I think it's as stiff as the 2mm MDF, plus I always have plenty of kraft board off cuts. Thanks for your suggestion.


Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Sat 08 Sep, 2018 1:20 pm
by Not your average framer
I'm still trying to come up with a less labour intensive way of doing this. I can get MDF cut to size at my local hardware shop without excessive cost, so I can get the back cut to size by them and clean up the edges with a normal wood plane. The hardware shop will probably cut the struts to size if I can supply a template and I can also clean up the edges again with a plane.

Realistically, I don't want to commit too much time to making these as it will be counter productive if I have to charge too much and the cost is above what my customers will pay. MDF is probably the cheapest option and very easy to clean up with a nice sharp plane, followed with a blow over with a suitable spray can and then the Polyvine dead matt varnish.

I already have some clips and bars, so I will use those and screw them onto the MDF and I already stock 10mm brass plated pan head screws, so 12mm MDF will be the easy option as the hardware shop already stocks this. Sounds like I may have a plan!

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Mon 10 Jun, 2019 4:55 pm
by Not your average framer
I have been making a few things recently, which are made from !2mm MDF and since my stroke, it's been a lot easier to let the local hardware shop supply the MDF cut to size. Their charges for the MDF cut to size, have not cost as much as I was expecting and maybe 10mm screws into MDF for the hinges might be solid enough for strut backs. I think I would have try it to be sure. I have a belt sander which would remove any saw marks from the edges, so maybe...

The other thought would be 12mm Plywood, which I had earlier dismissed on price, but it is starting to make more sense as I think about it. My band saw only has a 6mm wide blade, but I did buy a 10mm wide blade for this, which probably will cut plywood more accurately than the 6mm wide blade, which does not much like producing controllable straight cuts in Plywood. My existing band saw could do with some roller bearing guides, but being a budget model it does not have them. It cuts just fine in normal wood, but does no much like plywood. Again, the board edges could be finished to a high standard on my bench mounted belt sander, with minimal effort.

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Fri 19 Jul, 2019 9:46 am
by Not your average framer
I am finally intending to make up a few hand made strut backs as part of bits and pieces to populate the shop windows in my new shop. They are not going to be overly cheap, there will two types, a 12mm plywood version (best quality) and a 12mm MDF version (lower cost version).

I have a reasonably large quantity of clips and bars, so this will be what I will be starting off with. I don't know whether these will still be available, when they are all used up, so I may be using hinges after this.

The top of the strut will extend beyond the hinging point to limit the outward travel and there no connecting ribbon will be required to prevent the strut back opening too far. I don't suppose I would be doing this at all, without David's original inspiration in starting this thread.

So thank you very much David for inspiring me!

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Fri 19 Jul, 2019 10:24 am
by cleaver
Superb :clap:

Beautifully illustrates what customers can enjoy if they care about quality.

Re: Hand finished strut backs

Posted: Fri 19 Jul, 2019 10:44 am
by Not your average framer
Hi Paul.

Have you had a good look at this thread? It's well worth checking it out. You can't buy decent strut backs anymore, so it is now making sense to make your own. I'm making some jigs to enable me to make then with minimum effort and time involved. It will take my a little time before I've got everything sorted by it will be worth the effort.