Bob MacDonald said the golden rule for making the perfect frame is always “measure twice before you cut once.”
And after being in the framing business for 18 years, he knows what he’s talking about.
MacDonald invited me out to his shop at Bear’s Pass (aptly named Bob’s Shop) last Wednesday to demonstrate what’s involved in making a picture frame.
The first step is to pick out what frame you want and what colours for the mats you want to use. Once you’ve got that figured out, you have to measure and cut a hole in the mat for the picture to show through—carefully.
He used a large paper-cutting machine with a knife running along a steel rail to make the cut. The machine has stops to control the depth and length of the cut to make sure the knife slices only what it’s supposed to.
“A perfect mat is one that doesn’t have an over-cut,” he said, using a hand-held razor blade to finish off the corners.
A retired forest technician, MacDonald started working with picture framing as a hobby. Since then, it’s expanded to where he frames just about anything—from pictures to baby shoes and sports jerseys—in a variety of styles and methods.
“I’ve always been interested in woodworking and working with precision tools,” he explained. “I’ve always had a little intrigue in working in the art world.”
After MacDonald gets the mat and sub-mat finished, he gets ready to cut the wood for the frame. He said he makes a lot of his own frames but since we didn’t have time for the paint to dry, he had to use some of custom-bought designs he had in stock.
Using a Morso Chopper, he sheared 45-degree angles into the pieces of wood—again measuring each piece twice before cutting it.
MacDonald also sets up a shop in town at the Clover Valley Farmers’ Market every Saturday. Although he orders and frames prints for sale from around the country, much of his handiwork surrounds works by local artists like Cher Hogan, Pam Brandrick, and Peter Spuzak.
“I’m trying to support local artists,” he said. “I sell a lot of the local artists’ stuff and it does well.”
A bit of glue and a few nails is all it takes to hold the frame together, plus a little fill to cover up the nail holes. The height of the frame is about an eighth of an inch less than that of the mat, which is fixed easily by trimming a bit off the former.
“It’s always easier to cut than add on,” MacDonald noted.
It only took him a minute to cut the glass for the frame, and a little bit later, he handed me a perfectly-framed print of the “Hallett” by local artist Jean Richards.
“Hang it somewhere where you can see it,” he said.