Your child’s priceless finger-painting needs a beautiful frame. Or maybe it’s time to switch out those elementary school portraits for graduation or wedding photos. Perhaps you’ve inherited a beautiful frame: it has D-rings on the rear sides to hold hanging wire, but no back—how do you hold your artwork or photos in place? Learn how to use a picture frame stapler, also known as a “point driver.”
Framing staplers drive special nails, called “brads,” or flat metal tabs, called “points,” into wood frames. They hold canvas stretchers, or “window” style mats, (with a square or rectangular cut-out to display the picture) and frame backing snugly within the frame or against the artwork or photo. This is to hold them in place. You’ve probably seen these “points” on basic picture frames available at your local big box or drugstore. But when you want a lovely, durable frame, you’ll probably want to use your heirloom or select a new wood frame in a complementary color from a shop, along with appropriate mats and backing. The points often come with the framing stapler upon purchase.
There are two types of points: rigid and flexible. The flexible kind are ideal for home framing projects, because they can bend, making it easy to switch out old photos or artwork with something new. You simply bend the points back, remove the backing, take out the old picture, and insert the new one, put the backing back in, and bend the flexible points back in place.
Using the Picture Frame Stapler
Professionals may use electric or pneumatic framing staplers, but manual versions work fine for home framing projects. Make sure your frame is deep enough to hold your painting and the stretcher or mat it’s attached to, plus the backing. The frame’s depth is called the “rabbet” or “R” measurement. That “R” measurement must be greater than the total thickness of everything that will go inside the frame.
Lay the frame wrong-side up on a level surface. Carefully set your stack of glass, mat and photo, or canvas and its stretcher—with their backside facing you—inside the frame. Hold the framing stapler firmly against the back of the frame’s inside edge, just above your artwork. Angle the stapler slightly upward, so the points will go in at an angle and hold your “stack” snugly, and so you won’t accidentally skew the artwork. Squeeze the trigger to drive the point into the frame. The point will extend out from the frame edge, over the back of the artwork, to hold it. When you pull the framing stapler back to move it to the next spot, try to maintain that same slight angle so you don’t bend the point or shift the artwork.
Repeat every three to four inches around the inside back of the frame’s perimeter to ensure the artwork or photo is held firmly in place and won’t move around.
Now that you know how to use a picture frame stapler, you can experiment with different mats and frame sizes. Just be sure to check that “R” measurement and plan to use a picture frame stapler made for DIY use.