Help with equipment issues

Cyndi Ryder

True Grumbler
Joined
Mar 15, 2003
Posts
78
Location
Two Harbors, MN
O.K. I am frustrated beyond belief! I have been building my shop equipment as quickly as possible. For now I still order all of my frames chopped. I am somewhat obsessive about corners on frames - I hate any gapping.

We've been using a Thumbnailer for joining and we recently purchased a VN 2+1 underpinner ($1500) thinking that I could then get nice, tight corners. Well, that didn't happen so we bought a sander (ITW AMP $500) thinking that the chops were less than perfect. Still not great corners. So we thought to check the squareness of the fence on the underpinner. It was not perfectly square so we contacted support and had a new one sent out. The new one isn't any better. How can this not matter?

My husband (the master of mechanical stuff) and I still can not seem to get corners that are tight enough. What in the **** are we doing wrong!
help.gif



Any experts out there want to make a trip to Northern Minnesota?


Cyndi
 
Plane tickets, beer, wine - I'm there

don't forget the Unseal
 
Cyndi,

Have you tried a strap clamp (without glue first) to see if the miters are true with all four legs together? If they are true your under-pinner should give you tight corners if the miters match when clamped. I am not familiar with the VN 2+1, but on my Cassese the fence is adjustable to line up the miters. There are also issues of clamping and timing with under-pinners. If the pins are pushing the moulding up (even a slight amount) the corners will be open. Maybe someone with your model can give you some tips.

Pat :D
 
Cyndi
I 'm a long way from an expert .But you could help by explaneing where the gaps are occuring. I know any are unsatisfactory.However where might indicate why.
BUDDY
 
Pat,

Thanks for the idea to "dry fit" using a strap clamp - What a great idea!


Buddy,

The gapping is either toward the inner corner on smaller profiles or the length of the whole mitre on LJ Florentina 657905 (3" wide).


Less,

Hmmmm. I'll have to think about your kind offer. Do I even want to know what the Unseal is for?

Cyndi
 
Cyndi,
I use a Manual VN underpinner, which is similar.
When I first started using it, I had to get used to where to set the hold down clamp on top. It sounds like you might not be setting it close enough to the moulding? There's also some jigs that can be used for unusual moulding profiles. A LJ rep tipped me off to them, and they've helped a number of times.
Have you tried cutting a bunch of corners from some moulding you can live without, and then joining them? I found that after I had joined a few, I got the hang of the underpinner. I like it alot. It sure beats the old way of joining frames.
 
Sounds to me like you should call whoever is providing your chop service. The most common cause of poor joins is poor cutting. Even the slightest movement of the moulding while cutting will result in open miters. You should not be having these problems. Call your chop supplier.

John
 
Cyndi.
I've always had problems with corners. But then I'm hypercritical. There are way too many variables with the materials and equipment. Adjustable fences on underpinners really help. I have a VN 2+1 without the adjustable fence (they don't make one for this model). Instead I use a business card folded in half. I position it near the top to close an inside gap and near the bottom to close a gap on the back side. I almost never need something thicker than a folded business card.
Another tool that I love is terribly expensive but it makes the tightest corner I've ever seen.

http://www.masterclamp.com

It's called the Master Clamp by Baruch Framing
Tools. I've used them for 3-4 years now and love them. But they'll break the bank. But then again it's better than breathing all that saw dust with those sanders.
I cut my moulding on a fairly new Pistorius, double miter saw with expensive blades and I still have problems sometimes. Good moulding presents fewer problems. But no brand is problem free. Chops and joins are a joke these days. Some companies will send anything out the door.
If you're able to return the 2+1 for a model with an adjustable fence do so.
Strap clamps are excellent tools although you need some height in the back of the frame to grab on to. So they have limited use. I hear the steel strap clamps are the best. I use a nylon strap which, although inferior to the steel straps, still works pretty well. Home Depot sells the German Bessey brand strap now. It's affordable.
Good luck with your corners.
I'm always open to new ideas. If someone knows where I can by a bottle of corner magic contact me.
Regards,
Tim

Alex's Fine Art
1701 Bethlehem Pike
Hatfield, PA 19440
215-997-3900

Use your computer to fight cancer.
Http://www.UD.com
 
Another joining machine that is pricey, and will give you exceptional joins in all but the smallest mouldings is the Hoffmann joiner. It will pretty much put together anything you throw at it.

It is similar to a Thumbnailer in that you rout the frame then use inserts to join it. The difference is with the Hoffmann, you get inserts that will not break like the Thumbnails do. You get corners that line up perfectly every time, unlike a Thumbnailer.

You can also get decorative wood inserts for embellishing the front of the frame, gives a great looking woodworkers "butterfly " joint.

You can get metal inserts, if for some reason you don't trust their plastic ones, however, in picture framing, totally unnecessary.

I purchased my Hoffmann several years ago, now I can not see running a frame shop without one.

They are a little slower to set up than a Thumbnailer, but it is well worth the extra couple of minutes.

We also use an old Cassise 810 that we have been using for over twenty five years. That is our main workhorse.

We use the Hoffmann for hardwoods, deep shadowboxes, and wider frames.

The Hoffmann sells for around $1000.00 for the manual model, up to $3500.00 for the pneumatic model, that's the one we purchased. They also have machines that will cut your moulding and rout them all in one operation. These are more for frame factories though.

Another thing about the Hoffman is the inserts come in three different thicknesses, then in just about any length you want. You can also stack them like Thumbnails.

John
 
Tim,

I read the info on the Master Clamp site. The clamps look like they could do a great job. I am concerned about one thing though - nothing but glue? The glues that we use now may age well but the frame will surely expand and contract with temp and moisture changes so don't you need something else to hold the corner together?

Can you underpin after gluing or will it just crack the joint apart?

Cyndi
 
I purchased a Master Clamp just before I bought my Hoffmann. I tried the Master Clamp one time, didn't do the job, now it sits in a cabinet. Since the Hoffmann. I've had no need for it. Who know though, I may find a use for it someday.

John
 
Cyndi,
I have a number of options for joining. Caseese 830, Masterclamps (V-8), Stanley Vises, Ledsome clamps, Bessey (nylon web) and Merle (steel band) Strap clamps. None of them are the perfect answer for every moulding, but I find that I use the Besseys more often than any of the other kinds of clamps and, "$ca-ching$", they are the least expensive. The Caseese underpinner is used on all frames whether clamped or not.

Yes, you can underpin after glueing and clamping.
 
Hi Cyndi,

The Vn2+1 is a greatt machine for the money and in fact is the best selling v-nail joiner in the industry. Despite this, you can still have problems.

On a perfect frame, the rabbet clamp is an asset. However, as few wood frames are perfect, I have found that the rabbet clamp is often the cause of further problems and suggest two things:

1. Does the corner look good before nailing? If so, remove the rabbet clamp. This will give you more control over the corner.

2. For a more permanent solution, I recommend SLIGHTLY loosening the allen screws that connect the diamond-shaped rabbet clamp from the the connecting rod (has holes in it).

This lets the clamp move, or float, adapting itself to the shape of the corner. I've found that it really helps improve my corners.

You should also check the air pressure setting, and intial top-clamp height. Also, if the frame has a complex shape that's unfriendly to the top-clamp, you may need to use a corner helper to improve clamping. I frequently use a Neilson 75 corner sample, turned upside and placed between the frame and the top clamp.

Good luck,

Paul Cascio
Director, The American Picture Framing Academy
www.pictureframingschool.com
 
Like Wally, I think you can never have too many options for joining frames.

I have a set of four MasterClamps, and agree that they are good vices. However, your instinct is right -- never trust only glue to hold a mitered frame joint. A mechanical fastener is needed to avoid catastrophic failure in the event of impact or long-term deterioration of the joint (usually the wood fibers weaken rather than the glue).

The VN2+1 is a good V-nailer. I had one, and it had two interchangeable fences. One was thin, solid metal, and the other was adjustable. If you have the thin, solid one, you can bet it is perfectly square. And if you have the adjustable one, then you can adjust it for perfect miters.

The problem is usually not the machine. Good V-nailing takes practice. You'll make a lot of poor joint before you become adept at setting the stops & hold-down devices for perfect joins every time. And some profiles are very difficult to join.

Remember to place the vertical hold-down so that it is as close as possible to being directly above the v-nail's insertion point. If the hold-down is placed in front of, or behind the insertion point, then the rails will try to turn in or out, resulting in joins that are open on top or bottom, or on inside or outside edges of the miters.

If you have a good supplier rep, or a cooperative, experienced framer nearby, invite him/her over for lunch and do some brain-picking. It might be an epiphanical experience. (I think I just made up a new word there.)

Anyway, don't give up on V-nailing.

The VN2+1 is a good machine for low production. I traded mine in for a VN42, which is better only because the moulding pieces remain stationary during the process.

Speaking of V-nailers, have you seen the new Fletcher machines? Wow. I'm working toward gettng a model 5700 with all the bells & whistles. I saw them in Las Vegas. They are thoughtfully designed, well built, and beautifully finished. The 5700 has handy features I've never even thought of, such as hold-downs that adjust automatically to fit whatever profile is at hand, and a pneumatic v-nail loader.
 
Hi Cyndi,

The Vn2+1 is a greatt machine for the money and in fact is the best selling v-nail joiner in the industry. Despite this, you can still have problems.

On a perfect frame, the rabbet clamp is an asset. However, as few wood frames are perfect, I have found that the rabbet clamp is often the cause of further problems and suggest two things:

1. Does the corner look good before nailing? If so, remove the rabbet clamp. This will give you more control over the corner.

2. For a more permanent solution, I recommend SLIGHTLY loosening the allen screws that connect the diamond-shaped rabbet clamp from the the connecting rod (has holes in it).

This lets the clamp move, or float, adapting itself to the shape of the corner. I've found that it really helps improve my corners.

You should also check the air pressure setting, and intial top-clamp height. Also, if the frame has a complex shape that's unfriendly to the top-clamp, you may need to use a corner helper to improve clamping. I frequently use a Neilson 75 corner sample, turned upside and placed between the frame and the top clamp.

Good luck,

Paul Cascio
Director, The American Picture Framing Academy
www.pictureframingschool.com
 
This will give you very good corners assuming the miters are accurate, and they should be if you use a sander.

First you'll need at least 4 Bessy clamps (you can get then at any good woodworking shop); we have 32 of them in all sizes up to 8 feet. You'll just need 4 to start, though.

Join the frame as well as you can in the v nailer and then place it on a flat surface sitting on two of the clamps; gently tighten the clamps but not too tight. These clamps should be parallel to each other and clamping the corners near where any gaps may be. You now have one side of the 4 corners in a clamp. Next set two more parallel clamps accross the top of the frame so there is a clamp face on each side of the four corners. Now tighten the clamps so that the corners go together. The v nails should keep the corners from slipping. Leave the frame in the clamps at least 15 minutes.

I call this technique cross clamping. Cross clamping ordinarily won't work on mitered corners since unless the pressure is applied uniformly on all 4 clamps the corners will slip, but with v nails holding the corners it works very well.

You'll need a supply of small mat scraps to help accomidate the clamps to various profiles.
 
Or simply invest in a heavy duty underpinner, (my favorite for the past 16 years has been the Euro), with fences high enough to properly support the mitered joint for underpinning, (the Euro fences are almost twice the height of the competition models), check the calibration of the fences before each joining session, (the Euro has adjustable fences for a precise 90&#186 angle adjustment), and follow the directions for the machine for air pressure settings, v-nail sizes for different woods, (the Euro v-nails slip in and out in seconds), and use a bit of common sense when using the various hold down feet for the profile being joined, (the Euro comes with 5 interchangeable heavy duty nylon hold down feet that accommodate most any profile in existance).

Those who have visited my shop will vouch for the fact that I don't settle for gaps in mitered joints, period! Most of the problems with mitered joints can be traced to poor miters which are caused by a miriad of factors and underpinners that either aren't built to support the miter properly or are used without proper education on the capabilities of the machine.

My advice is to thoroughly check out any piece of equipment firsthand and use that equipment before buying it. Trade shows are essential for this hands-on type of comparison and the manufacturers will go out of their way to help you understand the whys and where-fors of their machines at these shows. Take the gnarliest most offbeat moulding scraps you can find along to these shows, mouldings that you are having the most trouble with joining, and ask to use the equipment. This might sound inconvenient to some of you but that is exactly what I did when I was looking for an underpinner. And I chose the best (in my personal opinion) out of the lot and it has been a dependable workhorse for me for the past 16 years. It still works perfectly and the only faults are that one of the soft rubber hold down feet has finally split from use and I have a minor air leak in the air regulator after many years of use.

My underpinner has the capability of joining 90&#186, 45&#186, and 22.5&#186 corners so there isn't hardly any frame that can't be joined by simply pulling a pin and changing the setting on the fences.

But, don't take my word for this, go to the next trade show in your area and see for yourself. Look at the overall construction of the underpinners, the adjustments available on them, the capabilities they offer and judge for yourself.

Framerguy
 
Framerguy,

Where was your sage advice before I bought this? FYI - I have been going to trade shows but I didn't take any "gnarly" frame corners with me. Naturally they made it look so simple on the show floor (Vegas) that this looked like it would fit the bill for my teeny tiny shop in the boonies of northern Minnesota. So, the money is spent and I'm committed to this underpinner for now. I'm just going to have to find a way to make it work to my satisfaction.

Thanks to all of you who have offered advice. You are trully a great resource!

Cyndi
 
Sorry, Cyndi,

Actually, I have been an advocate of the Euro for years and have posted many kudos here and on other forums about the Euro.

Your underpinner is an OK machine for underpinner or there wouldn't be so many sold each year. You simply need to find out where the problems are coming from that are giving you unacceptable miters. It may be the saws that your suppliers are using, it may be in some adjustments on the underpinner itself, or it may be in your technique when using any of this equipment. It could be something as simple as not bracing the miter joints as you v-nail them or using the wrong size/type of v-nail for the type of wood that you are working with. It could be your air settings or something in the machine itself that needs replacing or adjustment.

Don't overlook anything. Even if you are sure that it is "right", recheck it again to be double sure.

I wish I could come up there and work with your machine to check it out but Two Harbors this time of the year isn't my choice of places to visit in shorts and a T-shirt!! :cool:

FGII
 
Framerguy,

We're about to have our first thunderstorm of the season a little later today. Right now the temp is a balmy 39 degrees - balmy for here anyway :D !

I'm still futzing with this equipment stuff and I just need to be patient - Anybody got any patience to sell me?

Cyndi
 
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