EasyFrame

DIY Picture-Framing: Where Do You Start?

By Paul Dunwell, writing for © EasyFrame
Copyright EasyFrame 2018

What This Article is About

So, you have one or two items that need to be framed. Or re-framed. And you consider yourself to be fairly adept when it comes to do-it-yourself tasks around your home. You’d therefore be forgiven for wondering how hard it can be to make your own frames – and if it might be worthwhile.

This article gives you, in simple terms, the low-down on what you need to know before you start. It tells you about the equipment, the consumable items (they are the bits and bobs which you’ll probably only use once), the skills you ought to have as well as the time required, and both the costs and the risks of doing it yourself.

Why Would You Do It?

Some of us are old enough to remember a time when youngsters had the DIY skills to be able to rip their own jeans. And shrink them, themselves, in the bath too. But in this age-of-convenience it seems like we’re all used to having everything done for us. And picture-framing is no different. Yet some of us like to feather our own nests. Knocking out a few picture-frames seems like a good place to start. Who wouldn’t want to point proudly to an heirloom above the fireplace and casually brag to visitors “I framed that myself”?

Pair of ripped jeans
Framed picture on Mantel piece

On the face of it, framing your own pictures should be as easy as ripping your own jeans.

Let’s Start with the Equipment

We can all usually borrow kit from friends, and most of us chaps know somebody who’ll loan us what we need. Or we can hire equipment. But, assuming we are going to buy, this is what we’ll require even for the smallest job (though the jigsaw is optional):

A mitre box A hand saw A steel ruler A steel tape-measure
From £10 to £60 From £5 to £35 From £2 to £15 From £4 to £20
A hammer A carpenter’s pencil A set-square A set of 4+ clamps
From £1 to £10 Under £1 From £2.50 to £25 From £12 to £85
A craft knife A spirit-level Jigsaw Safety goggles
From 50p to £12 From £1 to £25 From £20 to £55 From £1 to over £10

It’s worth saying that a mitre box enables users to cut mouldings at 45 degrees. So, it’s vital that you have one. In respect of the clamps there are all sorts available, but you need purpose-made right-angle clamps for the corners. You may prefer a jigsaw if you buy uncut plastic / acrylic sheet to cut yourself, yet you can still use a hand-saw.

Out of interest, professional framers use frame-cutters that cost £20,000 upwards, with programmable framers being £40,000 or so and automatic frame-makers being about £250,000. So that’s what they spend some of their takings on!

What about the Consumables?

These are the items that you will use up entirely in just one job. Or which you may have to buy in bulk, in which case you’ll be left with unused stock littering your man-cave.

Uncut frame moulding Glue (usually PVA) Tacks Sandpaper
Plastic from under £1 a metre (for 15mm) to maybe £10 (for 100mm).
Wood from under £5 a metre (for 10mm) to maybe £15 (for 100mm)
From under £3.50 to over £12 From £1.50 From £1
Sanding block Backing board Microfibre cloths Suitable screws
From under £3 From £4 a sq ft From £1 From £4
Glass or plastic sheet Polyester cord Backing tape Screw-in eyes
Glass from ca £9 a sq ft.
Plastic from ca £15 a sq ft (or £160 a sq metre)
From £2.50 (polyester doesn’t stretch like nylon) Around £10 a 50m roll From under £3
White ‘archive’ gloves Sanding block NB All costings in this article are approximate but a realistic and sensible guide.
From under £2 From under £3

It is important to realise that many suppliers of these items, and certainly the cheapest, will almost certainly specify minimum orders. Minimum orders for glass might be £100. A square metre of plastic will be £160 or so. A minimum order for frame mouldings might well be around £160 too.

Meanwhile glass can also be UV-resistant or anti-glare, racking up the cost. We have also ignored the further costs of block-mounting, picture mounts, varnishing, painting, staining and additional complications and/or embellishment.

Do You Require any Skills?

Well, for sure, it will help to be meticulous and not cack-handed. If you take your eye off the ball for a moment when you are cutting expensive consumables, then you are inviting a mistake that cannot be rectified. And that would obviously have cost-implications. With this in mind your measurements and maths have to be double-checked before you order anything and before you make any cut. You also need to be safety-minded. Most importantly, perhaps, you need to be able to patiently plan and execute the job with care.

Since being able to use a mitre safely and effectively is most critical, you should look for online guidance. This hyperlink is worth following: www.skil.co.uk/step-by-step/how-to-use-a-mitre-saw.html

manual mitre saw

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

It would be irresponsible to encourage have-a-go DIY picture-framers without warning of what might go amiss. Most commonly frames are cut to the wrong size. Even professionals do that, but then they have to source the stock to re-do the job. You, in contrast, would be unlikely to have the spare stock at hand. But other calamities can occur. PVA glue fails sometimes. Pins fail too. And we’ve all broken glass, haven’t we?

Again, it’s worth observing that professional picture-frame-makers are ordinarily covered by liability insurance so, if their work falls off your wall then your claim should be covered.

Putting a Value on Your Time – and More

The cost of one’s time is relevant. Before you start any project, you may wish to guess how long the buying, planning, collecting, labour and more will take to execute. Management accountants would tell you to put a price on your own time, and that price should be at least £7.50 an hour (the minimum wage in the UK) or £10 an hour (London’s ‘living wage’). But it may be more. You should also cost in your phone-calls, fuel, postage and any other sundry costs. All of the above should be set against any possible saving you’ll make.

Conclusion

Only when you’ve done all of that can you decide if DIY-framing is cost-effective. Even then your decision will be coloured by whether this is going to be fun and a personal challenge that will teach you something!

DIY is fun. And certainly, for those who are prepared to accept full responsibility for their own work, it can develop into more than a hobby.

The alternative to doing it yourself is, of course, to straight go to a professional framer like EasyFrame. You could have them either do the entire job or help with part of it (whatever has left you jittery!)

In the meantime, for anyone who’s now intrigued by the prospect of ripping their own jeans, go to www.wikihow.com/Rip-Your-Own-Jeans if you’re at a loss as to how to do that.

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