How to assemble Stretcher Frames With Universal Braces

 

“Just received the stretchers and put them together. The new stock brace system is great, nice materials.  Now I need to place another order ……”

Michael Bromley: Professional Artist,  Regina,  Saskatchewan

 

Stretcher Frame Components

Stretcher Frame Components (supplied):
stretcher bars, braces, brace mounting brackets, screws and keys

Tools Required:
rubber mallet, Phillips or Robertson (#2) screwdriver, measuring tape

screw_Phillips-#2Robertson-quadrex


Universal-Brace-markers

 

The first step is to fasten the brackets to the stretcher bars.

Insert the provided 1-½" screws into the two holes in the bracket. Each stretcher bar 36" and over will be marked with two small indents near the center of the bar for aligning the bracket using the screws. (The exception to this is the 72" Professional stretcher bars which will be marked for two braces each).

 

When installing brackets on our Standard or Professional stretcher bars, make sure the back edges of the bar and bracket are flush, as shown. This provides the maximum "setback" (space) between the canvas and braces.

For our Gallery bars, the bracket should be centered on the inner edge.

Bracket alignment for various stretcher bar profiles


Dados cut into cross-braces allow them to nest together

 

Next, assemble any cross-braces.

All braces 36" and longer will come with "dado joints" cut into them that allow the braces to nest together flush when crossed. Use the supplied ½" screw and sleeve nut to fasten each nesting pair during assembly.


The pieces are now prepared and you can start putting the frame together, as below:

Assemble the Stretcher Frame

 

Assembling a stretcher frame - braces

1.  Lay out the braces so the widest part of the frame is toward you (if applicable). If the braces cross, put the side with the screw head(s) facing down at this time.

Universal Brace and bracket

2.  With the "canvas side" of the stretcher bar (see cross-section diagram, above) facing up, attach one of the longer stretcher bars to the bottom of the braces by sliding the slot in the braces over the bracket.

Assembling a stretcher frame - right bar

3.  Attach the right stretcher bar to the bottom bar and horizontal brace. Use a mallet to tap the joints into place.

Assembling a stretcher frame - top bar

4.  Attach the top stretcher bar to the right bar and vertical brace.

Assembling a stretcher frame - left bar

5.  Attach the left bar to the top and bottom bars and horizontal brace. Tap all bars together with the mallet so that all joints are fitting tightly and the frame is assembled square.

Assemble a stretcher frame - flip over to stretch canvas

6.  Flip the stretcher frame over so that the "canvas side" is now down. Your frame is now ready for stretching the canvas. See our instructions for How to Stretch Canvas for more information on this step.

Assembling a stretcher frame - measure diagonally to check squareness

7.  Before stapling the canvas onto the frame, check that the frame is square by measuring diagonally, which should be equal. If necessary, use the mallet to gently tap on the corners to adjust squareness.

Universal Braces with keys

8.  After the canvas is stapled to the frame, place two keys in each corner and one key at the end of each brace. Tap all keys in with a hammer to expand the frame incrementally and evenly until desired canvas tension is achieved.

*If you are stretching raw canvas, it is often best to size, prime, and let the canvas fully dry prior to adding the keys.