Back to basics

Conservation Issues

Back to basics

Postby John » Sun Jun 22, 2008 8:15 am

Conservation framing is a fascinating topic.

However, I think that the forum does a disservice to the trade, specially those just starting out, when we harp on about it so unrelentingly that anyone applying lower standards can easily feel that they are a bit of a failure. It also discourages both new membership, and existing members from posting for fear of incurring the wrath of the 'Conservation Gendarmerie'.

In reality, the overwhelming majority of framers frame to nowhere near the standards that some here would derisively laugh at.

I know of one recent start-up that probably will not survive partly because the business, by obsessively and uncompromisingly applying standards of some of the forum's uber-framers, is not really serving the needs of its own community.

I would like to share with the forum two images from my life that help to keep me grounded when considering conservation issues: -

upstairs.jpg
Bathroom
upstairs.jpg (172.65 KiB) Viewed 7322 times
The pictures above have been hanging in our bathroom for about 20 years. They both have hardboard backs, with no barrier between print and back, in fact the image on the right has been dry-mounted to the shiny side of the hardboard.



Downstairs.jpg
Shower Room w/c
Downstairs.jpg (92.7 KiB) Viewed 7319 times
This picture in the shower room has been subjected to two or three showers a day, summer and winter, for about twenty years. The print is dry-mounted directly to the MDF back.
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Re: Back to basics

Postby kev@frames » Sun Jun 22, 2008 5:51 pm

well posted.

maybe some people who consider themselves up to "conservation" or "museum" framing would like to take a shot at getting a job working in a museum?

There are no end of "experts" out there who have been in the business two minutes, and actually know bugger-all about running a frame shop (eg a picture framing business, that relies SOLEY on its framing, that isn't subsidised by a part time or day job, a pension, or a spouse with another income... or virtual part timers who blissfully ignore or avoid, working hours directives, VAT, business rates, taking on staff, waste transfer licenses, recycling charges, planning permission etc).

Conservation is a good subject in its own right. But it does not suit every business model. My own business focusses on framing first. Thats what I do. Im a framer. I can "do" conservation just the same as anyone, and i've probably been doing it longer than an awful lot of "experts". But I can do any type of framing. I wouldn't be a "framer" if I couldn't.

so-called conservation framing is nothing new. its a shame some people have not been round long enough to realise that the current trend for conservation framing which has come round again can be used as a marketing tool, and an opportunity to up-sell to customers, but instead they choose to take it on as a way of life, and put their businesses second.

You are in business, profit is first.

For shop counter customers we are "an acid free zone", and we are fortunate in being able to upsell tru-vue (98% protection) glass to many. But for a lot of shop customers, they just want a fashionable decorative item on their wall for a couple of years, then it'll be in the skip.

we are also in the lowest-wages, highest cost of living area in the UK outside of central london, and I would rather my customers had someting on their wall to enjoy for 10 or 20 years.

but what do i know? : 15 years 6 days a week 10 hours a day = 46,800 hours making frames.

Rather than judging how good a framer is by what they post about conservation which they have read elsewhere (it must all be true, its on the internet), perhaps it'd be better for business to focus on what your customers want, not what you think they should have.

conservation frenzy was a good excuse for us to "raise our game" a couple of years back. (raise prices). But im honest enough to admit it was a business decison, not a desire to preserve every piece of paper cr*p produced between now and the day the cockroaches take over the planet.
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Re: Back to basics

Postby osgood » Sun Jun 22, 2008 8:52 pm

I guess if someone gets a lot of cheap crap prints into their framing business then using preservation materials and method would hardly ever be necessary.

Cheap prints are very rarely ever seen in my business. Probably four or five a year!

I just don't understand the concept that some of you guys keep pushing that there are "conservation framers" who do nothing but conservation framing! I don't know the ins and outs of business in the UK, but I would be extremely surprised to hear that any framing business down here fitted that description. "Museum framers" must be a UK thing. I am not familiar with that term at all. I do know that Tru Vue call their AR/UV glass "Museum Glass". Just a fancy name for a product!

I think some of you guys are interpreting the promotion of using preservation materials and methods, where applicable, to mean that they should be being used on everything. I think you have a phobia about it and are prepared to make generalised statements that are sometimes quite illogical.

To state that "Conservation is a good subject in its own right. But it does not suit every business model." seems to me to be quite irresponsible in promoting the idea that it is OK for framers to treat customers property on a low level because of a chosen business model? What about respect for people's valuable property?
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Re: Back to basics

Postby osgood » Sun Jun 22, 2008 8:55 pm

Oh yeah, I forgot to say I'm in business, but profit does not always come first!
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Re: Back to basics

Postby Roboframer » Sun Jun 22, 2008 10:36 pm

John wrote:I know of one recent start-up that probably will not survive partly because the business, by obsessively and uncompromisingly applying standards of some of the forum's uber-framers, is not really serving the needs of its own community..


I read this this morning and I felt absolutely crucified - I jumped in my car and drove 30 miles to a favourite 'quiet place'.

The business/person must be the one I am thinking of and I must be one of those 'uber framers' - I don't know what to say, but if I say anything more than I do in this post, it won't be here, it'd be off topic - nothing to do with conservation.

Then I read Kev's post and saw, in parts, myself described again - sure my shop is not just framing - but it's (pretty much) all I do in it - and I've put the hours in similar - maybe more/maybe less and maybe if less then more stressful, or not - who cares? Not the wallet dipper that's for sure - can't judge the quality of a business by time.

Sure I've read stuff elsewhere, but I've tried and/or used it too - I would never try and give advice on methods or materials that I have no practical experience with, and as for business advice - forget it, I'm not your man - I discouarge deposits or full payment up front - both those have to be at customers' insistence. I know that's bad advice - or should I say would be; I've never given it as advice and anyone reading it should realise I'm pretty fortunate to pull it off, therefore, maybe, anything else that works for me, maybe won't work for them, and the same is true vice versa.

We are all unique, in our skills, our locations, our ambitions etc etc, but we can take from each others' experiences and practices, we can adapt them to our own uses or we can dismiss them as foolish/impracticable

Getting to where I am, wherever that may be, was painful and at times it still is - I sincerely hope that I have not influenced anyone to do things exactly as I do now - because what I do now has evolved by demand to my location and how we are percieved within it.

Aaaaanyway - to be continued - if continued at all - in members only.
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Re: Back to basics

Postby John » Mon Jun 23, 2008 7:24 am

One of my reasons for starting this thread was to demonstrate that MDF is a perfectly acceptable backing material. Not for every job, but OK for 90% of the work that I (and probably most framers) do.

If a print can survive 20 years in my bathroom, bonded to a piece of MDF, and looking like it could go for another 20, then its destructive qualities, which I don't deny, are too slow-acting to cause me any great concern. And on this evidence, a limited edition print separated from the MDF with an acid-free barrier board is probably going to be good for at least a hundred years.

osgood wrote:Cheap prints are very rarely ever seen in my business. Probably four or five a year!
Whereas they are my bread and butter. Maybe you should consider including that line in your forum signature Ormond.:)

Often when wiping the condensation from the bathroom mirror after my morning shower, I see the reflection of that elegant Klimt image and wonder if today is the day that some damn fool know-it-all reports me to the 'conservation police' for the "crime" of using MDF.

Now that I've come out as an MDF user, I feel liberated and proud to say, yes, MDF has a place in my workshop!
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Re: Back to basics

Postby osgood » Mon Jun 23, 2008 8:21 am

John,
I guess we both live in free countries where we are all able to do as we please!
If you think MDF is acceptable, then you don't have to ask anyone's permission to keep using it. I have the opposite opinion to you, as do the majority of framers who keep up to date with the suitability of materials used in framing.

Your demonstration would not convince me to use MDF, even if I could see your framed prints in person!

I certainly have no understanding why framers continue to use such a products when there are plenty of better products available these days and at costs which are reasonable.

From what I've seen with prints mounted to MDF, I wouldn't want to use it even on a throw away item. Standard foamboard will have less detrimental effects than MDF. If cheap prints were my bread and butter, MDF still wouldn't be an option for me. I'm pretty sure that there are not a huge number of cheap prints getting framed in this area.

The prints you have in your bathroom might still look reasonable, but if they don't have a nice shade of acidic brown permeating the coloured surface, then I can only surmise that the MDF that's available up there is totally different to the MDF in Australia.

It's really hard to understand that you are so advanced with technology/computer software, etc, but still using something as 'old hat' as MDF. I just don't get that!

If this 'coming out' liberates you, I am happy for you! I hope that some time in the future you might be liberated enough to at least look at the other options that are available and give them some serious consideration.

In the meantime I will just continue using the best materials and methods that my customers will allow and I will continue to encourage other framers to sneak a little peek into the year 2008 and check out what advancements there are, that might be of benefit to them and their customers.
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Re: Back to basics

Postby Spit » Mon Jun 23, 2008 10:18 am

In the meantime I will just continue using the best materials and methods that my customers will allow


Well if you're lucky enough to live in an affluent area where the majority of customers appreciate quality, you can do that. Most of us aren't that fortunate - Here, in my area, the customer just wants something that looks nice on the wall, for as little as possible. You gets what you pay for, and they know that. Half the time the reason they come to you is that Ikea don't stock a frame in the size they want.

I certainly have no understanding why framers continue to use such a products when there are plenty of better products available these days and at costs which are reasonable.


They may seem reasonable, but again, if the customers in your area decided to go elsewhere rather than pay the extra few quid per frame what then? Do you bear the extra costs yourself? Do you say goodbye to the customer, glad to be rid of such a cheapskate? I wish I could afford to do that.

I've tried to have a better quality material/technique baseline than my competitors. The only area where this is working is x-stitch & tapestries, where people seem to appreciate not using tapes or staples, but having said that most of them still try to save money by trying to select cheaper mouldings with too shallow a rebate. With ordinary stuff, posters, photos, prints, a lot of customers think I'm too expensive - yet on our price comparison topic some time ago, I'm one of the cheapest on the forum!

I'm now at the stage where I have to decide if I am going to have a two-tier strategy, lowering my baseline with budget materials for those who insist on cheap, and my usual quality for those that appreciate it. It's that or give up - and I'm not going to do that. If it comes to Pride Vs Profit, profit has to win.
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Re: Back to basics

Postby John » Mon Jun 23, 2008 10:24 am

osgood wrote:...at least look at the other options that are available and give them some serious consideration.
Now, now, Ormond, that's just naughty, when it is plain to see that that is exactly what I have done. Your disagreement is with the conclusion that I have reached regarding how a particular, narrowly defined, object should be framed. You seem to imply that the reason that I do not agree with you is due to a deficiency of 'serious consideration'. Thats OK, that's not patronising in the least?

Do you think that someone who has framed a particular object "Probably four or five times a year", can speak with the same authority on that subject as someone who has framed thousands in their framing career?

I have the greatest respect for your expertise Ormond, and I can understand that it must be extremely difficult for you to give up a long held belief (or even concede a tiny point), but you do seem to be a tad dismissive of the views of someone who has been round the block a few times, and whom you seem to regard as being "so advanced with technology" and all.

The last thing I would want is to misinform my fellow framers, I'm just passing on what I can from my experience and observations. By all means, take it or leave it. But please do not think that I do this lightly, or without a considerable amount of deliberation.
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Re: Back to basics

Postby osgood » Mon Jun 23, 2008 11:36 am

John,
My intention is not to be dismissive or patronising in any way! If that's how you read my post, you are reading it absolutely incorrectly.

I have based my belief on personal experience with damaged artwork and the fact that MDF contains large amounts of lignin and the capacity to produce acid. If anyone can provide proof that this fact is untrue, I will give up my belief!
I don't think I will hold my breath! :wink:

I'm now quite sure that some people here have no idea what my statement: "I will just continue using the best materials and methods that my customers will allow", really means.

I think I'm done with this topic.
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Re: Back to basics

Postby John » Mon Jun 23, 2008 12:06 pm

osgood wrote:MDF contains large amounts of lignin and the capacity to produce acid. If anyone can provide proof that this fact is untrue...
Now you are being silly again, Ormond. If anyone could prove that I'd eat my hat, then fly to Australia and eat yours as well! :)

My point is that the damaging effects of MDF are not nearly as bad as many framers are led to believe.

And if anyone needs proof of that, they only need look here.

I noticed that you said that you are finished with this topic, could I, with respect, ask one question? Given the way that they are framed, and where they have been hung, would you have predicted that my prints would have looked as they do after 20 years?
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Re: Back to basics

Postby osgood » Mon Jun 23, 2008 12:30 pm

John,

Silliness is something I'm good at!

I'm not too sure that looking at photos of framed prints on my computer screen is the best way to evaluate this and certainly wouldn't be able to provide concrete proof that MDF causes no damage!

In my experience 100% of prints bonded to MDF, that have come into my shop have been damaged. I can't tell you exactly how many but more than a hundred! Many of those were dramatically damaged after only a few years. Your experience with your prints cannot undo the damage I've seen!

I can't answer your last question because I can't see what their condition is! I would however be stunned if there was no damage showing! If that is the case, I have no idea how it's possible, because, as I've said 100% of the prints bonded to MDF, that I have seen have been damaged by acid! Perhaps Irish MDF contains anti-acid or something??? :wink:
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Re: Back to basics

Postby John » Mon Jun 23, 2008 12:34 pm

Good honest reply Ormond, I appreciate it.
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Re: Back to basics

Postby prospero » Mon Jun 23, 2008 7:11 pm

Back on the old MDF debate. :D

I think it is true to say that all MDF is not created equal. The stuff I use is smooth and shiny, but I have seen some that is quite coarse and, for want of a better word - sweaty. I wouldn't use this sort.
IMHO the protection offered by the density of 'good' MDF outweighs any of it's possible shortcomings. And I do take steps to isolate it from the artwork.

Consider this: MDF may (or may not) damage paper over a period of time. But it only takes an instant for some clumsy person to prop up a picture against a sharp object (edge of a chair, another frame...?) and if the picture has a corricore or foamcore back there is a severe risk of a dent in the artwork within. Not so with MDF.

Get a piece of MDF and jab it with a screwdriver. Then try the same with corricore. I think the result would be conclusive. You wouldn't need a screwdriver with foamcore, you could push your finger though it. :?

Remember, not all pictures lead a charmed life hanging undisturbed on someone's wall. Thet get moved around and subjected to all kinds of abuse. :o
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Re: Back to basics

Postby kev@frames » Mon Jun 23, 2008 9:09 pm

Then I read Kev's post and saw, in parts, myself described again - sure my shop is not just framing - but it's (pretty much) all I do in it - and I've put the hours in similar - maybe more/maybe less and maybe if less then more stressful, or not - who cares? Not the wallet dipper that's for sure - can't judge the quality of a business by time Roboframer (John)

No, absolutely I was not meaning your business. Its obvious what effort has gone into it. And I'd hazard a guess that the framing side of it would stand up as a good viable business in its own right.

Perhaps I have kept my own "credentials" regarding "conservation" under my hat. When we started in business we were very much specialists in antique and veteran prints, valuable posters, ephemera and antique maps. It was a matter of necessity to learn as much as possible (from curators, restorers and conservators - there was no internet then) about the correct materials and techniques. I was probably framing, as routine, to "conservation standards" on a daily basis long before many people started in this business. Although I worked on rufty-tufty oil rigs, i had more than a pssing interest in historical printing techniques, which covered papers in all their forms, inks, preservation and conservation. I had to learn this stuff the hard way, the old school way. Now its apiece of cake, I can happily forget everything i ever knew, and refresh myself on google if required. This pre-dated my framing career, in fact it was what led me into framing in a round about way.

So I'm not one of those who started framing, then heard about conservation later. I have, and I DO frame to museum standard, for museums, as well as a lot of other types of framing. In fact we have framed to hang in the Tate, Royal Acedamy, etc.

Its not the number of hours, its the number of frames.

If someone admits they only get four "cheap crap prints" a year, then I'll happily admit on a saturday morning before the kettle has boiled we will have had four "cheap crap prints" over the counter, along with a load of other "not so crap" items to frame. I've proably framed thousands of "cheap crap" prints (not my words). We used to turn out around 15,000 frames a year, a lot of which went to the US and Germany where framing standards are high. I used to train young people for a government sponsored agency, some of whomare still in the framing industry today.

What may surprise people is that we started framing entirely based on USA framing methods, in which consideration to materials and conservation had a far higher priority than the UK at the time, and one lad I trained went off to run a framers on nantuckett island at the age of 21, he came back with every reference work on framing and conservation available, as well as a vision of the future - he'd driven their Wizard CMC.

Fifteen years on, im very happy framing what some would call "cheap crap prints" if thats what my valued customers bring in to me.

When I do conservation framing, I know why im doing it. I dont need "educate" my customers, and I wont insult them by turning them away if they cant afford the best materials/mouldings etc.

Maybe there is a niche market down under for "cheap crap print framing" that no-one has exploited yet ;)

I'm certainly glad to have my existing slice of that market here, even if others turn their noses up at it.

Conservation is no big deal, unless you dont know why you are doing it, or what its for. Then you have a problem. Thats probably when people resort to a scattergun approach and frame everything -regardless of what it is or what the customer wants- to their own idea of "conservation" standards.

and as prospero says, mdf is not all created equal, well said. we still use it where appropriate.
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Re: Back to basics

Postby Roboframer » Mon Jun 23, 2008 10:15 pm

I get cheap prints and posters all the time - only reason they're brought to me is that they are non-standard sizes - also, of course, I'll get the same cheap prints and an out-of-proportion Ikea etc frame.

The mount that fills the negative space will be artcare - it's my default, the only non-artcare boards I use are Arqadia suedettes and now and again I'll cancel the artcare protection out by fabric wrapping or by putting a fillip next to the artwork.

Customer can just have me cut the mount and stick the print in with sellotape, or I'll mount it for him/her, seal it all up and fit hardware.

The undermount will be artcare and I'll add a fitting charge, 9/10 that will all total more than what they paid for the frame and sometimes the print put together.

Or it may be already drymounted to something, in which case I'll just make it flush and bung their MDF backing board back in.

I don't conservation frame - to anyone's standards, anything & everything - if I did I'd have to have UV filtering glass as a default (and I've toyed with that idea too - make it scratchproof and maybe we can talk!)

I used to use MDF - with a 'barrier'/undermount then came the big chemical scare - which I don't think is much of an issue unless you are manufacturing the stuff, and corricor and all its spin-offs came on the market.

This suited me - I never had a maxi slasher then - I could cut corricor on my mount cutter, and even now I do have a maxi slasher I couldn't be arsed to change cutting heads/counterbalance to cope with MDF even if I did like it.

Why is artcare mount and artcare foamboard my default? Well, a long time ago we did some sums, pitted some suppliers against each other - mouldings, etc, not just mount/backing board - and gained discounts/further discounts that meant if we passed SOME of them on, we would break even on the upgrade. (Plus I lke the range and am getting it for a damn good price)

It simplifies stock.

It simplifies pricing.

99% of customers get it in total ignorance.

In addition to that, it was/is less labour - my default backing needs no barrier. For a full conservation job I'd have a 4 ply artcare undermount AND artcare foamboard.

I see differences of up to 40% - like for like in mouldings from different suppliers and I'm talking the exact same mouldings; not rip-offs - and the cost per foot of the moulding is usually what most framers' prices are based on - yes?

With savings like that you can keep your prices the same whilst upgrading to better frame contents with no price rise and still make more profit.

If you do not do all of this you are a very very bad person and you probably smell funny as well.

Where/who are all these framers claiming to frame everything to conservation standards?
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Re: Back to basics

Postby Roboframer » Tue Jun 24, 2008 12:10 am

John, your prints drymounted to MDF - 20 years down the line and still fine (bar some fading do you think? - I mean the bench and the trees are all blue from the look of that shot)

Well that's fine - but what I read in your post is what I hear from customers every day - their evidence that my advice is bollocks.

"I've never had glass on tapestries and they're fine"

"All my stuff is against the glass ...... and it's fine"

Justifying methods can be read as educating, if a customer was blissfully unaware and now is aware, well, they've learned something. That's edumacation innit?

But anyway - like I said - what works for any one of us is what works for any one of us - and we all have different markets, and standards we won't go below, or can't raise. Or won't maybe, out of fear and/or incapability to start from the top, or somewhere up there and sell down - screw it, start at the bottom line? (Note the question mark - please)

I don't know, I just know what works for me - hope I've never implied it should work for all/anyone; hope all I've ever done is given people ideas based on my experience - limited as it may be compared to some; concentrated as it may be compared to others.

I've reached a 'what's the point?' stage and will sleep better for it.
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Re: Back to basics

Postby John » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:55 am

Roboframer wrote:John, .... what I read in your post is what I hear from customers every day - their evidence that my advice is bollocks.

I'm saying that, in my experience, the destructive properties of MDF are slow acting enough to make it a perfectly suitable backing material for purely decorative prints.

If your advice is to deny that my observations are correct, then your observation is quite correct, otherwise it it is incorrect. :)
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Re: Back to basics

Postby WelshFramer » Tue Jun 24, 2008 9:13 am

John wrote:I'm saying that, in my experience, the destructive properties of MDF are slow acting enough to make it a perfectly suitable backing material for purely decorative prints.


I have a couple of prints that are mounted onto MDF. They been that way for nearly 30 years and are fine. I didn't do the mounting so I can't comment on the method used but I suspect they were dry mounted. They been covered with a laminate as well.

Personally, I never use MDF even for cheap prints. It's not so much the non-conservation properties that worry me but the dust. When I did use MDF there was always a fine dust in the workshop than was very difficult to get rid of. The workshop's much cleaner now. It's the same reason that I don't allow the dogs into the workshop.
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Re: Back to basics

Postby Framer Dave » Tue Jun 24, 2008 4:48 pm

Was that print of the park bench on the right always blue, or did it once have other colours?
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