Picture Framing and Art Preservation/Picture backing


I bought an old train picture which has the individual wood slats that were as one flat board. Over the years the individual slats have all separated and I was wondering how to put them back as one. It appears that they were originally help together with paper glued to them. I didn't want to replace it with cardboard or plywood so I would appreciate any help. Thanks

Hi Calvin,

You are certainly right in not wanting to replace the board with cardboard or plywood, but I would advise you against putting the original wood slats back in the frame either. All wood products, or products made of unrefined wood pulp such as cardboard, contain large amounts of a substance called lignin. This is occurs naturally in all wood, and it can be thought of as sort of a biological "glue" that holds cellulose fibers together to create wood.

As the wood or cardboard ages the lignin breaks down and releases very acidic byproducts. This acid will attack the paper fibers of the artwork, discoloring it (known as acid burn) and causing the paper to become very brittle. Here is an article written by one of my colleagues in the framing industry on this very topic, including a picture of the type of damage that can be caused by wooden backings: http://www.artframe.us/Article-MythofAcidFree-May09.pdf

I would strongly suggest that instead of putting the wooden backing in the frame that you replace it with a good quality board. Depending in part on the size and where it will be displayed you could use matboard, foam board or fluted polypropylene, commonly known by the brand name of Coroplast. Any of these should be available at a good art supply or craft store.

If you wanted to maintain the original appearance of the framed artwork the wooden boards could then be put behind the backing. If you wanted to do this then I would definitely use Coroplast, since it is not porous the way mat and foam boards are and will provide a much better barrier between the wood and the art.

You may find it much easier to take it to a professional framer. They will have all the needed materials and tools on hand and it's something they can do quite easily, maybe even while you wait if they're not too busy. You can find a good professional framer near you here: http://findapictureframer.com/

I hope this helps, and please feel free to let me know if I can help you with anything else.  

Picture Framing and Art Preservation

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David Lantrip, MCPF, GCF


I can answer questions about all aspects of framing, with special emphasis on preservation framing. Categories of artwork include works of art on paper, needlework, textiles, paintings on canvas and three-dimensional objects. Components of framing includes frames, glass/glazing, mats, mounting, their features and how to select them.


I have been a professional picture framer and educator in the field since 1994, including framing education for a major franchisor encompassing three brands and the Professional Picture Framers Association, and writing and teaching for DECOR Magazine.

Professional Picture Framers Association (PPFA) > Board member, PPFA > Member, Certification Board > Member, Chapter relations Committee National Society, Sons of the American Revolution (NSSAR)

DECOR Magazine, 2005 - 2010 PPFA For Members Only newsletter Member of the PPFA Guidelines task force, assisted in writing PPFA Guidelines for Framing Works of Art on Paper and PPFA Guidelines for Framing Works of Art on Canvas, and PPFA Guidelines for Framing Textiles and Needlework. Picture Framing Magazine, 2012

Georgia State University, many classes as a student and educator through the Professional Picture Framers Association and DECOR Magazine. Current member of the PPFA guidelines task force and certification board.

Awards and Honors
Earned Certified Picture Framer (CPF) designation in 1996, Master Certified Picture Framer (MCPF) designation in 2004 and Guild Commended Framer (GCF) status in 2008.

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