Vintage Frame Architecture

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VEA
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed 06 Jan, 2021 4:25 pm
Location: Harwood, MD, USA
Organisation: Vintage Eclectic Arts
Interests: Conserve and restore and sell vintage frames and art

Vintage Frame Architecture

Post by VEA » Wed 06 Jan, 2021 6:01 pm

VEA acquired a vintage copy of Hal's "Baffoon Playing a Lute". An analysis of the stretcher, canvas, and stretcher tacks suggest it my have been painted between 1881 and 1900.

The heavy pine frame was warped about 2 inches and three of the mitered corners are separated, with an uneven gap between the the butted sides.

The construction includes only one peg and glue in the mitered corners with planks of pine glued and nailed to the back on all sides, pictures provided.
As soon as we removed the backing planks, the warp disappeared, suggesting the stress between the backing planks and frame was causing the warpage. Because the corners had only a single peg and glue holding them in position, I suspect the backing boards were part of the original frame installation. The nails holding the pine backing plates to the frame are of a later vintage than the tacks in the stretcher, suggesting the frame might have been from a later date than the stretcher.

I plan to separate the frame and shave the mitered corners such that the gaps close, replace the pegs, glue the corner joints, and glue the backing planks back in place just like I found it - but before I do that, I have a couple of questions.

Are the backing plates a common construction method in some areas of the world (USA)? Would the original frame have been fabricated with only one peg and glue in the corners, if there were no backing plates? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Attachments
Frame Corner Misallignment 2.jpg
Frame Backing Plank Construction.jpg
Frame Back.jpg
Corner Peg 2.jpg
VEA (Vintage Eclectic Arts)
Acquiring, Conserving or Refurbishing, and Reselling Vintage Art
at VintageEclecticArts.com and ETSY.com

Not your average framer
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Re: Vintage Frame Architecture

Post by Not your average framer » Thu 07 Jan, 2021 11:03 am

What is going to prevent the frame from warping, or distorting again in the future? Repeating exactly the same contruction when repairing the same frame might not be improving the situation in the longer term. I would suggest that this is an appropriate opportunity to add some necessary reinforcement at the rear of the frame to offset any remaining tendancy for the pine to warp again. Pine is a resinous wood and as a result does have a natural characteristic of warping, twistiing, or spliting over time.

It is often common to stack and glue different pieces of pine together, so that the tendancies to warp in the different pieces of pine, will oppose each other and reduce the potential for warping. It may be a possibilty to reinforce the rear of the frame with a sub frame, or something similar to counteract this possibility, while not making this reinforcing frame un-necessarily visible when the frame is hanging on a wall. I would recommend that this extra frame section is both glued and pinned in place, as the force exerted by the warping effect is quite considerable and well able to pull on the pins alone and seperate the two frames, rending the added reinforcement in-effective.

I also note your intention to trim the faces of the corner mitre joins, on the original frame and can see the sense in wanting to do this. However, this will slightly reduce the size of the frame and may be leave enough space inside the frame for the original painting, which I am guessing may be an oil on canvas with stretcher bars. So if you are going to trim the faces of the mitres, I would also suggest that you enlarge the rebates inside the frame to compensate for the reduction of the internal size within the frame, to allow for the necessary space for some degree of possible expansion or future adjustment of the stretcher bars and wedges, without creating any possible stresses to occur between the stretcher bars and the frame.

It would probably be possible to cover and additional reinforcing frame at the rear with brown gummed paper tape to hide the fact that anything new had been added to the original frame. I'm not particularly thinking that the nails visible at the corners of the frame represent the best standard of workmanship, so my personal preference would be to do something to improve this. If you are not used to routing out the rebates to allow a little extra space, this is probably not something to do with a hand held router, but would be best carried out using a router table and perhaps best to practice of a few scraps, until you have mastered how to do this.

I hope that you will find some of this helpful,
Mark
Mark Lacey

“Life is short. Art long. Opportunity is fleeting. Experience treacherous. Judgement difficult.”
― Geoffrey Chaucer

vintage frames
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Re: Vintage Frame Architecture

Post by vintage frames » Thu 07 Jan, 2021 12:03 pm

I think the backing planks were more to do with supporting the artwork than for any method of securing the mitres. Pine does tend to shrink over time and this has caused the mitres to open under the strain.

A pine frame of this sort would normally have been glued closed first, then cross nailed to add further strength or as you indicated, some sort of peg.
Other forms of reinforcement would have been a tapered key or a small flat wooden plate glued across the mitres.

I'd do exactly as you'd suggested, open up the frame, clean up the mitres and band-clamp/re-glue with a good quality wood glue like Titebond 3. Then you can replace the peg if applicable, or drive in a well countersunk screw ( use a slot head so someone can later remove it ).

If you do go as far as shaving the mitres, then you would need to run a router along the rebates so as to increase their size - as NYAF pointed out.

As to putting back the backing planks, I would secure them only to the frame sides with slot head screws and not fixed across any of the mitres.
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Not your average framer
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Re: Vintage Frame Architecture

Post by Not your average framer » Tue 12 Jan, 2021 5:54 pm

Over the years, I have repaired a fair number of damaged, warped and distorted framed. Not all customers have much appreciation of the difficulties in carrying out a reliable and lasting repair and often just want a quick bodged job for a minimum price, which is very risky in terms of my own reputation, but on the other hand, not everything is always fixable without almost remaking the frame. So it's often a bigger and less straight forward problem to probuce the prefect repair. It's a sad fact that all to often I can end up having to build out the rear face of the frame to straighten, or perhaps straighten to a limited extent, the warped remains of the original frame. When it is a matter of one straight piece of wood is attached to another less than straight piece of wood it's going to be a balance of tensions between two pieces of wood and the resulting straightening effect may be a little less the a 100% improvement in straightness.

So what are you expecting? If the trim the mitred corners to just get a clean and gap free joint at each corner, it will almost certainly be just a warped frame, but without the gaps in the corners. It is very difficult to do this, but we need to make the four sides as flat and straight as much as possible, before attempting to re-trim the faces of the mitred joints. Is it going to be perfect? Probably not! However, if we machine all the surfaces of the original moulding to get a prefect result, there is not much that remains that will look like it is an original frame as pertains to the original artwork. Unfortunately, this probably implies that not all jobs purchased to be handled in this way are going to involve the same degree of expenditure to process them up to the degree required before they will be ready for sale and in the condition that you desire. Putting it bluntly, determining the potential for profit, beforehand is not going to be all that easy.

I'm not suggesting that as a business idea, that it lacks any potential, but that you need to develop you frame restoration methods to such a state that you can restore such frames in a reasonable well controlled time scale and at a well understood costing to be able to do this. Also you throughput of items and the rate of sales of such items, will need to be adequate to maintain enough cash flow for the needs of yourself and the running costs of your business. Generally, it is often an advantage to have access to repair materials that will look in keeping with old frames and also at an advantageous purchasing price. Maybe this could be locally obtained materials, recycled from previously produced items. I already do a bit of this myself, but it's a bit of a hit, or miss process as you can not always be sure what is likely to come your way. In these current unpredictable times, something like this, which is quite a bit different and something of a niche market, might do surprisingly well, you don't mind a bit of a learning curve.
Mark Lacey

“Life is short. Art long. Opportunity is fleeting. Experience treacherous. Judgement difficult.”
― Geoffrey Chaucer

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