Do-it-yourself framing: easy to learn skills save money

That sketch of a skyline, that handsome wilderness photograph, that rice-paper stone rubbing, or that graphics poster you received at Christmas -- how will you make it part of your daily life?

One answer could be to frame it for hanging. Yourself. The start is to find one of those do-it- yoursellf framing shops. Most big-city Yellow Pages classified directories list anywhere from two to ten or more. These shops offer dry mounting, all types of plexiglass, wood and metal frames, working space, and -- breathe easy! -- professional assistance.

You pick out a shop and take your present-to- be-framed (no appointment is neeeded). The first stage is a consultation-lesson. Allow about three hours of your time for each framing job. The professional assistants are artisans who help you select size and colors for mats and frames and suggest a suitable mounting style. They lay out corner-cut mats and frames to let you see how the finished job will look.

Next, after your selection is made, a sales estimate is written with itemized charges for materials. Add to this a nominal charge for shop use, tools, and equipment.As a typical how-much example, a 16-by-20-inch stone rubbing, completely framed by you, would cost in West Coast cities about $23 -- all mounted, matted, glassed, framed, sealed, and wired.

Here's the process -- an unintimidating method even if you consider yourself an all- thumbs novice with tools. The shop assistants cut four pieces of frame with tight-mitered corners. Then you put these into special vises on one of the many worktables available. You are shown how to glue, nail, and putty-up each corner, allowing five minutes at least for each match-up to dry.

The finished frame is then taken to the print, rubbing, or whatever, which has been heatpressed by the shop assistant to stay flat. The mat and glass and backing have already been cut and fitted loosely to it. The glass is cleaned with a solvent, air-brushed for dust, and matched with the other fitting to the print.

Cardboard backing has also been cut; this is fitted behind the print and the whole project taken to the staple gun table and placed face down. Here you drive staples into the back of the frame to hold the inserts firm. The back is sealed over with edge-to-edge brown paper. You add eye hooks and wire.

Now, your new conversation piece is wrapped up, ready for carrying home -- and for telling all you friends how you did it.

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