I started painting small pieces on paper, now I am evolving to larger sizes on more sturdy surfaces, and loving it. Painting large kind of lessens the need for framing, I guess. For me, this is amazingly liberating. Last week I went to the hardware store and bought some wooden strips for my experiences on cradling my masonite boards, smiling, thinking at all the money I was saving in framing. While working on the boards, I discovered another advantage, even more gratifying: preparing the very surfaces you are going to work on, with your own hands, can be immensely pleasurable and even have a spiritual dimension. Thinking that not only the painting, but the very structure where it is placed, were built by yourself, makes it even more human and infused in energy.
Before starting, I looked for tutorials on the web and found this one, made by artist Amanda Hawkins, which was very helpful. Our process end up being very similar with just a few differences. Here's my own tutorial on how to cradle masonite boards, based on what worked for me. Hope it is useful!
1. For this project, I used a size 24' x 30' masonite panel ($3.58) and one 10 feet long wooden strip measuring 3/4 wide and 1/2 deep (about $6.50 each, the most expensive material you'll get.) You'll also need a hammer, a ruler or measuring tape (I prefer the tape), pencil, a hand saw or electric jigsaw (I highly recommend this second one), wood glue (not used by me in this first attempt, but proved useful later), sandpaper, and tiny little nails. And, of course, acrylic gesso and a brush for priming.
The wooden strip. 3/4 deep is good enough to hang on a wall, but will also fit a regular frame if you client thinks your artwork deserves better.
The masonite board and its 1/8 thickness.
2. Cut the wooden strip in four pieces according to the measurement of your panel sides. Top and bottom + two sides. I chose to cut two 24' strips (top and bottom), and two 29' strips for the sides. Since I'm using a 1/2 inch thick strip, I had to take one inch off each side (which measure 30 inches) in order to make the longer strips to fit in the rectangular structure.
3. Apply the wood glue to stick the strips into place, and reinforce it nailing the corners and borders of the masonite. Three nails in each side will do the trick. Make sure the heads of the nails are not sticking out and the surface is even, and sand off the masonite powder that will accumulate around the nail holes.
4. Ta-dahhhhh! You are good to go. (But with no blonde little head, sorry. This privilege is mine.)
5. Now you can sand your board...
6. ... and start having fun with the acrylic gesso. I use about three coats, and since I like a smooth surface, I sand between each coat. It will depend on how textured you want it.
7. You may still see nail holes showing on your board. In such case, more sanding and more gesso until you make it smooth enough.
8. Also, gesso the sides to make your board uniform and nice-looking. It will also cover imperfections. Here is the board hanging on the wall, ready for the brushes!
A cradled masonite board this side, unprimed, is around $35. A simple frame, no matboard, is around $30. What do you think I'd prefer?