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Making a Gallery Wrapped Canvas

April 21, 2015

I was preparing a new gesso panel for another painting, and while that was drying I thought I’d show the process I go through to make a gallery wrapped canvas. The purpose of a gallery wrapped canvas is to be able to hang the painting on the wall without having to place it in a frame. It has the canvas wrapped all the way around the edges of the strainer bars.

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The canvas I’m building will have a final dimension of 16 x 20 inches. The wood strainer bars are made from Radiata Pine. They are 1×2″ size (exactly 3/4 x 1.5″) and cut 16 and 20 inches long. Each end has been mitered at 45 degrees on the 3/4″ side. There are 1/8″ rabbit grooves cut on the front side so that less of the wood will be touching the canvas. That prevents any possible indentations registering through. I’ve also cut 1/4″ grooves at the inside center of each where I will later place some cross braces. I’m using some thin polyester fabric since it was the only type I had available that was large enough.

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Now I’m ready to glue the canvas to the inside of each corner. I cut a diagonal first from the inside corner of the wood to the outer corner of the canvas. I then apply the glue to the wood and canvas. I’m using an acid-free latex glue from Best-Test called “Paper Cement.” This works fine on thin fabric, but I’d need something stronger for thicker canvas. Spray adhesives work well if you mask off the area. The glue only needs to be strong enough to hold the canvas to the wood as I later put the two ends together. The wood itself will hold the canvas tight.

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Once the glue has dried on all four corners and the canvas has been stuck to the ends of the wood, I turn the wood upright. I then fold the canvas in and staple it to the wood, repeating this for each corner.

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After the corners are stapled, I staple the edges. First I staple the center of one side, and then the side directly opposite, pulling the canvas tight as I go. Next I staple to the right and left of each corner. This keeps the front nice and tight. The staples along this edge are about 1.5″ apart.

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Finished! All that’s left to do is to make the center braces. Polyester fabric has an advantage of making nice sharp corners, but it can be hard to keep tight. Cotton or linen seem to have the opposite feature: they stretch well, but the corners can be bulky, and hard to fold over cleanly.

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