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Thread: Picture frame refurbishing a la cheap with polyurethane

  1. #1

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    Picture frame refurbishing a la cheap with polyurethane

    This is an archival survival sort of question.

    Having just a few miscellaneous prints to frame, and preferring dark, wood frames to metal, I have several times recently picked up frames at a thrift store (anywhere from walnut to light oak) and painted them with stained polyurethane, such as Minwax or Varathane, to approach the tone of a warm selenium-toned near black. (I have found that a combination of black and very deep wood tone gets me in the ballpark, though I have yet to settle on mixture. Stay tuned.) My cost is then just a few dollars, a necessary economy for now.

    I am aware that polyurethanes outgas and am wondering if a couple of weeks' curing should be adequate before putting the dry-mounted and over-matted print in the frame, behind glass. Of course, I don't know exactly what the frame may already have had in/on it, so that's another variable. Archival is too big a word for what I am concerned with here; I am rather more careful with prints that I really hope to survive me a good while.

    I'm not a woodworker, and never seem to get a smooth finish anyway, no matter how hard I try or smooth between coats, and painting over previously varnished frames doesn't seem to help. Anyway, if someone has info on the fumes/volatiles issue of what I'm painting on, I'd be grateful.
    Philip U.

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

  2. #2

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    Re: Picture frame refurbishing a la cheap with polyurethane

    If you switch to shellac, there is a brief out gassing period that alcohol leaves, but then inert...

    Steve K

  3. #3
    Ron (Netherlands)'s Avatar
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    Re: Picture frame refurbishing a la cheap with polyurethane

    Quote Originally Posted by Ulophot View Post
    ....and never seem to get a smooth finish anyway, no matter how hard I try or smooth between coats, and painting over previously varnished frames doesn't seem to help.....
    Before coating, to get a smooth surface, fill in the pores of the wood. I do this by applying egg white on the surface before wet sanding with (ultra)fine sandpaper - let dry and only sand one last time with the (ulta) fine sandpaper before applying a coat...
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  4. #4

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    Re: Picture frame refurbishing a la cheap with polyurethane

    When putting in prints seal the rabbet with aluminized mylar. Will prevent outgassing into the print area behind glass/plexi.

    If making your own frames Home Depot type places sell "Garden Stakes" - 4-5 foot long and inch square wood stakes. Cut off the pointed end, rout a rabbit and finish corners and you have inexpensive OAK or MAPLE frames. Make them dark with whatever stain you like - have found EBONY works well for them. Last few batches I got were all very nice, clean Maple. Some we stained much lighter so you could see the birds eye figure in the wood.
    "My forumla for successful printing remains ordinary chemicals, an ordinary enlarger, music, a bottle of scotch - and stubbornness." W. Eugene Smith

  5. #5

    Join Date
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    Re: Picture frame refurbishing a la cheap with polyurethane

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie View Post
    When putting in prints seal the rabbet with aluminized mylar. Will prevent outgassing into the print area behind glass/plexi.

    If making your own frames Home Depot type places sell "Garden Stakes" - 4-5 foot long and inch square wood stakes. Cut off the pointed end, rout a rabbit and finish corners and you have inexpensive OAK or MAPLE frames. Make them dark with whatever stain you like - have found EBONY works well for them. Last few batches I got were all very nice, clean Maple. Some we stained much lighter so you could see the birds eye figure in the wood.
    Great information, thanks!

  6. #6

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    Re: Picture frame refurbishing a la cheap with polyurethane

    Thanks to both. I have from time to time considered making my own frames, but I am a poor craftsman and can't justify the cost of the cutting and framing tools I'd need to do it. I had tried it years ago with an inexpensive wooden miter saw jig for the 45-degree angles, with sorry results. If I were still trying to make a living with my art, it might be another matter, but I am presently constrained to doing occasional work for myself. Such is life.

    I'll look into the mylar tape; thanks.
    Philip U.

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

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