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Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Mon 24 Jun, 2019 2:57 pm
by jabrenna
Hi everyone, as the title suggests I do not have any experience in framing, apart from regularly paying to have things framed! I don't really have any experience in woodwork either, but I make things and I like learning and am reasonably handy DIY-wise. Here's a quick summary of my current situation and what I'd like to know:
I am a printmaker and painter. I work primarily in linocut, screenprint, etching, etc. on printmaking paper (Fabriano, Hahnemuhle, etc.). Because of the fragile nature of paper I generally need to get pieces framed for exhibitions or for sale. I have a commercial framer I use regularly, sometimes floating work, other times with mattes, always behind glass. Sometimes I have stuff done in box frames.
While I appreciate that framing is a skill - and an art in itself when done well, not only in terms of technique but also knowing how to bring out the best qualities of an artwork - and not something I'm going to pick up overnight, I would like to invest the money I spend on framing and put it towards learning, and getting equipment, with the goal of being able to do this job for myself. I would be happy to learn just one type of frame /matte combination that is neutral enough to compliment a wide range of pieces. If I could do just one frame well, I'd be delighted. I envisage it being a fairly plain molding (which I could stain in a grey or black or white) with a matte and glass.
My question: where do I start? What equipment should I invest in? I don't think I'm going to give up printmaking or exhibiting any time soon, so happy to think long-term.

Re: Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Mon 24 Jun, 2019 3:13 pm
by JFeig
I think you have the proverbial cart before the horse, just like my former wife who was a printmaker.

I would first find a picture frame class and then go from there. With that under your belt, you can then determine what you like and what you do not like.

Re: Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Mon 24 Jun, 2019 3:34 pm
by David
For a framing course, as it's near you, you could check out:
Wessex south of London also do a course: ... chool.html

Basic essential professional kit:
Mount cutter

Keep an eye on this Forum, equipment and whole workshops come up regularly.

Re: Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Mon 24 Jun, 2019 6:13 pm
by Not your average framer
You are about to embark on quite a challenging time, both in terms of learning probably a lot more than you were expecting and also deciding what sort of equipment you will need to fulfill the scale and quality of what you are aiming to achieve . It's all very easy to come up with the usually generic answers to your questions, but it's good to be able to define your needs and objectives, so that you get the most appropriate set up for your needs.

So far you have not given us very much of an indication of the volume of frames that you will need to produce during a given period of time. At one end of the scale, you are taking about artists who are making a limited number of their own frames with essentially not much more that a hand operated mitre saw, a hammer, nails and some glue. It's a bit long winded, but it's still quite common, especially in some parts of Cornwall. However, each day you lose making frames is another day when you can't be producing art, so a some level making your own frames by such methods becomes no longer viable.

Now you come to the other end of the scale, when you start buying some serious equipment and if you are talking about buying everything new, we are likely to talking about the top side of £5,000 and you will need to have access to a supplier who is competent to periodically sharpen your morso blades. There is a certain scale of operation where the operating costs at this level begin to pay off, which also depend upon where you are going to operate from. There's a lot to think about and you probably need to do some sort of business plan to see, if the various costs are making sense to you.

I don't want to frighten you off, but at your present level of no experience, I would urge you to get training from a provider who has a meaningful level of reputation as a training provider. As far as I am aware, very many of the most well known training providers will be located over here in the mainland of the U.K. and many of them are quite close to regional airports. Generally short hops from city to city are going to be more affordable than the cost of putting the petrol needed in your car, so it's worth considering that. Don't forget to compare different training providers course contents and to weigh up how this will suit your needs.

If you intend to buy secondhand equipment, that do you feel able to take care of a bit of maintenance and generally bringing older equipment up to scratch, if needed. There are some very good deals to be had on secondhand equipment, if you decide to go this way. All of the rest of us had to start from nowhere at some point in time, so don't be too easily put off. Define your needs and get the cost worked out first and when you are ready to go for, may I wish you good success. There is so much knowledge and experience on this forum and lots of members more than willing to help any time you need it.

Re: Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Mon 24 Jun, 2019 7:01 pm
by poliopete
Hello jabrenna :D and welcome to the FF

You will not be surprised to hear that your question has been asked many times before on this excellent Forum. And although the replies are varied and often lengthy the consistent advice is to get some good training first before you proceed further.

David has directed you to a couple of good links to start.


Re: Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Mon 24 Jun, 2019 9:34 pm
by Justintime
My neighbour is an established printmaker. I provide her with kits. That is mounts, undermount, backing, glass, frame and fittings. She has learnt to stain the frame and how to T hinge mount and fit the work to a Framer's standard. I offer her a substantial discount for a quantity of say 20-50 of these kits.
If you invested what I have, to be a framer, you wouldn't be able to afford to be an artist, you would be a full time framer.
If you are serious about your art, believe me when I say that you should be grateful for your framer and his work whatever the cost.
If you don't want to make money from your art, then invest in good equipment and materials and enjoy learning a new skill set.

Re: Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Mon 24 Jun, 2019 10:08 pm
by Not your average framer
I have moved this thread to the members only section. I think that the potential difficulties with this thread are becoming a reason why I want to give a reminder about rule 1 (Be nice). Please!

Re: Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Mon 24 Jun, 2019 11:32 pm
by prospero
Hi and Welcome to the Forum jabrenna. :D

What they said ^ :roll:

I started out in a similar way. I was having my paintings framed at a local framer. The guy was a vvery amiable chap
and his shop was a sort-of drop-in place for local artists. He didn't mind folks having a natter in his workshop. While doing so
I watched how he did things and looked at his kit. He sold up and moved to Spain. :cry:
The guy who took over the business was not much cop so I decided to buy some framing equipment an to make it worthwhile,
frame other peoples work. The rest is history.

As for framing courses, beware. You have to think what sort of framing you want to do. No use paying to learn techniques that you are
never going to use - needlework framing, 3D object stuff, dry-mounting/laminating, etc and a host of other things.

There are a few videos on YouTube that are very useful, but also a heap of vids by amateurs that are a mixed bunch. You have to cherry-pick them.

Re: Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Tue 25 Jun, 2019 6:32 am
by Not your average framer
I was at first trained during a 6 month training placement work in the framing workshop of Triton Galleries in Torqquay this training placement was arranged through a training provider acting for the govenment's employment service. I was at the time unemployed following the collapse of my previous employer and receiving the job seeker allowance. It was a bad time for me and I was ready to try something new.

The training provider also paid for a significant volume of framing books from the Fine Art Trade Guilds bookshop and two extra days of training at Mike Royall's "Royall framing school" near bristol. I was with the Job Centre as what they called "A business case" which meant I was working towards starting my own framing business and I had already been self employed before on various occasions, so it kind of made some sort of sense at the time.

The Job Centre had me on something that was at that time called "New deal". I did not have much idea what that meant then and I still don't know a lot more about what that means now, you get processed and they tell you what's what and you go along with it. I bought some basic hand tools, got on with earning what I could and was allowed to keep whatever I could spend on setting my self up as a self employed framer. Even now it seems amazing that any of what I was doing ever amounted to anything remotely successful and it was a very hard time getting things to work.

The Job Centre took any money that I had earned and not spent on anything relative to starting my own business off of my Job seekers allowance payments, but they also had a back to work bonus scheme, where I would get up to £1000 of what they had taken off of my job seeker's allowance back when I eventually signed off from the Job Centre. They also had another scheme called the "advisors discretionary fund" which could provide up to £300 toward an item which would enable you to sign of and start your own business, which helped my to buy my first underpinner.

They were pushing me to sign off and get me off their books, which was quite understandable, because I was in no hurry to do it myself, but they encouraged me to sign up for the "Working Tax Credit" and because I was already on "New Deal" and had just turned 50 years old, I was granted the working tax credit, plus the "New deal 50 plus supplement" for the first year. On the day I signed off at the Job Centre, I was told that if I took it up within 18 months, I was entitled to an additional £1500 for extra training relevent to my business and I spent this on a whole week of hand finished picture framing training with Pete Bingham, which was not only worth every penny of somebody else's money, but Pete Bingham is such good fun to spend time with.

Life was really difficult for quite a long time establishing my business and I've had a few bumps alomg the way as well, including developing diabetis, a heart attack and two strokes. I've also had more than my share of miracles along the way as well. Self employment is not always the easiest way to make a living and there's a lot you need to learn along the way, but it will make a man out of you and your life will become grounded in reality. I never expected my hand finishing activities to amount to anything very much, but this has been the core part of my business and has developed into areas that I originally could never even dreamt off. It's been quite a ride, getting here and not always fun at the time, but there's been so many special moments too and I've met a lot of friends along the way!

Re: Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Tue 25 Jun, 2019 7:10 am
by Tudor Rose
Welcome jabrenna

I would agree with others David and poliopete - go and get yourself some training because it will be worth every penny in the long run.

Most trainers will be happy to tailor a day or two on basic skills to exactly the sorts of thing you need to learn. Once you’ve done that you will have a far better idea of a) if this is something you do want to do, and once you’ve agreed that yes it is, then b) the sort of equipment you’d want to get. The morso, underpinner and mountcutter, plus some basic hand tools etc are the things to get you started. But the advantage with a training day or two is that you’ll have used some things, so will have a better idea what suits.

And I’d recommend getting a copy of the GCF Study Guide from - when I started framing, before we were Guild members, I used it to check the techniques I was using and for all the information in it. It’s a great reference tool, not just a study guide.

Re: Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Tue 25 Jun, 2019 7:15 am
by Steve N
Before you start spending money on framing equipment, go on a course, tell the trainer yo want to learn how to make frames , cut mounts, float mounting, making box frames, the same techniques that your framer is doing now, then you will see what equipment you will need

Re: Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Tue 25 Jun, 2019 8:43 am
by Justintime
Noted Mark.
No offence intended Jabreena, just speaking my truth.
Its not to be underestimated how much learning this craft actually costs, not just the tools but the wasted materials along the way.
That's what I was trying to say.

Re: Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Tue 25 Jun, 2019 11:07 am
by vintage frames
Hello Jabrenna.
So you want to frame up some of your artwork, in-house and save the money spent on framing and re-invest it in workshop equipment. And why not. It's only your own artwork that you want to frame, so that shouldn't be such a big deal. I know everyone else gives good counsel about taking up a framing course but I'm going to be different and say if you don't intend to be a "picture-framer" then don't bother with tuition as you'll learn all you need to know about framing your artwork in the first 5 minutes of tuition.
There's a machine called a Morso and that cuts the wood to form the frame. Morso's go for around £500 on e-bay. Or you could use a cheaper "chop-saw" but these won't give you such an accurate cut.
Then you'll want an Underpinner and this just staples the four pieces of wood together. Or you can buy a frame clamp for £10 and glue and nail the wood together that way.
After that a Toyo glass cutter, ( you'll soon pick it up ) and a Stanley knife.
If you want mounts, just get your local framer to make them.
Now, if you intend to buy in prefinished mouldings, then you are very much limiting your ability to achieve professional looking frames, at this early stage. Buy instead "bare-wood" mouldings. Then you can patch up any errors with polyfilla and paint on your own unique finish and pollish. You're an artist, this shouldn't be hard.
Justintime made a really good point; if you become a "picture-framer" then you really won't have any time left for your art.

Re: Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Tue 25 Jun, 2019 6:00 pm
by Not your average framer
Across the border from where I am in Devon is Cornwall, where lots of artists make their own frames from bare wood and just nail the mitred corners together in a mitre jig and many of them get very acceptable results. Also if you paint your own frames, it is going to be much easier to fill and touch up any damage should the need arise.

As vintage frames has already suggested, many people manage very well without any training whatsoever. I had my original basic framing equipment, long before I ever had any training and a lot of it is somewhat instinctive. I managed very well look before I was properly trained. Different forum members have given you a wide range of workable options. Don't be afraid to trust your instincts when the time comes to decide how to do this.

Re: Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Tue 25 Jun, 2019 6:08 pm
by Not your average framer
This thread has now been reinstated back to the introductions section.

Re: Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Wed 26 Jun, 2019 9:33 am
by cleaver
Hi Jab & a huge welcome to you, mate. :handshake:

As has been said, do have a look (especially) in this section at advice given to other newbs (including to me very recently!). And generally read and read this forum – it is a gold mine (or is that gild mine :lol: ).

For starters, I would grab a copy of Pete Bingham’s superb book “Picture Framing”, which can be had for under 3 quid - delivered (surely the biggest bargain in framing) on fleabay. It caters for starters, and has plenty for those who want to crank it up to the pro level. Great book by a master framer.

Youtube is brilliant too, especially the excellent ‘Rinaldin’ series by Mal Reynalds.

As a people have said, choosing unfinished (bare wood) moulding gives you the chance to cover a multitude of sins with wood filler etc, before you paint/stain or whatever. A Brucie Bonus is that you’ll also get to change the finish to your heart’s it matches your artwork to your satisfaction.

Gear-wise, consider the Nobex Proman mitre saw. Not to be confused with cheapo DIY-shed mitre saws, the Nobex can achieve very fine cuts....almost as good as a Morso. If you frame a lot, the Nobex will be a real faff, but to kick off with (and see if you take to framing, it’s a good place to start). Also, don’t rule out electric mitre saws if you’re going to fill/paint etc.

As for joining your 4 bits of wood, you could just get a corner clamp and pin/glue them. This used to be the way it was always done, until the underpinner was invented in the 1970s. Another reason to finish your own moulding is that you can fill the pin holes, then paint. Perhaps pin the top and bottom of your frames only, as they won’t be readily visible – unlike the sides.

Glass-wise, do you have a glass shop near you? Maybe nip in and explain what you are looking for (it’s usually 2mm float glass, unless you want fancy glass...which they should probably be able to get). If you find you take to framing, you'll probably want to cut your own glass, which can be done with a pen-type cutter initially.....for not much dosh.

Good luck, mate. As well as saving yourself some serious coin, doing your own framing will give you another level of creativity and control over your work. You strike me as someone who’ll enjoy it and be very capable.

See you around the boards! :D

Re: Newbie questions - what do I need to get started?

Posted: Wed 26 Jun, 2019 5:15 pm
by jabrenna
Thanks for all the advice!