The Causes of War: Custom Walnut moldings for the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Collection

The Flying Heritage & Combat Armor's new exhibit Why War: The Causes of Conflict is the first exhibit of it's kind to examine historical issues that have led to conflict. The exhibit's design features some highly informative and engaging interactive elements, large scale artifacts, and some original protest and propaganda posters from the Civil War to the Vietnam era.

We custom milled two profiles in Walnut and a softwood frame for a custom color finish. Our friends at Mainframe in Georgetown handled the assembly and fitting with great skill and fine results. For more information on custom moldings drop us an email with specifications for a free estimate.

Why War: The Causes of Conflict opens March 4th to the public with regular hours, group events and tours listed on the website.

The Family Table: Reclaimed Wood for a Reclaimed Space

Everyone, and I mean everyone, needs a family table. It's a stationary object but it's not a static thing. Over the last few years I've designed and made conference tables, work tables, platforms and end tables for professional use but nothing as satisfying as the family table. There's something about the family table that draws everyone to it. We discovered that using reclaimed wood and hand-finished details created something more than just a large table. It created a comfortable space, a back drop for everything from social gatherings to personal creativity. 

I approached the joinery of the table like an artist painting a landscape; the client's needs fill in the foreground but the joinery in the background brings out the finishing touches for originality. The 10/4 (2.5" thick) planks of reclaimed Doug fir needed jointing, but were too wide for a joiner so I hand planned the crown out with a no. 6 and no. 4. Next the planks were joined with a double through spline (Maple) which made layout easier and the planks came together nicely. Once the table top was joined it was pretty heavy. With the thick top I decided against an apron which would make the table look even heavier. We flipped the table top over and hand cut the mortise and tenons for the legs. They all fit nice and tight, with just a little fuss on the last one, but nothing a shoulder plane couldn't handle. 

Finally when it came to sanding and finishing, the sanded surface felt too smooth, making the table seem artificial as though it wasn't the beautiful reclaimed wood it had felt like through seeing and handling. It was more work, but the surface maintains a wonderful rich glow as well as a pleasing tactile feel.

We are currently taking orders for this style of table available in 2.5"; 1.5" or 1" thick tops with a surface area starting at 38" x 60" and choice of leg style. Please email for prices and scheduling. Limited materials for an edition of 30 tables available only.

family table.jpg

A Regular Column: Wrapping a glulam

John & Lisa were remodeling their 1901 home and had a glulam beam installed in the spacious downstairs. Originally, the glulam was intended to contrast the original ship-lap walls that were in amazing shape, preserved under a century's worth of wallpaper. Once the ship-lap was steam cleaned the glulam looked imposing and competed with the ship-lap for visual attention.

We wrapped the glulam in Birch plywood and created columns on either side of the room to create a unified look which also helped separate the two distinct types of ship lap used in the original build. The original plan was to install the Birch plywood, stain and finish it to compliment the ship-lap but the distributor accidentally dropped prefinished Birch instead of A-1 sanded. The mistake was in our favor and so we decided the pre-finished birch could be painted white to tie into the mill work. Once the floors are re-finished we should have some great before and after photos.

How to Install a Plinth

I recently installed a plinth for Wittman Estes architecture and landscape. Wittman Estes designed this staircase and platform combo using reclaimed doug-fir and appearance grade steel stringers. Everything went together well enough, but it took some time getting the miters to close given the light cupping of a few planks. I hand planed many of the treads to remove most of the crown where needed and used a clear finish to seal the wood. We also made the last-minute decision to hide the angle-iron on the floor in the legs of the plinth which took some time on the table saw and a little chisel work, but the result was worth it.



Preserving comic book art one frame at a time

I recently framed a rare private collection of early Robert Crumb drawings and illustrations on the heals of the Graphic Masters show at SAM. This collection of original drawings, greeting cards and prints has a unique and tragic story with the collector's who befriended Crumb in the mid-sixties while he was working for the American Greeting Card Co. back in Cincinnati. The collection is now on display at Fantagraphics here in Georgetown and can only be seen currently in store.

We were given carte blanche to design the show and with some budget constraints we needed to have strong presentation but not at the expense of conservation grade materials. Our house brand Walnut frames and UV conservation glass made for a fine presentation and kept the project on budget. We recommend UV conservation glass for all special and valuable works on paper, even if the art is not placed in spaces with large amounts of natural light. Tungsten and especially florescent lighting can affect works on paper over a long period of time (faded colors in paper and some inks).

For more information on the Crumb exhibit contact Fantagraphics at the link above.

r. crumb at fantagraphics

I Framed Andy Warhol (part 2) the reveal

A few months back a client came in with an original Andy Warhol Cow that had been tightly rolled up for years. We recommended an art conservationist who could iron out the wrinkles and after that we could begin our task of framing.

The print was top mounted to museum board, a conservation grade mat board made from cotton fiber. Using museum hinges, spacers, and finished with museum glass, the artwork is suspended within the frame allowing it to breath both physically and visually. The highlight for this project was the spacers. The client wanted hot pink somewhere in the frame to compliment the highlights in the print but we couldn’t find the right color or the right materials were simply unavailable. We overcame these hurdles by making the spacers ourselves hand painting them to tie in with the print.

This was a really great project all around. It took a lot of extra time and caution but the results are stunning and the print is well preserved.

andy warhol cow print

3 Tips for DIY Custom Picture framing

There's a good article by Apartment Therapy on sourcing cheap frames for small projects like original prints, family photos and kid's art. It's easy and economical to find a frame online or off-the-shelf and be done but there can be hurdles to creating the perfect look. Here's a few tips from our shop for making the most for your DIY picture frame project

TIP #1: Wood frames are the way to go

Small inexpensive frames are usually wood, metal or MDF (wrapped in a thin plastic veneer). Metal and wood frames last the longest while MDF frames tend to deteriorate quickly. This break down is caused by the chemicals and glues (MDF) expanding and contracting (even under normal climate controlled conditions) until the corners come apart and the hardware loosens. Wood frames are best: they last longer and can be refinished or modifying as needed.

TIP #2: Custom mats for better proportion

Frames off the shelf usually include a matboard with a standard window for a standard size print. If the art is a unique size chances are the presentation will look disproportionate or it simply won't fit. This is a perfect opportunity for you to custom cut your own watercolor papers or decorative papers and have at it. Or you can have mats cut for the perfect fit. Custom mats can be economical and in a shop like ours there's no additional cost for assembly.

TIP #3: Cheap frame means better features

A DIY picture frame from old barn wood, a yard sale or off the shelf can look amazing with features like UV protective or Anti-reflection glass or acrylic. We offer a wide array of glazing options for simple amazing results for any sized DIY frame project. This vintage etching (below) was found at an antique mall and just needed a tune up to look it's best. The original glass had residue from age which was also causing the print to yellow. We replaced it with Conservation Clear, a 99.9% UV protective glazing and added a small 1/8" spacer to keep the glass off the print. The result is charming.





Custom display case with classic lines and fine joinery

One of Georgetown's most unique, most surprisingly original galleries Krab Jab Studios opens another stellar exhibit with a fine cast of local and international artists. For this exhibit we built a display case for a fantastic sculpture by Seattle based artist Yvette Endrijautzki. The sculpture is a menagerie of found objects carefully arranged and finished with antique whites and Steam-Punk bronze and copper highlights.

The design had to be simple enough to be unobtrusive to the eye but also had to connect the work to the viewers looking on Yvette's scene. For an antique, hand crafted look we used a variety of traditional hand tools, water based stains and waxes. The highlight for us were the compound mitered corners around the top of the case. This allows the lines to look more continuous adding unity to the frame elements. The result is a pleasing vantage point from which to view the art and protect it from dust and potential damage.

For sculpturesand other 3D artifacts we offer a wide variety of custom displays from pedestals to easels and wall mounted displays. Feel free to call or email for inquiries.

That's a wrap: Crating art for international shipping

It doesn't happen every day, but friends of ours recently sold a ten year body of work consisting of original watercolors and illustrations to a collector overseas. With the excitement of the prospective sale came the anxiety of packing and shipping over 200 flat stock items all with various dimensions. They asked us if we had any suggestions and we happily responded by building two custom crates, which accommodated both the artwork and the budget.

By keeping the dimensions of the crates to just under the maximum allowance for priority, we were able to help our clients keep the costs down and ship in better time than ground service. Each item was sealed in an archival Mylar bag and secured with Foam core cut to size.

If you have something you need shipped right, feel free to contact us today for a quote. We provide a range of crates for shipping artwork, antiques, and rare objects.

The Art of Alzheimer's update: Give Big Foundation annual charity event

Imagination is more important than knowledge.  For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.

~ Albert Einstein


At the end of last year we had the privilege of framing a series of artwork created by Alzheimer’s patients.  Here’s Art of Alzheimer's story in the words of their founder, Marilyn Raichle:

The Art of Alzheimer’s shares remarkable art by vibrant people, opening hearts and minds to a different way of thinking about Alzheimer’s and dementia and preparing us all to be better stewards of an aging population.
I was raised in the shadow of Alzheimer’s with nearly everyone on my father’s side and many in mother’s developing the disease.  We were taught that when Alzheimer’s arrived, it was like a death—actually worse than death.  Our parents warned us, “Don’t sacrifice your lives for us.  When our time comes, just walk away.” And we all believed it.
And then Mom began to paint.  The paintings were amazing.  She had never painted a day in her life yet these paintings were really good, always interesting and sometimes remarkable.  And slowly, I began to understand.  She may have had a short term memory of about ten seconds, but she was still here—loving, creative and joyful.  I began to share the art with others and the reaction was always the same—delight, surprise and gratitude to experience a story about Alzheimer’s with hope and joy—a continual discovery of the value of human life.


The Artist Within, an art exhibition inspired by and dedicated to Marilyn's mother Jean, consists of 51 exhilarating artworks created by people living with dementia—illustrating the simple truth that people living with dementia are still here, able to live with dignity, creativity and joy.  When framing the pieces for this show, we also found ourselves drawn to the beauty and depth of the work.  There was something simple, straight forward, and joyous about the paintings.  But we aren't the only ones who felt that way.  The impact of this project extends to researchers, viewers, and the patients themselves.  When participants saw their art on display, they said it changed their view of themselves - they were artists.  To read more on the Art of Alzheimer's story and impact check out this Seattle Times article.

On May 3 the Seattle Foundation will hold its annual GiveBIG, a one day online charitable giving event raising money for the hardworking nonprofits that make our region a better place to live.  And this year The Art of Alzheimer’s is honored to participate.

 To donate visit


Together, we can inspire public commitment to accessible dementia care that treats the whole person in an engaged, positive environment.
~ Marilyn Raichle


The art and framing of Rich Hall

NY/LA/Seattle based artist Rich Hall has a rare gift. He's able to take wildly random and vivid imagery and mold them into classical portraiture, giving them odd nuances, glances, anima. Hall's paintings sell fast but framing them has been problematic.

Rich entrusted us with the task of framing his work and nothing readily available was quite right. Simple black frames were fine, but they fail to capture any of the energy of the work and appeared flat against the vivid colors and finish of the painting. Gaudy-gold ironic gilded frames don't do justice either which resigns the nuance of the artwork to kitsch. This is where framing often hurts the artist: if it doesn't look right it looks cheap or the art looses meaning.

Nothing off the shelf - in a custom frame shop - was working so we milled up float frames designed especially for Rich. Individual frames are milled to fit the proportions of the the painting and hand finishes accentuate the painting and present it as independent but identifiable within the canon that is Rich Hall. The result is a frame that protects the artwork, maintains the individuality of the art and artist, and increases the value of the work.

Rich Hall's work is available through his website anytime and through Mainframe by appointment.

A clean well lighted place

Mainframe has moved into the Malt House, just one building down from the Bottling Plant in the Original Rainier Brewery in Georgetown. Our new facility has provided some much needed room for larger projects (custom panels, hand crafted moldings), storage, and additional showroom space. We have new vendors, more samples, more custom finishes to choose from. We're excited to be done moving and getting back to what we love best. Special thanks to our friends and neighbors around Georgetown that helped pitch in the move.

The Art of Alzheimer's and the Artist Within: A profound survey

The Artist Within is easily one of the most interesting and surprising projects in my framing career. The project is a curated selection of watercolors created by Alzheimer's patients and is scheduled to exhibit here in Seattle January 7th, 2016 at Seattle City Hall/Anne Focke Gallery.

We were tasked with the framing design for the exhibit and to help with logistics, such as installation and custom crating. Usually with artwork created in therapy or in student session, the end results are a personal record and not for public display. The paintings curated for this exhibit however have a dignity and sensitivity which needs to be highlighted and preserved by the framing. In short our framing design started by treating the artwork as artwork to be presented in a gallery setting. 

The artwork is float mounted using Japanese paper hinges, acid free mats, UV conservation glazing and reclaimed Pine frames from Urban Ashes. Pine is often a great way to go for vibrant paintings. Pine has a light color but also has warmth which as a frame disappears allowing the viewer's focus to remain on the artwork. This is especially critical for an exhibition where more than 50 works are present side by side. Neutral mats also support the vibrancy and individuality of the paintings where stark white or off-white mats would have looked dull, cold, and repetitive.

The Artist Within opens to the public January 7th, 2016 with a list of events through January available here.

Conservation framing and the environment: a natural approach

One of the best things about conservation picture framing is, I think, directly related to climate consciousness. Many of the harmful chemicals and processes used to produce woodworking finishes, paper mat and backing, and other picture framing related materials have been substituted for natural products. The results are better, environmentally friendly products that help preserve art and heirlooms with greater longevity. 

We carry three types of products for the preservation of art, photos and memorabilia and knowing the differences will help determine which is the right product for your custom framing needs. 

  • Posters, prints, and photos from a souvenir shop or fresh off the printer would do well in standard acid-free mats and cvc free backing. These products age well with very little deterioration or discoloration and can be kept from fading using UV conservation glass.
  • Acid free mats and backing or conservation mat boards are a step up when preserving original artwork such as etchings, watercolors on quality papers, and special objects.
  • For historical-preservation grade framing or archiving we recommend 100% cotton rag museum boards and archival backing. These products are pH neutral without the use of chemicals or buffering agents preserving the art or document for a lifetime or more.

Feel free to contact us to find the best framing and archiving products and services for your next custom framing project.

Creating space for special objects: Custom framing for leather work

Great picture framing can appear as magnificently as an old world masterpiece or disappear entirely as the theater to the play. The artist of this leather work finally found the eureka moment for a series of leather goods and wanted to frame the monumental piece for their studio. It's a case of how to find the right frame; not too showy, not too contemporary, not too rustic or contemporary; something as original as the art itself. Craftsman to craftsman.

After a hearty discussion on everything from how leather is worked, tools and techniques, tannac acids and life itself, all the usual framing materials seemed to fall flat. The different dies used on the leather have a sheen that dulls when paired with matboards that would otherwise compliment the work. In this case paper is the wrong material to showcase the leather work. So the artist left it with us and carte blanche for the design.

We substituted traditional matting for a Walnut panel and frame. The Walnut panel is book matched meaning the grain of the wood is mirrored. This feature picks up the flow and details of the leather work with all the natural ease of a complimentary element and supports the leather with the rigidity needed to keep it from cracking. We hand finish the Walnut and cut the frame to run the grain of the wood continuously as well.

If you have a unique object such as leather work, ceramics, or textiles and can't find the right design for your display, call or email for a free consultation.

Socar Myles: Tone it down, tone it up with museum boards

Last August we started a project with artist and illustrator Socar Myles and the gallery representing her work here in Seattle. Socar's fine ink on paper drawings are incredibly meticulous, rendered with consummate skill presenting a range of dry humor, wit, vivid and lively caricatures. Now Socar and Krab Jab Studios are presenting more than 30 original works on paper opening Saturday, December 12th here in Georgetown.   

Socar's detailed illustrations are a challenge for gallery display, especially with the matting. Matboards come in hundreds of colors, finishes, and fabrics, and finding the right one takes time and experience. With this project, a uniform look of black matting or white wouldn't work as each piece has a strong individual character and nuance.

Museum boards were the way to go. The neutral tones compliment, or subtly contrast the fine drawing paper of each piece and help bring out details in the illustration or negative space, which the artist often uses as an illuminated light source. The mats are hinged to the backing using an archival linen tape and the illustrations are mounted to the substrate, also museum board, using archival mounting corners. The matting package is guaranteed not to yellow or damage the artwork.

Museum matting is a great way to store artwork prior to framing. The artwork lays flat in an archival carrier and can remain in pristine condition until displayed.

New house molding at Mainframe

On the off chance you stopped by the shop or called and no one was around it's because I've been taking a woodworking class on how to make molding. Woodworking is a blast. I love it. And I'm pleased to announce we now carry our own line of natural hard and softwood moldings.

Our house moldings are locally and responsibly resourced from a small mill near Mt. Rainier. Our custom moldings will be available in short runs and one-of-a-kind tailor made fits. Call or email for options and pricing.

Emily Fiegenschuh and the ad intera of picture framing

Emily Fiegenschuh is a highly talented, widely published artist and illustrator working predominantly in watercolor and gouache on paper. One of Emily's original paintings for a book cover recently sold at GenCon '15 and she brought the work to us for conservation framing. The painting is a vivid interior of a library with a great cast of characters rendered with layers of gouache and a receding background in washes of watercolor. The result is a luminescent painting that could be framed a variety of ways: refined gold or silver moldings, bright and playful, or natural, almost anything would be complimentary to Emily's painting. ad intra

We chose an Urban Ashes solid Walnut frame with medium figure, a double mat, and conservation acrylic glazing - as it was set to be shipped from Mainframe to the client. The molding was spot on with a beautiful oiled finish enhancing the tones of the painting while helping to create play between the interior and exterior space of the painting. Often times I steer away from double mats when the active colors are bright and potentially compete with one another, but Emily found a new Crescent Alpha mat in a plum tint which accented the woman's eyeliner, jewelry and book perfectly, steering the presentation away from too formal.

We couldn't be more pleased with the results. A natural frame that brings does more than harmonize and compliment tones, but adds movement between an imagined and a physical interior. This idea of movement has a lot to do with the grain or more accurately the figure of the wood itself. Special thanks to everyone at Urban Ashes for their collaborative efforts in making this custom molding better than we could have imagined. For all custom framing inquiries just drop us a line here.

Fabrics, textiles and picture framing

Tom Bihn has been designing backpacks and outdoor wear for decades and we were thrilled to collaborate with him recently for a framing project. Tom's mementos of his long career range from original fabric swatches, tags, and concept drawings of logos and designs all needing preservation framing.

When framing textiles or fabrics picture framer's use a sew mount, an archival mounting method that uses threads instead of adhesives to secure the artwork to the backing. There's a wide variety of sew mounting techniques for any given type of fabric from needlepoint to canvas, silk or textile to be mounted.

Here we have a variety of labels from Tom's famous Black Bag, the great Kite logo, and a swatch of light weight fabric from an early prototype, as well as original drawings. We mounted each item on an archival linen matboard and arranged the larger items in the top quadrant of the space. This arrangement places more visual emphasis on the tags and smaller items. The frame is clear Eastern Maple that is milled locally and hand finished in our shop.

I can't say that my sewing skills are a match for Tom Bihn's but I can say each item was secured to the mat with my best efforts and careful handling. Thanks Tom!