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How to Measure Canvas for Stretcher Bars?

For centuries, canvas and stretcher frames have been a correctly working team in painting. As an artist, there is almost no better feeling than to miss the first brushstrokes on a still untouched canvas and to gradually create a work of art.

Stretcher frames are already pre-fabricated with a stretched canvas or as a not yet assembled set offered. If you are skilled in craftsmanship, you can also make the wooden frame yourself.

We clarify how you should string your stretcher and what tools you need for it, what advantages it offers and why it does not always make sense.

  • Stretcher bars
  • Canvas (best primed )
  • A powerful stapler including staples
  • A canvas tensioner (with huge stretcher)

Stretching stretcher bars: step by step

  • First, you have to nest the stretcher bars and align. The ends of the strips have precisely fitting recesses so that they can be easily put together. For example, to check the squareness of the corners, you can use a book that you put on the edges. If you are using a vast stretcher, you will need to attach an additional stabilizer cross to fix the sidebars. The required braces are usually included with the manufacturer. Smaller measures do not need this extra security measure.
  • The assembled frame is then placed on the unrolled canvas to cut the canvas. Make sure that you have a few inches of excess on all sides to attach the screen later to the back of the frame. Tensioning the stretcher is reminiscent of boxing gifts: you’d rather leave a little more room and cut the excess Material in hindsight, as to fail when stringing to a few centimeters.
  • Tackling: If you follow a concrete system, instead of stapling a staple here and there without thinking, the result will be evener. Therefore, you should always work on the sides from the inside out. First, start with one side of your choice, locate the middle area and tack the canvas with 3 to 4 staples at a distance of 2 to 3 centimeters to the back of the frame strip.

    Then you switch to the opposite side, pull the canvas evenly taut and drive another 3 to 4 staples at the same distance in the back of the stretcher.
    When the first two sides are attached, repeat the procedure on the two unpaved sides.

  • Now you can work your way from the middle of the frame to the corners. Start with a single stretch: Every 2 to 3 centimeters, you tack a staple into the canvas drawn around the stretcher. You should always tighten the canvas before attaching another clip. Once you arrive at the corner, you should continue on the diagonally opposite stretch to get even tension. Continue with the remaining routes until all sides have been completely fastened.
  • At the corners, the bent canvas collects. With a paper cut, you can remove excess canvas so you can bend it and staple it to the frame.
  • Very large stretcher frames are best stretched with two people or an additional clamp. As you tackle the canvas, your helper can keep the canvas on the opposite side under tension. With small stretcher bars, it is enough to work your way from the inside out and to pull the individual sides in turns.
  • The stretched stretcher frames can be tightened with the included wooden wedges. To do this, you drive the wedges into the openings provided in the corners of the frame, so that they press against the sides of the canvas at certain points and increase the tension. 

Advantages, if you want to stretch a stretcher yourself

  • Stretcher bars from the same manufacturer are usually compatible with each other, since only the side lengths differ, but not the plug-in system. If you buy two stretcher bar sets, you can exchange the side lengths with each other. So you can also assemble and stretch unusually proportioned stretcher frames that you would never find as already covered stretcher frames.
  • Stretcher bars are compared to ready stretched stretcher cheap in shipping since the strips can be shipped in a minimal package, whereas stringed frames must be well padded and shipped in large packages, so as not to damage the canvas. Especially with XXL stretcher beyond an area of ​​one square meter, you can save money with it.
  • You get to know the traditional painting trade. Especially if you are interested in art history and the origins of today’s painting and are interested in their background, it can be an educational experience for you to frame the frame yourself.
  • Not only the shipping is cheaper, but also with the individual components you can save money, provided you paint regularly or teach your knowledge in painting courses. Only then can you use up the several meters long canvas rolls also.

Matching the last point, there are also arguments against talking about stretching your stretcher yourself.

You should not stretch your stretcher yourself if

  • you want to paint a picture now and then. In this case, it is not priced to buy the original materials individually and to exploit them yourself.
  • You want to put as little effort into the preparation of your artwork in purchasing.
  • You want to stretch a small stretcher. Small stretcher frames are already covered so cheap that the extra effort is not worthwhile. Shipping and material cost savings pay off only for larger images whose formats are not available in stores or at high volumes.

Instead, you can wrongly choose a pre-stressed stretcher with a cotton base or canvas, which has been pre-primed several times and arrives in your shop.

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