Subframe drama

Because of the large room that I was allocated for the exhibition and the relatively small number of images that I decided to show, my biggest images ended up being about 40 x 32 inches, which is the largest I have exhibited so far. The prints were mounted on 5mm foamed PVC backing, which is quite rigid, but due to the large size I was afraid they would bend or bow when hung. Faced with this problem, and with my rather limited budget, I had to find a cheap and effective solution to support the prints and provide a means to hand them. Those of you who know me are aware, that I sometimes tend to do things the hard way (you know what I’m talking about, Steve), and this was no exception.

I decided to construct wooden subframes, which to glue to the back of the prints. This was only really needed for the largest size prints, but because the frames provided specific spacing from the walls, I had to put them on all prints (yes, yes, I know I could have done it easier, but it just would’t be right!). So, before I left for Sofia, I bought some wooden profiles, cut them to size and pre-drilled them to allow for the hanging system. This took a good couple of hours, and was done just before midnight, prior to a train ride at 5:30 AM, and perhaps it’s the reason I eventually (just) missed the train and had to take a bus. The package with the wooden pieces raised a few eyebrows at the station, I think it’s because it looked a bit like rifle wrapped in plastic bags, good thing it’s Bulgaria, and people don’t pay that much attention to things like that.

I arrived in Sofia, and went on to pick up the finished images from the printers, and to start attaching the subframes. This precisely was the part that kinda messed up my plans. As the PVC is quite smooth and non-porous, I had to find a suitable glue that would hold the frames securely in place. Thankfully, I have a bit of woodworking and furniture building experience, and decided to use my favourite type of glue, polychloroprene glue.

It’s the type that you spread, you press the two surfaces together, then you take them apart and wait 10 minutes before attaching them permanently. Once it grips (it could take up to 48 hours for it to reach full strength), it holds extremely well on almost any surface, but the whole process is very time consuming. Another side effect of using the glue is that it has a very strong odour, and I think it’s the kind that junkies buy to use in recreational manner, so after a couple of hours working with it one feels a bit light-headed.

A couple of more things that attributed to the lengthening of this work were the measuring for the positioning of the frames, and the roughing up of the PVC surface to ensure a good grip of the glue. Because of the wooden pieces being slightly different thicknesses from each other, I couldn’t assemble them together and glue them to the print at once, but had to attach them piece by piece.

The other time consuming step was the scoring of the PVC surface. I first tried using sandpaper, but found that it produced a lot of unwanted dust, and did not have a very good effect. I finally settled on scratching the surface with a scalpel, a method that proved to be quite effective but lengthy.

Once the frames were glued, the only thing left for me to do was to thread the string through the pre-drilled holes, to provide a means for hanging and levelling the work. This was made trickier by the fact that I drilled rather small holes, so I had to use a needle, which helpfully got stuck halfway through the wood on a few occasions.

Anyway, once all this was done, I had a secure system to hang the images, and the only way they would bow or bend would be if they are thrown into a volcano. If you’ve read through all this, and are faced with a similar situation, I guess you are now motivated to find a simpler method. Failing to do so, you are free to do it my way, but beware, it’s rather lengthy.

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