Framing Papercuts?
January 14, 2007 8:43 AM   Subscribe

DIY Framing - Double Sided w/ Chinese Paper Cuts?

Hello, I bought some Chinese Papercuts as gifts in Foshan, China over the holiday and would like to try to frame them myself. They are fantastic - but so far unframed.

In the past I've seen two sided glass frames where the glass is sandwiched together by what looks like solder. I have never soldered before but I was thinking of buying a soldering gun and some frame glass and trying to put these frames together myself. Has anyone done anything like this before? Will the solder keep biggish sheets of glass together? Or is this just a massive laceration waiting to happen? Should I stick/clamp the glass together with something else to more firmly keep it together?

Thanks for any help and/or DIY tutorials you can direct me to. I'm in the bay area if there are any local resources/shops you know of.

(P.S. If you are ever in Foshan the city is famous for it's handicrafts. There's a great pottery district with a kiln that's been going for several hundred years. There's also a cool folk art center where they make the paper cuts right near the gift shop. The folk art center also makes paper lanterns and big parade dragons.)
posted by prettyboyfloyd to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total)
Response by poster: Hmmm...looking around the web (yeah I know, I did this once to no avail - my keywords just seemed to work better this morning) it looks like what I need is some u-shaped came, some solder, and maybe some hanger dohickeys like the 'handy hanger' (an eyebolt looking thing that the frame hangs from.)

Still - any comments from folks w/experience doing this and specific recommendations for what sorts of tools I'll need and/or directions to good web tutorials will be much appreciated.
posted by prettyboyfloyd at 9:13 AM on January 14, 2007

2 pieces of glass, help together with binder clips will work. Remove the handles from the clips when done.
posted by theora55 at 9:52 AM on January 14, 2007

You can also get glass-backed picture frames from the usual big-box franchised crafts stores. They're cheap but some of them use real glass (as opposed to plastic which ages badly and can harm the paper), albeit not UV-coated, which is what you really want for long-term display.
posted by ardgedee at 10:19 AM on January 14, 2007

If you check a local craft and framing shop, and tell them what you want, they should be able to sell you the glass and some plastic frame edges to hold them together.

I think the "solder" you have seen is just a design element on the edges, and not really the way the frames are held together. At least, I have seen them that way.

Frame and craft stores also sell what they call "float frames" that sandwich a picture between 2 pieces of glass, with no mat. But, be warned: this is probably not what you want, for 2 reasons: The back piece of glass is actually plastic, and horribly prone to scratching. Also, the back has a piece of hardware glued to it to allow for hanging.

But, they are inexpensive enough that perhaps you can buy 2, and discard the backs, and just use the glass and plastic frame to hold them together.

It sounds like you are going to hang these so both sides will show? That will require hanging from the ceiling (maybe using the binder clips as mentioned above) or you may be able to use a plant hanger or something similar to have the frame come out from the wall sideways so both sides can be seen.

In any event, I would not recommend soldering glass together. Even if it worked you risk getting solder on your art. There are lots of options available at craft and frame store, right off the shelf, without spending a lot.

Hope I am understanding you correctly, and hope this helps.
posted by The Deej at 10:33 AM on January 14, 2007

Best answer: Glass doesn't "solder" - either you fusion weld it with a shitload of heat which will destroy any paper held inside, or you wrap something metal around the edges of the glass and solder that.

Soldering implies a filler material that melts at a much lower temperature than the items you are joining; the filler melts and adheres fairly well to the bulk materials but the bulk (glass sheets in your case) does not melt. This is not AFAIK a process that applies to glass; glassblowers actually melt the glass itself and when joining, what they are doing is a fusion weld. Soldering is a process used with two different metals.

The usual approach in unframed leadlight things is to get adhesive-backed heavy copper foil that comes on rolls in a range of widths, you want to aim for about 4-6x the thickness of a single sheet of glass so that you get 1-2x glass-thicknesses of width on the glass faces. You put the glass together, stick the foil to the sides of the glass, bend the sides over so that it grips the faces of the glass and then solder the ends of the foil together using lead/tin solder bought from the same leadlight shop you got the foil from. Make sure to clean the flux off very carefully, the liquid type used for leadlight is highly corrosive and will eventually oxidise things and go very ugly.

If you apply a layer of solder along the length of the copper foil, it will look like the edges of the glass are held together with solder and it will be slightly stronger due to the added thickness. Possibly uglier too unless your soldering skills are decent.

You then get a piece of heavy (1-2mm depending on weight of glass you need to hang) nickel-plated steel wire, bend it into a hook shape with a big flat foot and solder the foot along the length of the copper foil on the edge of the glass. One in each corner is best so that the load doesn't pull the foil from the glass; if it's hung diagonally, one hook at the apex would be fine.

An easier option if you're not down with soldering is to make a wooden frame. Get some moulding that you like and make 2 identical frames (mirror image, actually), route out the backs to the depth of 1 glass sheet, sandwich glass and paper between wooden frames and glue the frame backs together.
posted by polyglot at 2:55 PM on January 14, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks - should have made the question clearer. Has anyone done something like the process above using u-shaped lead or copper "came?"
posted by prettyboyfloyd at 3:04 PM on January 14, 2007

I've done it with lead but the standard sizes are only a single glass thickness. It might be possible to find some designed for thickish glass that will fit two thin sheets.

The lead is usually an I-shape so that glass will fit in on both sides of it. The lead used for borders of a work is more of an H shape (deeper slots) but still often double-sided. Lead generally doesn't have much grip on the glass (though there is a hammering and puttying process); it depends on there being a piece of glass on each side to keep it in there and the outside piece of lead depends on the whole thing being in a frame. You'd never hang a piece of leadlight from the lead edges unless it were tiny, i.e. under 8" across.

However, I haven't been into a leadlight shop in more than 10 years. I'd say just go to a decent store and ask the people there, they'll probably be very helpful and certainly more knowledgeable than me.
posted by polyglot at 5:53 AM on January 15, 2007

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