4ft X 5ft canvas--frame VERY WARPED


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Mar 25, 2004
Tampa, FL
HEllo everyone..I have need of experienced advice(again). I have a 4'X5' canvas, with thick oils, tht came in 6-8 inches warped on the long axis--front to rear-- and close to that on the short axis. It has been that way for a number of years(4?, 5?, 6?, who knows, the owner didnt remember). My problem is that it's out of the stretcher, I've cut new stretcher the "correct" dimensions(both ways) BUT when the frame is laid on top of the canvas, all is askew! It looks to me as if the years have severly stretched the canvas waaaay out of shape, into a trapizoid or parallelogram. I realize this is possible but actually seeing it stopped me cold. The obvious question is how do I retrain the old canvas back into a rectangle shape long enough to put it into the new/square frame??? Obvoiusly, whatever I do will be predicated on the fact that the front of the canvas can't be "changed" by the restretch, which is, as I see it, a MAJOR stumbling block! The only thing I can find reference to is alchol+H2O+sunlight to make canvas tighter, but nothing on my situation for loosening. To complicate matters, the canvas was trimmed right to the edge of the stretcher so there will be NOTHING to work with no matter what the solution to the problem.

Anyone have a similar problem, with a, hopefully, workable solution???? Thanks everyone.
Bill Ward
I've restretched many large canvases in my time but have never seen one warped w/o a stretcher.
Can you post a photo of it?
Have you already restretched it or did you kind of "dry fit it" before actually finish the stretch?
sorry I havent replied---flu bug!!! dont have photos. already 'undid' it and have recut the old stretchers for new stretcher-corner supports. I overall "unsquared ness' but also showed up that whoever made the frame pulled the stretcher bars on the looong sides very much more narrower(by pulling the canvas toooo tight in the middle of the long sides) than the end areas....adding to & exaggerating the 'out of square' of the rest of it...all in all a very BAD job of it.
I wouldn't recommend putting water or alcohol on an oil painting to tighten it. I understand that some grounds (base paints) can be disolved by water or alcohol and the paint may loosen its bond with the ground. I guess if you can determine exactly what ground was used you might be able to sneak by but I would not "learn" on a customers art.

The keys in proper stretcher bars are there to tighten loose canvas. That's why building your own stretchers with joined corners is not the preferred method of stretching canvases.

If this is an important piece, you should probably recommend that it take a trip to a pro who can re-line the canvas properly.