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Mounting and Bracing Solid GroundTM Panels

Solid Ground panels are inherently stable art surfaces,
and their overwhelming tendency is to remain flat and straight
without any intervention. Only when exposed to extreme stresses
such as poor storage conditions or exceptional paint shrinkage are
they likely to bend or curve. Although quite rigid, they are not
completely so; a certain degree of flexibility (more evident in
1/4"panels and in larger sizes) actually gives them the adaptability
and "memory" to remain flat, or to return to a flat condition after
the stresses are relieved.

From the panelmakers point of view (or a conservator's) we would
like to see the panels supported by nothing more than a strong picture
frame in as many cases as possible. In most instances, we believe
that any wooden bracing applied to the back of our panels is more
likely to warp or twist than the panel itself.

In the real world, of course, this is often unrealistic, as there are
myriad reasons why artists want to, or must, mount or brace our
panels. Some artists need absolute rigidity; some want the
appearance of extra depth; many want to use hanging methods
which dispense with frames. Luckily, there are many very good
methods for bracing and mounting, some of which I will discuss here.

The fact that there are indeed so many variations on how to mount
our panels is one reason that we do not offer bracing and mounting
as a service. (Another reason is that carpentry is frankly not my
business, and I would have to charge you much more money than a
competent picture framer would for the time required.) The
variations include aesthetic choices as well as trade-offs between
material quality and costs, and exactitude vs. expediency.

Mounting / bracing usually involves glueing wooden strips
to the rear of the panels, although other possibilities involve
using aluminum or plastic bracing, or mounting our panels on to
wood or plastic sheets (size and weight allowing).

General issues to consider are preparation of the panel backs,
and selection of appropriate adhesives. Since the backs of the
panels are generally quite slick, it will be necessary to roughen the
backs with sandpaper at the points of contact in order to achieve
a sufficient grip for the adhesive to gain a good bond. (Although
this is something that I can do for you, I strongly recommend that
you (or a framer or handy friend) do this yourself to avoid excessive

Adhesives used for bonding must be flexible. Since the panel
and the materials used to brace it will likely have different rates
of expansion and contraction, any adhesive that is brittle upon drying
will likely pop off of the panel or the brace. Adhesives which dry to a
flexible consistency allow for differences in dimensional changes, and
allow the panels and bracing materials to slide against each other if
subjected to slight flexure.

We (and many of our customers) have gotten very good
results using adhesive caulking materials. Two types that work
are pure silicone caulking, and siliconized acrylic latex caulking.
These usually come in the form of caulking tubes and can be purchased
at a hardware store (G. E. 100% Silicone Caulking and Alec Acrylic
Latex Caulk With Silicone are two common brands; Elmer's
Squeeze-N-Caulk is an acrylic latex that comes in a regular glue-type
bottle). The Siliconized Acrylics give a stronger bond and many can be
painted over. Pure Silicone types give a weaker bond that is, however,
more easily reversible (desirable, perhaps, from a conservatorial point
of view provided that the bond is strong enough for the job requirements).
Silicone has the advantage of being very neat in that any overglueing can
be cleaned easily by simply rubbing it off.

Other adhesives that have been suggested and which would be expected
to work well are Phenoseal Vinyl Adhesive Caulk, and "Goop"
Household Adhesive, although I have not tried these myself as of yet.
I have had some good success with urethane glues, but they are trickier to use.

Wood is the most commonly used bracing material. Pick the truest and
most dimensionally stable wood that you can justify the cost of.
Hardwood will generally stay truer than soft. Time and budget allowing,
sealing the wood to minimize changes caused by moisture is probably
a worthwhile idea. Strips of plywood should also stay nice and flat.
With small panels, sheets of plywood [weight permitting] (or of plastics
like Lucite, or even "honeycomb" plastic sheets) can be glued to the
back of the panels to provide something to anchor hangers to.

For an extremely durable method, two of my customers have had great
results using square (or rectangular) aluminum tubing to brace the panels.
I have braced a panel this way myself and it works terrifically, with no
worries about swelling and shrinking. It's very light-weight, but also
a bit expensive. I've wondered about the possibility of using a square
profile, aluminum framing moulding, glued backwards onto the rear of a
panel as bracing, but as yet I have not heard of anyone trying it and have
not had the opportunity to do so myself.

Drilling conical shaped holes through the mounting material before it is
glued on (such that the narrower end of the hole points toward the wall)
provides a hole with a small lip to catch a nail or screw head. When
bracing the edges of the panel for hanging purposes, putting the
hang-holes in the vertical braces rather than the top horizontal brace
distributes the weight and stress better.

Bracing materials can be glued flush to the edge of the panel (and painted
if desired) to give the appearance of greater depth, or they can be offset
from the edge and hidden behind the panel for a floating effect.

Various methods can also be used to hang the panels without frames or
bracing. A number of my customers have had success using heavy duty
Velcro. The adhesive needs to cure for at least a day, if not two, before
supporting weight. Another method is to fasten the panel directly to
the wall using small threaded L-hooks. These can be seen, but are still
often the least intrusive looking hanging method. A careful carpenter
could use a tool called a biscuit joiner to cut small slots into the edges
of the panel to make the L-hooks almost disappear.

Another possibility, although not sound from a conservation standpoint,
is to use short screws to attach picture hangers directly to the backs
of the panels. The Artist Panels are strong enough to hold a screw,
if the total weight of the panel is not excessive; the Pastel Panels are
too soft to hold a screw securely. Use a bit of adhesive to attach the
hanger along with the screws for extra security. (I'm not personally
a big fan of this method, but it is certainly expedient, and perhaps
appropriate in certain cases.)

I'm currently exploring the possibility of supplying panels with
keyhole hang-slots pre-cut into the back. Please let me know
if that sounds appealing to you.


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