Framing: Are Spacers Effective?
Often when framing movie posters, lithographs, serigraphs or any valuable and irreplaceable paper, custom framers will recommend the use of spacers to keep the glass away from your item or even suggest a mat to accomplish the same task. First of all, if you are framing something of value, glass is not typically recommended at all.
The most obvious downside of any type of glass is that it is heavy and it can break. If breakage occurs, it is going to scrape or cut your item. A not so obvious negative aspect of glass is that moisture entrapment can occur and cause your item to stick to the face of the glass and thus ruin your item. Most conservation framers use genuine UV filtered plexiglass. Genuine plexi glass is not to be confused with lower grade plastics like styrene, Lucite, PETG, or any low grade acrylics. Genuine plexiglass is a high quality product and is often extremely expensive in a retail store. Many sellers on the internet use the word ‘plexiglass’ generically for anything that is plastic. Often they are misrepresenting what they are actually selling; being able to do so because of the consumers’ lack of knowledge of brands and terms. Many times a framer will use some low-grade plastic that scratches easily, changes colors over time and can stick to the face of your items.
A spacer was originally designed to keep glass away from your collectable to stop the problem of moisture entrapment and sticking. Often someone has an autographed item, poster or valuable paper and doesn’t want the glass sticking to their piece which glass can and will do. All in all, you can see that the basic problem here is the use of glass in the first place. In addition, spacers are ineffective on larger items. Let’s say you have an original movie poster that measures 27×41 and is not mounted to a hard material as we never mount collectable items. If you frame that poster with a piece of glass or plexiglass with a spacer, you have left a ¼” of space in front of your ‘non-mounted’ poster. If you actually turn your frame sideways you will notice that the whole middle of your poster is touching the glass or plexiglass. By leaving that spacer in front of your ‘non-mounted’ item, it is able to warp into the space, sag and cause rippling to the poster that can only be fixed by the expense of linen backing/restoration or by mounting it to a hard material, such as foam core or mat board. Again, we never want to mount original items as it is considered a devaluation of the item in the hobby. Spacers are a product that framers can suggest to drive the cost of your frame job up. My response is if they don’t work for your item, then why spend one cent on them. Often framers suggest the use of matting as a spacer, but most mats are about 1/8″ thick and are not going to hold your item away from whatever you are using in front of it. Again, if you turn the frame sideways you will see your item touching the whole middle of the front product, especially the larger your item is. The only place the mat is holding your item away from the glass or plexiglass is out on the perimeter where part of your item is underneath the mat. When you are using genuine UV filtered plexiglass, not plastic styrene, etc. you can actually lay the plexiglass right on top of your item. Genuine UV filtered plexiglass, under normal circumstances, won’t stick to your pieces, even if it has autographs on it. It is manufactured in such a way that you don’t get the sticking or bonding problem you would with glass or low grade plastic products.
The only issues we have encountered in the past couple of years are with some of the new silkscreens or gicless like Mondo tees or prints from similar companies. Some of them, not all, have a powdery coating on them that can transfer to the plexiglass and leave a light colored afterimage at the position where you have inserted the tension clips from behind. Our own customer recently had this issue and took his frame apart. With a soft cloth he gently wiped his print, where there was no damage, but the powdery coating now transferred to the plexiglass had to be wiped off with a plexiglass polishing compound. Our suggestion to customers who own these types of prints has been to not use the spring clips. Put a piece of matboard behind the print, in front of the foamcore, to take up the space in the frame channel that the spring clip normally takes up; this way the print isn’t pressing hard against the plexiglass at any point. This has worked well with no further issues for customers that collect these type of prints. The issue is, you often don’t know if your print is that “type” of print until the afterimage occurs. Most silkscreens or gicless are on heavy stock paper and have a flat finish. Our advise is to err on the side of caution and, if you feel your print might have that powdery coating, use a matboard behind your print instead of spring clips. Problems have happened with our clients who have used conservation glass and/or spacers. They have brought in their framed items and upon taking them apart it is visible that the spacer had rubbed against the print around the entire perimeter and actually rubbed the color off the artwork. Ultimately, it is an issue of the paper and all we can do as collectors is try to ascertain if we have that type of print and put a mat behind it to take up space in the frame channel instead of using spring clips. You may also mat your prints which will take your print away from the perimeter of the frame where the spring clip is used. However, matting a print is more costly and a decision that has to be made by the individual collector. Please feel free at anytime to call or email with questions on this issue and if ordering a frame from us, inquire about putting a piece of acid free matboard behind the print so you don’t have to use the spring clips. We offer this at a minimal upgrade.
We have made frames for the Motion Picture and Television studios for over thirty years. In addition, we frame for many of the top collectors of original movie posters, music posters and other paper memorabilia all over the country. Our desire is to promote consumer’s knowledge. We write articles that appear in books and websites all over the world about framing collectables so that you may make informed choices when framing any of your artwork and posters. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg; you just have to use a few specific materials! We ship hundreds of wholesale custom made frames each month to customers who want to protect and display their items whether they be valuable monetarily or sentimentally. Our motto is “All that matters to the long term preservation of your item is what’s touching in the back and what’s touching it in the front”.
Contact us directly for more information. We are always happy to help another collector. Happy Collecting!
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