What Does That Do? A Closer Look at Canvas Stretching Tools

Those that have paid a visit to our site may have noticed a few of our videos displaying our process and our shop (And if you haven’t been, we encourage you to do so! We’re pretty proud of it.). If you have, you might have seen some shots of the tools and machines we use to stretch our canvases and wondered, what exactly are those? Well, this is your chance to find out a little bit of info on the various tools professional canvas stretchers have in their arsenal.

Though there are countless styles, variations and unique kinds of canvas stretching tools, professional stretchers essentially need tools to do only four things: build the frame, cut the canvas, stretch it (of course!) and attach the canvas to the frame.

Building the Frame

To build the frame, we first need stretcher bars. These are basically just pieces of wood that have diagonally cut corners, which fit together. Most modern stretchers have neat little tongue-and-groove style corners that slide perfectly into each other, though some are cut flat and must be attached together with staples or other materials (usually made of metal). Some stretchers buy their bars pre-cut, but Canvas Lot actually cuts our bars on the property, meaning we also have to have special saws to create the precise cuts in the wood.

Our stretcher bars are custom cut in house.

Though canvas frames can and often are attached by hand, professional operations such as Canvas Lot use machines called “underpinners” to build their frames. Underpinners use clamps to hold stretcher bars in the perfect place and then quickly attach them together in a very precise manner. The operator of an underpinner can switch out the corner that is being attached very fast, making it a breeze to build many frames in a short amount of time.

A Perfectly Cut Canvas

The tool that is used next is the canvas cutter. Most people at home use scissors or other common cutting implements to do this, but this method is usually inaccurate, takes a while and can easily ruin a piece of canvas. Instead of these, some canvas stretchers use very precise manual cutting tools, such as cutting guide rails, while others use even more precise and much faster laser canvas cutting machines. Whatever the tool used, the cuts must be as precise as possible, or the canvas will stretch poorly (or not at all).

The Fun Part- Stretching the Canvas

Once the frame is built and the canvas cut, it’s ready to be stretched. For this, we need the rest of the tools, including stretching pliers and tools and materials to attach the canvas to the wood.

The pliers are specially built with wide, semi-flat jaws that grip the canvas tight enough to pull it, but carefully enough that they don’t leave dents, tears or other damage on the canvas. These usually have special grips in the jaws to accomplish that, sometimes using a ridged pattern in the metal and sometimes using a rubberized gripping surface.

Canvas pliers are very precise and specially-crafted tools.

When the pliers have pulled a piece of the canvas to the correct tightness on the frame, they are held there while the two are secured together. This is either done the old-fashioned way, with a hammer and special tacks, or the modern way, with a staple gun. Staple guns are much quicker and more efficient, needing only one hand, and come in either manual, electric or pneumatic versions. Canvas Lot uses pneumatic staple guns, which are very quick, accurate and much easier to use than a manual gun.

Once all these tools have been utilized, all that’s left to do is inspect the canvas for perfection, and then wrap it up to be shipped! As you can see, each of the tools that it takes to stretch a canvas is very specialized and must be incredibly accurate. While it’s certainly possible to try and buy them yourself and stretch canvas at home, these tools (especially the machines) are very expensive and take years of training and learning to use well.

If you’re thinking about stretching on your own, save yourself some time and money and check out our amazing prices and excellent work. In the end, we guarantee you’ll spend a great deal less letting us do the dirty work, and you’ll have the added benefit of our expensive and precise machines making certain that your canvas is the best it could possibly be. Try us out; we know you’ll love the canvas we’ll make you!

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