The process of finishing the framing (installing all of the materials in the frame, sealing it up, and adding hanging hardware) is called fitting. There are several techniques, depending on the type of framing and the preference of the framer. The first step in fitting is gathering all of the materials that will go into a frame and stacking them in order. The fitting materials referred to in this blog are discussed in our previous blog “Frame Joining Techniques”.

The Sandwich Fit

Tiny bits of debris often find their way into the stack of materials that go into a frame. This is a common source of frustration for framers, who have to reopen a completed framing to chase a small but obvious piece of debris.

For any framing that includes glazing, the sandwich fit is an extremely helpful technique for keeping materials clean and dust-free during fitting. It also serves as a moisture barrier for art that will hang in damp areas such as bathrooms and basements. By surrounding the framing materials with a U-channel of tape, the sandwich fit allows framers to prepare a “one-time” fit. Follow the following steps for a perfect sandwich fit;

1. Thoroughly clean the glazing on the side that will face the art. The side that will face outward will be cleaned at the very end of fitting.

2. Brush all dust and lint from the matting. Assemble the framing materials face up in this order: backing board with art attached, mats, glazing.

3. Using ¾” (1.9 cm) Magic Mending Tape, run a line of tape along the edge of the glass on one side, allowing just 1/8″ (3 mm) of the tape to rest on the surface of the glass. Be very careful to prevent bare fingers from brushing the sharp edge of the glass. Break the tape when you reach the corner.

4. Wrap the remainder of the tape around the edge of the framing materials. Secure the tape to the back of the backing board. Do not pull hard on the tape – the wrap should be close, but not tight.

5. Finish the remaining three sides in the same manner.

Filler Board

Except in small frames, such as 5″ × 7″ (12.7 × 17.8 cm), the backing board behind the art generally needs additional support so it does not buckle or bow over the years. If the art is attached to (or fully mounted to) a foam center board, this may be sufficient support, unless the frame is larger than 24″ × 30″ (61 × 76.2 cm). Otherwise, additional sheets of board, called filler board, should be added. The rabbet of the frame does not need to be filled; one sheet of filler board is usually sufficient. Matboard, mounting board, and foam center board are all suitable for filler board.

When fitting is complete, the artwork is held securely in the frame and is ready to hang on the wall. Although the work done in fitting ends up hidden inside and on the back of the frame, the quality of this work plays a big role in the structural integrity of the framing.

Sealing Wood Frames

If acids are bad for most kinds of art, won’t the acidic raw wood interior of a frame be harmful? Some professional framers and museum conservators say yes; others say no. To be on the safe side when framing very valuable artwork, do what the professionals do—seal the inner surface of the frame. There is Frame Sealing Tape (from Lineco) made especially for this purpose, or you can use long strips of Magic Mending Tape, or coat the wood with clear liquid acrylic medium and allow it to thoroughly dry.

Dust Cover Paper

Professional framers complete the fit with a dust cover, which is a sheet of paper that completely covers the back of the frame. The paper keeps dust and debris out of the framing and creates a “finished” look. Some framers use ordinary brown kraft paper, some use black kraft paper for a more sophisticated look, and some use a blue-gray conservation paper made especially for framing. DIY framers sometimes use brown paper bags or pretty wrapping paper. White glue or double-sided tape is used to adhere the paper to the back of the frame. Some framers worry about using acidic papers for a dust cover, but many consider the risk so small that they use the special conservation paper only on very valuable art.

Basic Fitting Procedure for Wood Frames

Custom Framing Wholesale suggests the following steps for Basic Fitting;

1. Thoroughly clean the glazing on the side that will face the art. (The side that will face outward will be cleaned at the very end of the fitting.)

2. Brush all dust and lint from the matting and art.

3. Assemble the framing materials face up in this order: backing board with art attached, mats, glazing. If using the sandwich fit, tape this unit together.

4. Place the frame face down on a clean work surface. Insert the framing material into the frame. Add filler board.

5. Secure the materials in the frame. Brads may be tapped into the rabbet of the frame with a small hammer, or a nail driver (or point driver) may be used. Do not press down on the framing materials. Too much pressure can cause materials to buckle over time. Rest the brads on the surface of the filler board and tap them straight into the wood, or rest the point driver on the filler board and shoot the point straight, not downward at an angle.

6. Attach a dust cover using glue or double-sided tape. Use an oversized piece of paper, and then trim the excess with a sharp blade. Sometimes amateurs staple a sheet of matboard to the back of the frame, but the edge of the matboard is visible when the framing is hung on a wall.

7. Attach the hanging hardware. This may be done in the following ways:

a. Sawtooth hanger (for small frames only): Match the center of the top rail of the frame to the center of the hanger. Attach the hanger with small nails or simply tap the hanger into the frame, depending on the style of hanger.

b. Screw eyes and wire: Measure and mark each side rail of the frame about one-fourth of the way from the top of the frame. Make a small hole with an awl. Insert a screw eye into each hole, and twist to install. If using braided wire, insert wire into one screw eye, passing several inches of wire through the eye. Wrap the end of the wire around the screw eye and pass it through the eye a second time. Wrap the excess wire neatly around the main wire to secure it. Extend the wire across the back of the frame through the screw eye twice, leaving a little but not a lot of slack in the wire. Secure the end of the wire.

c. D-rings and wire: The D-rings should be installed at an angle, tilted toward one another, to create a more natural tension for the wire. Install the wire as described in the previous step for screw eyes.

d. D-rings alone (strong support for large or heavy frames): Screw the D-rings in place. Do not attach wire to the Drings: Each ring is meant to hang over a separate hook on the wall; this gives the frame strong support and does not overstress the hardware.

8. This step is optional but recommended: Add bumper pads to the bottom corners of the frame; They cushion the wall from marks made by the frame, allow air circulation behind the frame, and hold the frame straight on the wall, compensating for the bump created by the hanging hardware.

9. Clean the face of the glazing with glass cleaner and a soft cloth.

Extra Support for Large Wood Frames

Very large or heavy framing projects may require additional bracing across the back of the frame, horizontally, vertically, or in both directions. The purpose of bracing is to support the four rails of the frame, to prevent the sides from bowing outward and the lower corners from separating at the miters. This is advanced framing, requiring decisions about the engineering of the frame, as well as the location and materials of the bracing that would be best for the project. Those with carpentry skills can probably create what is needed, but others should consult a professional framer. Remember that any frame that needs bracing will need strong hangers in the wall as well.