A Book Review by Drew McManus
Title: The Encyclopedia of Picture
Author: Robert Cunning
Published by: Sterling
Publishing Co. Inc.
387 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016-8810
Price Softcover: $14.95
176 color pages
The title says it all, although it's not produced like an encyclopedia,
it does cover a wide variety of picture framing techniques, taking
you from the basics to more specialized and advanced techniques.
It includes a photo gallery of frames that range from common
to eclectic, traditional to modern.
Chapter 1 Materials and Equipment: Rating 4/5
The book begins from the assumption that you own little to no
tools and then goes on to cover the basic tools need for framing.
This includes sharp, modern, color photographs with detailed
descriptions of each item and how it is used. The author also
does a nice job at providing more than one tool example to accomplish
the same job, such as the different type of mat cutters. He explains
the differences between the simple inexpensive models to the
costly advanced versions and how you would need to implement
them. This chapter also covers the five basic parts of a frame
(backing board, picture, mat, glass, and frame) and the primary
categories of moldings. One glaring omission: there is only one
brief mention of power miter saws.
Chapter 2 Making a Simple
Frame: Rating 3/5
The chapter begins
with cutting the mat, which after reading through the book, you'll
discover is one of the most challenging tasks in framing a picture.
The author covers several different methods in cutting a frame
from a standard knife to an expensive professional cutting system.
Next is cutting and joining the frame, and looking at this book
from a woodworker's point of view, this was both inspiring and
frustrating. It was an inspiration in that the displayed techniques
sent my creative thought process into motion and gave me direction
as to what type of frame I would like to design and make. It
was frustrating seeing how the cutting and joining process was
oversimplified. The uninitiated in the skill of cutting and joining
small pieces, especially mitered pieces, will be very disappointed
at how the process has a higher than normal learning curve. And
God help you if you skimp out on any of tools presented and opt
for the wooden miter box to produce a tight fitting 45° angle.
I can just see the weekend hobbyist throwing this book and the
miter box across the garage!
This chapter has another flaw
due to the author being too general: how to determine the depth
of cut for the rabbit to hold the glass, picture, mat, and backing
is never mentioned. As for joining a mitered corner there are
far better ways to do so than the methods described in the book.
Although they will all certainly work, I can come up with four
methods that use better materials and will produce a higher quality
joint with no more experience or tools needed than the methods
described in this chapter. The following sections cover cutting
glass and assembling the pieces. It is well written, and easy
Chapter 3 Advanced Carpentry:
Here we go, now I was ready to learn something! The opening topic
on homemade profiles was excellent; the advice was right on and
useful for beginners through advanced alike. The author mentions
using preformed moldings like those readily available at your
local home store and more advanced ideas like making mirrored
inlaid banding from inlay veneer. I was very upset over the light
mention of how to use a router to make profiles. It was very
oversimplified and I believe it could lead a person to serious
injury without further mention of a necessary learning curve.
Advanced joinery was another
useful topic although it was lacking in many common techniques
used by many woodworkers. The section on ornamental extended
corners was very interesting but should be left for the advanced
framer/woodworker. I also believe that his method for making
ovals and circles is far more difficult than it needs to be.
The following section on slips, box frames, and floating frames
is really fun and is a section that woodworkers can shine. However,
here we once again run into that "depth of the rabbit"
problem. It's never mentioned and I kept wondering what is an
acceptable amount of space to leave, if any at all, between the
backing board, the item in the frame, and the glass. The section
on multisided frames (those being more than four sides) is another
poor section that will lead the beginning and even many intermediate
readers down the wrong path.
Chapter 4 Decorative Mats:
What a great chapter, I learned a new way to draw an oval, that's
simple and uses a compass, nail, and thread, why the bottom "stile"
of a mat should be wider than the top, and how to figure the
proportions for mats with multiple windows. The section on double
and triple mats, and making unusual shapes was equally useful,
as were the detailed descriptions about the variety of matboards.
The section using other materials in place of matboard got me
to thinking about using wide pieces of veneer.
Chapter 5 Wood and Wood
Finishes: Rating 4/5
This chapter covers
basic domestic woods (assuming you live in the UK or Europe!)
and what you can do to cover them in stains and finishes. The
one glaring error in this chapter is the assertion that veneers
can only be used on flat or gently curved moldings. The author
needs an education on bendable veneers! There was also a nice
side bar on building your own mini-fuming tent. My mind went
right to using it for small piece work as well as frames. The
section on stains was basic at best and does not even take into
account the many differences in staining different species of
woods. Additional techinques such as graining and pickling are
covered in useful detail.
Chapter 6 Paint Finishes:
Admittedly, being the purist I am, I had a hard enough time reading
about staining, but painting, ugh! Why cover wood, it's already
beautiful. I will give the author credit where credit is due.
All sections in this chapter were informative and full of relevant
details. This included a great chart about painting and varnish
qualities and uses. There were several "high-tech"
sections covering decoupage, verdigras, marbling, and lapis lazuli.
Chapter 7 Guilding: Rating
This chapter taught
me a good deal about a topic I knew almost nothing about. Although
it didn't interest me enough to want to try guilding I did get
a number of great ideas from the section on engraving. My mind
moved to pyrography. For those of you who love that Mediterranean
look, there's a wonderful section on burnishing clay and pastiglia.
I was surprised to find no mention to carving or use of chisels
to gain an added effect.
Chapter 8 Restoration &
A good chapter but
be forewarned, this topic is for those of you who truly appreciate
mind-numbing, detail oriented, time-consuming work! Everything
from replacing broken ornaments, cleaning wood, and basic repair
is covered in good to great detail. The section on cleaning wood
is especially useful to woodworkers in that many of the techniques
can be applied to cleaning up recovered wood.
Chapter 9 A Gallery of Frames:
Simply stunning. There's
something here to appeal to everyone and to get your creative
mind moving. I especially appreciated the broad variety of art
styles to help demonstrate the use of the frame and mats. There
is also a comprehensive glossary and index that makes this book
a truly resourceful volume.
This is where the book shines, the quality of all color photographs,
the way the layout flowed from page to page, and the breakdown
of sections within chapters made this a great addition to contemporary
arts and crafts DIY books. All pages are high quality semi-gloss
color pages. The only gripe is a "stay open" binding
that never really stays open and only serves to rip the pages
from the binding.
Rating 4/5 I enjoyed
reading this book and it certainly inspired me to go out and
start building some frames. Although I was a little disappointed
over the vague descriptions in some of the sections, I thought
the low cost and high production values helped balance the scales.
I wouldn't recommend it for absolute beginners, but for everyone
else it's a good buy.
Editor's Note: Sterling Publishing has graciously
donated several books for review which are passed on to our members
free of charge in exchange for thoughtful, honest reviews. Thank
You! And you can usually find their titles at a discount from
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