I remember the days when all I needed to hang “art” on the walls were some plastic push pins and a roll of masking tape. Times have changed—but unfortunately, custom framing can come with a hefty price tag, leaving you hanging before you’ve even put a nail hole in the wall. With do-it-yourself framing and artwork, you can take your walls from shamed to framed without busting your drywall, or the bank.
1. Frame it out
Any person with a credit card and a bus pass can run to the super store and pick up a frame, but I think we can do better. Consider going thrifty on your next framing project. Browse the selection at one of our local thrift or consignment shops. Chances are you won’t find many empty frames, but think outside the Dogs Playing Poker. In most secondhand shops, you can pick up framed art for next to nothing, including large prints. Love the frame but hate the print? Take it out and reuse the frame.
Found an old frame that meets your needs but has seen better days? That’s nothing a little sandpaper and a can of spray paint can’t fix. What about an old mirror? Risk the bad luck and grab a hammer. Secondhand is a great way to get high-quality frames at a low cost.
Custom-framing stores like Freeman Victorious even put out boxes on the sidewalk of discount frames and framing supplies.
2. Mat it down
Matting is a sure-fire way to add a custom high-end look to a print or photograph. By doing it yourself, not only can you save money, but you can customize your mat for unique sizes, and shapes. You can get a large mat board for around $8, then use it for multiple projects. To make your own photo mat, start with the following tools: Mat board, ruler, pencil, Exacto/utility knife.
Using your ruler and a pencil, measure the size of the glass/inside of your frame. This will provide the dimensions of your mat, allowing it to rest comfortably inside the frame. On a durable surface, use your utility knife to cut the mat board to size on the back of the mat. (Tip: Using an outside edge of the board can help you to get away with only having to cut two sides). Using your ruler and pencil again, measure and trace the cutout for your photograph or artwork. You want to cut the opening to be a few centimeters smaller than your art piece, allowing you to tape the photograph to the back of the mat, leaving no gaps between the photograph and the mat board. Starting in a corner, cut your opening with the utility knife in even strokes along the edge of your ruler.
Using masking tape (easy to remove), place a strip of tape along each edge of the photograph’s back, leaving half an inch of the tape (sticky side) exposed. Lay the photograph down with the image facing up. Lay your mat on top of the photograph, centering the cutout over the photograph, press, and hold. (This will be easier than trying to mat the photograph from behind without seeing the front of the image.)
3. Shake it up
If traditional framing and matting leave you feeling boxed in, have fun and be creative. Cover the backing of a frame in decorative wrapping paper from Rock Paper Scissors or O’Su-zannah. Simply tape your photos or art to the wrapped back using double-sided tape for a fun, colorful touch.
Or, pick up an old window sash from The Habitat Store. Clean the glass, and mount photos from behind on each glass pane, using double sided tape.—Ed Warwick
Before joining the ABODE team, Ed Warwick was the author of “Simply Cville,” a blog about D.I.Y. design, entertaining, and home improvement projects. A UVA grad, Ed currently works as the Coordinator of LGBT Student Services under the University’s Dean of Students.
Scissors, shears, cutters, nibblers and nippers—It’s a happy family of cutting tools for everything from thin metal to cardboard and tile.
Let’s start with scissors. You probably already have a pair of basic paper cutting scissors hanging around your home or shop, but consider acquiring another pair or two to use for specific materials. Having a pair used exclusively for fabric, one for paper and one for other stuff, such as plastic tags and packaging, will keep the blades sharp and extend the life of your cutting tools. Scissors can be professionally sharpened in order to keep your cutting experience satisfying and safe (Martin Hardware provides sharpening services).
Utility shears are your go-to tool for heavier material such as leather, linoleum and carpeting. Large shears use what is called “compound cutting action,” which provides enough power to cut easily through things like sheet metal. Aviation snips are similar to utility shears but with the added feature of a spring to ease the strain on the hand. These shears also come with the option of a curved blade, which allows for a tighter cutting radius.
If you’ve forgotten the combination to your padlock, then you have most likely experienced the awesome power of the bolt cutter. With short blades and long handles, these babies have enough leverage to cut through chains, bolts and metal rods.
Occasionally, one needs to cut a small odd-shaped hole in sheet metal or plastic. Time to get out the nibbler (awww). Drill a small hole near the middle of the area you need to nibble and insert your nibbler and start munching away with the spring-loaded cutter.
Finally, when you need to cut a notch in tile to fit it around piping or another obstruction, use a nipper. Similar to the nibbler, it bites tiny bits of material away a little at a time.
Unlike heavy-duty, power cutting tools, these varied hand-held cutters, nippers and shears provide controlled, precise and physically satisfying results.—Christy Baker
Christy Baker is a local Jane-of-all-trades. Whether it’s fixing furniture, building a chicken coop or maintaining her roller skates, this creative mom of two always keeps a toolbox (or at least some duct tape) handy.