Canvas making

The support on which I paint is an important part of my practice and recently I have been investigating ways in which I can make good quality supports as cheaply as possible. So far I have made many plywood boards that I have cut and gessoed. I have since been looking into the possibilities of making my own stretched canvases. I sourced some unprimed cotton duck 10oz from Jacksons art supplies. I also managed to find a shop online that sells stretcher bars really cheap. I ordered myself 6 boxes of stretcher bars in various sizes so I can make a variety of frames up to 48 inches square.

I found a few instructional videos and guides on the internet and I soon had the basic idea of what I needed to do to stretch my own canvas. I constructed a rectangular frame 48" by 36" and included a single strut as I was expecting quite a bit of tension on the frame because of the tight canvas and I didn’t want the frame to bow.

Once all bars were slotted together I laid the frame out on the canvas so I could cut it. Previous experience has told me that it is much better to use a bit too much canvas than a bit too little so I always ensure the canvas is approx 3 inches bigger than the frame. I have not yet found the best way to cut the canvas so I need to do further investigation in this area.

I started by using my staple gun along with 6mm staples and placed a staple in the middle of the longest bar. Then using the canvas pliers I stretched the canvas at the opposite bar tightly using the canvas pliers and placed a single staple. This process was repeated for the other two bars and as can be seen in the photo I have created a diamond shape in the canvas where it has stretched.

The process now is to add 2 staples either side then turn 180 degrees, stretch and add 2 more staples. This is then repeated with the other stretcher bars until the staples go all the way along each bar approx 2 inches between each staple till we get to the corners. The canvas should now look like the picture below. All the central area tight like a drum skin with just the corners left to do.

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