How To Assemble a Canvas Stretcher
Follow this guide for simple instructions on how to assemble a high quality stretcher which is square at the corners and built to last!
Collect the following materials and tools: stretcher bars, cross bars, a tape measure and a wooden or rubber mallet. Do NOT use a hammer as this can damage the wood in your stretcher bars. Clear a space on your work bench if building a small stretcher, or on the floor if building a large stretcher.
The easiest way to build any artwork stretcher is to start at the bottom and work your way up! Lay out the base stretcher bar in front of you. Insert the first side bar and tap firmly with the mallet, creating the first corner of your artwork stretcher.
Next, insert your cross bar, followed by the second side bar. Tap the bars in quite loosely at this stage, allowing you to make adjustments at the end of the process.
Insert the final stretcher bar, creating a complete canvas stretcher shape.
Using your mallet, tap each corner of the stretcher firmly with equal force to create safe and secure joins. Check that each corner of your stretcher meets perfectly, resulting in a firm and strong artwork stretcher that is completely square in shape. There is no need to use glue, screws or any other fixing mechanism to secure your artwork stretcher bars.
Using your tape measure, measure the diagonal lengths of the artwork stretcher. If these lengths are not equal, use your mallet to knock the corners of the longer diagonal length until your stretcher is completely square. Our method ensures that the shape of your artwork stretcher is expandable, allowing adjustments to be made in the future as the tension in your canvas fabric adjusts.
Follow our ‘How to stretch a canvas’ guide to create a surface ready for painting! You can then use your mallet to knock wedges into the corners of the stretcher to tighten a slack canvas. Be sure to knock these in with equal force to retain a square shape.