Conservation framing

Thoughtful selection of framing materials will enhance an artwork’s protection as well as its appearance. The smallest details can have a significant impact on short and long term preservation. An enormous variety of high quality materials and mouldings are now available to create exciting combinations with visual impact.


Many works arrive in my studio held only with nails in the frame. Nails may loosen leaving the painting insecure, or split the wood of the frame or stretcher. Countersunk nails are difficult and risky to remove.

Offset clips used to secure paintings in frames are screwed into the back of the frame. If the painting is flush with the back of the frame, straight mending plates or turn buttons may be suitable.

Paintings should be held in the frame without direct insertion of fasteners into the painting. Zinc-plated or brass offset clips are held over the back of the painting and screwed into the back of the frame. Offsets come in standard depths or may be custom shaped to profile. The depth required depends on the degree to which the painting projects from the back of the frame.  Ideally, the edges of the painting are fully recessed and protected by the frame rebate.

A Good Fit

The painting must not be forced into the frame—a small gap should be provided to allow for expansion of wood components. The frame rebate should be smooth and cushioned to prevent abrasion of the front edges of the painting.  Abrasive contact with a rough, unfinished rebate results in progressive damage and loss that may spread beyond the contact surface, as shown below. The frame should project above the surface of the painting to maximize the frame’s protective function.

The results of poor storage are evident here, as are paint losses and abrasions along the front edges caused by direct, damaging contact with the frame rebate.

Hang Tight!

Wood strength may diminish over time and its hardness and density is variable, so it is a good idea to periodically check the hanging hardware in the back of your picture to ensure it is secure. Hanging hardware should always be inserted in the frame, not in the back of the painting. Of course the frame joins must be secure or the frame could fall apart; any weak component may put the painting at risk.

RECOMMENDED: Various styles of bar (left) and strap or “D-ring” hangers (right) are safe when selected for the weight and size of picture and fastened in sound wood with screws of adequate size and length.

NOT RECOMMENDED: The use of inadequate, undersized hardware is all too common. Screw eyes are apt to bend, break, or pull out of the wood. The bent screw eye at left was removed from an old frame, and the small brass screw eye was removed from a four foot square painting!