Need advice on equipment selection for a new business


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Mar 18, 2004
Kennett Square, PA
I'm planning on buying an existing Art Gallery with a friend and adding custom framing to it. We've been to a one-day workshop to see if we'd like the framing part and loved much as you can for a one-day trial. Anyway, we're researching what equipment we should buy and settled on a Pro Mount Hot Shot (48"). I just read some postings that a lot of you are not happy with hot mounting (it can ruin prints) and someone suggested the new 3M Pro Spray System. Just wondering if we should still get the combination Pro Mount.....any suggestions/opinions are GREATLY appreciated.

We're also planning to attend a 4 or 5 day framing to suggestions/recommendations.

Welcome to the Grumble!

I have to say that you are biting off a very large chunk of the sandwich when you decide to add framing to a new business based on a one day workshop. It would take alot more than that to get me to commit to the investment that is required to operate an efficient shop anywhere.

True, there are comments on this forum that are on the negative side of using a vacuum press as a form of mounting for certain artwork. I happen to use a Seal vacuum press and have for the last 16 years. You need to educate yourself on the proper use of a vacuum press and which type of images or materials are suitable for vacuum mounting. It isn't just the act of buying equipment that makes you a framer as is indicated every week by classified ads in many art related magazines, eBay, and other sites on the internet. You need a background in how to use that equipment and what to use it on before laying out all that cash for something that you are not sure will give you a return on your investment.

There are many who went into framing through the years cold and made a career of it, myself included. But I would not recommend the "trial and error" method for anyone unless you are quick with "home schooling" and pick up on everything that you read and are shown about the various techniques in matting and framing.

The business is changing rapidly and the fact that you can cut a rectangular hole in a mat or build a frame doesn't automatically make you a commercial framer. I would suggest alot of study, attending all the workshops that you can find at trade shows, talking to experienced framers about going into framing, and reading all that you can get your hands on before purchasing thousands of dollars of equipment for a fully outfitted frameshop.

Join the PPFA, subscribe to Decor, Art Business News, Picture Framers magazine, and read, read, read! Make the Grumble a daily stop and go into the archives and find topics on things that pertain to framing. Ask questions on this forum and pay attention to what others say on each topic that is associated with custom framing. There is alot of foolishness and joking around here but there is a wealth of information here also. We are like a big cyber-family here on the Grumble and we kid around and tease each other as any family would do. But we do get down to business occasionally also.

I wish you the best of luck in your plans and dreams. BTW, if you haven't drawn up some kind of business plan yet, I would recommend doing so. You need to have some kind of general plan as to what you want to do with your new business and how long it may take to accomplish these goals.

Again, good luck.

Marjorie, welcome to The Grumble. Framerguy pretty much said it all, except you have to remember, you can get sued if you destroy someones artwork.

The Hotshot mount press is probably the best you can get, they heat up rapidly, just a couple of minutes, they have a very fast vacuum response and are solidly built. Their price is downright cheap for the quality you get.

I have been using a hotshot for over twenty years. During that time I have seen the Seal vacuum mount machines get replaced several times at other shops. One shop replaced their Seal with a Hotshot and just set their old leaky Seal out by the Dumpster. I told him he could have sold it to another shop, he said " Not with a clear conscience"

Seal built their name on their old mechanical presses, which are still absolutely the best you can get for that type of mounting system. I have several of them that are over thirty years old and they continue to work great. We use them for oversize mounting, since you can mount in sections.

One other thought, should you purchase any vacuum mount press, build a support under the rubber diaphragm so that it can not sink more than an inch. I used a sheet of particle board under mine. This will greatly extend the life of the diaphragm and speed up your vacuum response.

Do all your mounting for the day at one time. These machines burn the electricity, so you want to keep their usage to a minimum. If you are not using heat then don't worry about it.

I'm planning on buying an existing Art Gallery with a friend
That scares me more than adding framing

sure hope the numbers are there
Thanks for all of the replies. We attended a 4-day workshop sponsored by the Small Bus. Administration for creating a Business Plan. It had a wealth of info and many reality checks. You're not the only ones who are somewhat skeptical about our setting up a business without a lot of background; however, most of the people are relatives who don't really know the business (not that we do). We plan on taking the 5 day class before we buy any equipment. I'd like to get a lot of used equipment which will save a lot of money. We're also planning on joining PPFA and some other organizations. We're going to have the current owner's son (who has a framing business and gallery) do the framing initially. At least until we get in a LOT of PRACTICE on framing our own prints before we even attempt doing other peoples artwork. We're going to attend the trade show that is in Philly in May and talk to a lot of people there. Are any of you planning on attending it? If so, can we get together and "pick your brain" and get advice from you all? I've always loved picking out the matting, frame, etc. for any artwork that I've purchased and have an "eye" for color, etc. I know that framing isn't as easy as people think but am willing to put the time and energy into it to make it a success. Any and all comments are really appreciated.....along with suggestions (and even criticism). We definitely have to remain in reality and not live in a fantasy world.
Nowadays the mechanics of picture framing are basically quite simple to learn, cutting mats, glass, cutting and joining frames, fitting, mounting, etc.

It's gaining the experience to know what to do with different art mediums, papers, antiques, textiles, photographs, etc, that takes all the time to master.

I think that is one of the things that most of us find appealing is that we never know what is going to come up next, and how we will deal with it.

If it wasn't for these variables, picture framing would be much like factory work, repetitive and boring.

Hi Marjorie... Welcome to the Grumble!

My friend and I just bought an existing frame shop. I have the 6 years framing experience and she has the financial end of things. We're cross-training each other and it's working out well.

We use an old hot mount press primarily for newer posters and current newspaper clippings... anything that can be replaced. We never use hot mounting for antiquities, originals, limited editions, prints or even photography (unless we're absolutely positive that the photo finish is heat tolerant and the customer insists). Every shop has their own set of rules for using heat.

Good luck with your venture!! We're having a great time with ours...