How would you fix this?


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Neighbor brought me a canvas picture stapled to a pine frame. The frame has warped so it no longer hangs properly.  I thought about building a new frame, but I would have to remove the staples, which may cause damage to the picture and reduce its value.

what do you think of just adding some hard maple to the back to straighten in out?

 

 

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I would tell the owner that rebuilding the frame is the best way to fix.  Tell him your concerns about damaging the picture by removing the staples.  Then he has the option to remove the staples himself or if he wants you to remove, make sure there is no risk on your end, in fact get it in writing that you aren't responsible for damage.

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If you go along the reinforcing route, you might try adding the new boards so that you make the frame pieces into L-channel rails.  That would give resistance in the direction you need it.

So if a cross section of one of the existing pieces of pine looks like this

                |

the added piece should make it look like this

                 |_

You could do that without removing the staples. 

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Adam, are you saying that the canvas no longer fits the sub-frame properly, or that the sub-frame is warped so it can't hang flat against a wall? If the canvas is loose on the frame, you can add stretchers to tighten it. If you really need to remove the canvas, be sure to find proper canvas-stretching pliers to put it on the new frame. Canvas paintings are re-mounted all the time, but you must take care to place proper tension on the canvas, and no more. Overstretching can cause the paint to peel.

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I've done odd one off repairs like this before. Once people get to know you are a woodworker you get all sorts of things to fix. "Hey you do things with wood, this picture frame is wood, please fix it - BTW if you damage the picture I'll sue you".

Now if anybody asks me to fix a picture frame I point them in the direction of the picture framer in the village who has a lot more experience than I have at picture framing (a skill in its own right). 

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Are you talking about the picture frame, or the canvas stretcher? There's no way I'd remove a canvas from the stretcher without assuming I'd damage the picture. I'd happily build a new stretcher if it needed a custom size, but I'd want someone who knew about handling paintings to remove the old one and install the new one.

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OP It sounds like you're wanting to build a new "stretcher" for the painting.

If it is a valuable painting I think it wise to have a professional do the work.

There are numerous considerations.

stretching Once a canvas has been stretched and painted with oils or acrylic it will not stretch anymore. When you remount the canvas you only want to put enough tension on it to hold it flat and avoid ripples. You do not want to stretch it. I don't use a pliers as it is difficult to tell if you are putting too much pressure.

removal I use a sharpened screwdriver to get under and pry out the staples. Some staples may break. Pull out the pieces with a pliers without levering against the canvas. If the canvas was primed with acrylic gesso or if the canvas is a loose weave the primer and/or oil or acrylic paints that were used on the painting may have bled through so that the canvas is stuck to the stretcher. It will usually pull off by hand but be extra careful at the edges just as it is about to release. Don't crease the show surface.

the new stretcher Be sure to put in a stabilizing cross member if the painting is more than say 24"x30". It will prevent a similarly wonky stretcher situation. I usually paint my new stretcher with acrylic gesso to give a layer of separation between the canvas and the wood (which is acidic and will eventually rot the canvas).

reattachment I usually try to get my new staples pretty close to where the old staples were. I don't know if that is good or bad but it looks better. Use the properly sized staple for the wood density so that the staples do not threaten to tear through the canvas at all.

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