How To Assemble Metal Picture Frames

The most common metal used for modern picture frames is Aluminium. The aluminium is extruded as lengths of picture frame moulding. It can be powder-coated in many colours or it is often anodised to produce a metallic finish. The profiles of the aluminium picture frame lengths are varied to suit the style of framing required.

There are two main types of aluminium picture frame. One is a back loading profile where the frame is joined with crimped metal corners and the glass, picture and backing is inserted from the back after the frame has been joined. The other more abundant variety of metal frame is the side loading type. Side loading aluminium frames are cut in sections and then joined using an angle bracket that is screwed into a slot on the back of the moulding. When assembling a side loading frame the glass, picture, matting and backing are cleaned and prepared on the assembly table first and then slid into three sides of the pre-joined frame. The fourth side is then slotted into the other sides and then adjusted and screwed into place.

The steps for fitting a picture with glass to a back-loading aluminium frame is as follows:

  • Place the back-load frame face down on a clean assembly surface
  • insert the glass or glazing material
  • Clean the glass with a suitable glass cleaner
  • Remove and dust or lint by brushing the glass surface with a dusting brush or by blowing the dust off the surface with an air duster
  • Clean the surface of the picture
  • Insert the picture/backing into the back-loaded frame
  • Fix the picture in place using spring clips provided with the frame
  • Clean the outside of the glass and check for dust
  • Fix the wire or cord for hanging by tying it across the backing between two of the spring clips

The steps for fitting a picture with glass to a side-loading aluminium frame is as follows:

  • assemble your picture, mat and backing board, set aside
  • join two short sides of the frame to one long side of the frame with right angle corner brackets ensure the A face side of the corner bracket faces to the front side of the frame
  • put a corner bracket at each end of the spare long side
  • you may need to add the hanging devices at this stage but it depends on the type, whether it is a slide in type or clip in type
  • lay the cut to size glass on the assembly table and clean it with glass cleaner and a soft lint-free cloth
  • remove any dust or lint by brushing with a dusting brush or using an air blower
  • remove any dust from the picture and matting as above
  • place the picture and matting face down onto the clean glass surface
  • carefully slide the glass and picture together into the three sides of the frame you have joined
  • turn the frame over or stand it up with the open side at the top and check to see if there is any dust between the glass and picture
  • if there is dust you will have to slide the picture back out and dust the glass and picture again or sometimes the dust can be removed by tapping the glass and tilting the frame so the dust falls out
  • when you are happy that it is clean yo can slot the fourth side into the frame and then tighten the screws in the corner bracket to hold it in place
  • check all four corners for alignment and loosen the brackets and re-tighten adjusting the corners as you go until the frame is perfectly joined
  • check again for dust before inserting springs or wedges between the backing board and the back slot of the frame
  • if the gap between the back of the frame and the slot is too small for a spring you can use an off-cut of picture matting board or foam board.
  • clip in the hangers or if the hangers provided are a slide in variety you would need to have slotted them in before you fully joined the frame
  • tie the wire or cord and apply bump-ons to the corners
  • your frame is now ready to hang

NOTE: If you have a gap in your frame corners check whether you have the corner angle joining bracket around the right way. Usually the face of the corner bracket is marked “A” Face – this is what faces to the front of the frame.

One of the advantages of aluminium picture frames is that they are acid-free and cannot leach any acids into valuable artworks.

A couple of disadvantages are that they can be quite flexible and twist easily causing the glass to break and that due to their enclosing profile you can be restricted as to the depth or thickness of the picture you can frame.

Please bear these pros and cons in mind when selecting a metal frame to frame your pictures and you will be sure to have a positive result.