Oh joy! An 8x6' charcoal drawing to frame


Grumbler in Training
Dec 14, 2004
We are attempting to frame a very large charcoal drawing-- 8 x 6 feet. Obviously we had to put plexi on it, because of it's size, and now we are worried about the static electricity. We plan on using deep spacers to keep it as far as possible from the plexi but from experience I know it will still cling. Does anyone have any amazing tricks regarding fighting static?

Dave Makielski
We did one almost that large for an art student. He insisted on no mats, so we had to use spacers. The paper was no heavier than typing paper. Trying to keep that thing under the spacer was a real bear.
I would try and get away with NOT cleaning the acrylic. Just peel it, brush it down both sides with one of those FABULOUS Kinetronics anti-static brushes (UMS has 'em if you don't...) and pop it in after doing the Framer's OogieBoogie Dance around a paper matboard bonfire.

I hope your frame is a big honker with at least a 1/2" WIDE rabbet. That means extra thick spacers, as well as deep. I would also plan on using a strainer frame for extra rigidity.

edie the makesureitllfitoutthedoorofyourshop goddess
Also, if you can make it work design-wise, I would paint your spacers black so that when the inevitable charcoal shedding happens, it won't look like fly poop on the inside bottom edge.
Your static issues are going to be a problem no matter how far away you can get within the confines of a frame rabbit. You may want to try 210 PLUS. It is a polish and cleaner first, but works great as anti fog, anti static. Good Luck,
"edie the makesureitllfitoutthedoorofyourshop goddess"

I would just like to echo this sentiment....still recovering after having recently built "an airplane in my basement".....
So, what kind of sin is spraymounting an original charcoal drawing onto matboard so that it doesn't attach itself to plexiglass due to static electricity? Otherwise, there will be a ghost image of the drawing on the plexi...either way not the most archival way to do things, i know, but what can i do? I'm gunna have a heart attack!
Originally posted by mccaigwelles:
So, what kind of sin is spraymounting an original charcoal drawing onto matboard so that it doesn't attach itself to plexiglass due to static electricity?
Other that "a sin" spray mounting has nothing to do with static attraction to the plex.

BTY, spray mounting anything that size will be a challange. Burnishing the art in place will likewise be a challance if not impossible.
Keeping it clean during while fitting a "traditional" frame design is do-able. Just spray both sides of everything thoroughly with the Kintronics pneumatic ionizing gun. That actually removes all static charge, while the brushes and other methods only dissipate a portion of it. The gun requires 60-75 psi (ideal pressure range) compressed air & costs about $375 as I recall, but it's worth it.

No matter what, static charge will come back to sheet acrylic in a short time -- minutes or hours, depending on ambient conditions.

And when the static comes back, the art paper will be drawn to the acrylic. You didn't describe the art paper, but it would have to be pretty stiff to resist deflecting as far as necessary to achieve cling. Even if you retain the edges securely and use 3" spacers under the acrylic, I'd bet the center of the art paper would bellow out & cling to the acrylic. Murphy's Law prevails.

This may be a good candidate for the acrylic sandwich mount. That is, sandwich the art between two pieces of acrylic and then frame the package between two more pieces of acrylic, with the outer glazings spaced away from the mount, to provide an insulating air gap.

Yes, it's a controversial mount, but if I owned a piece of art like that (Lord, kill me now) I would rather have a small amount of the charcoal pressed on the face, instead of the cockled, deflected art paper and black dust all over everything.

Also, I believe the acrylic sandwich mount would be less invasive than any kind of adhesive mount.

I remember someone highly knowledgeable (Hugh Phibbs, as I recall) talking in class about some decades-old pastels that had been pressed against the glass of their frames, and showed surprisingly little damage.
Hi Jim -

Could you somehow use spliced matboard as the backing - made rigid of course, maybe by applying it to aluminum honeycomb? That would make handling easier, and add some humidity buffering material to the package. Then you wouldn't need to add extra plexi - just rigid backboard, art, acrylic.

Or is the extra sheet of acrylic a sacrificial lamb put in there so it can be changed when scratched?

I like the idea of considering the plexi as a kind of fixative, as glass was on the old pastels.

My understanding from a class I took from Paul McFarland is that Abrasion Resistant Acrylic from Cyro (AR Clear Acrylic not to be confused with Anti Reflective Glass Tru Vue-AR) has anti static properties if the AR side is placed towards a fugitive medium.
One piece of acrylic in a frame this size is going to be heavy, two pieces unbearably heavy, three pieces will be practically immovable and four pieces will require special zoning!

There's got to be a better way, Jim.

Why not just ditch the spacers altogether and slap the piece up against one piece of acrylic and be done with it?

I do like the idea of the AR acrylic, though.

Edie the thoughtidask goddess
Try half inch thick foamcore or gatorboard pieces at 4'x6' each, spliced together and having a rag mat overlay placed such that the mat pieces lay over the joint of the 1/2" stuff.
Then put the plexi (1/4" minimum 3/8" will probably be necessary to hold itself straight without bowing out) right onto the art and seal the edges together into a closed package. A stiffner frame ( with midway vertical pieces as well) glued to the back of the foamcore (before you mount the art) will help stiffen the whole package up plus, then you can use the top part of the stiffner as a pinch cleat so the whole thing hangs on the wall that way. That way the frame doesn't take the total weight of the package. The stiffner still needs to be screwed to the frame so it is a complete package as the only thing holding the plexi will be the frame transfering the load into the stiffner frame in back.
There isn't going to be any really easy to do this job and you need to charge WAY more than you think it is worth to cover the hassle factor of a job like this.
Boy... that plexi will cost a major bundle!!
Have fun!!! I would LOVE to do this job!!
Rob, I was aware that the new anti-reflective (Optium) coatings dissipate static, but was unaware that the Abrasion Resistant treatment had similar qualities. It would be wonderful if true.

Jim, can you corroborate?

I also have a fair sized pastel to do that was originally framed with acrylic (OP-3), and the client wants it replaced because of scratches. I see no loss of medium to static charge and would like to keep it that way.
Thanks so much for your comments-- thank goodness for this forum!

I like the idea of having it right up against the plexi. Actually, the client's original idea was to sandwich it between two pieces of plexi but we were worried the plexi might be too floppy. Our next idea was to have 1/2" plexi to make it more solid but I had a difficult time finding 1/2" in that size, not to mention the prices were astronomical.

I think we'll put it up against the plexi and see how that does. Thanks so much for your ideas, I really appreciate it.
What if it was sandwiched between 2 layers of 1/4" and sealed? This would be plenty rigid.
Would the seal keep the piece from cockeling?
Please keep in mind the fact that putting such a drawing up against the acrylic will cause a good deal of the charcoal to transfer. Drawings this size can be safely framed with acrylic, but doing that would require a spacer 1"to 2" deep and an owner who was careful about keeping static off the acrylic. If the glazing is cleaned with damp chamois only, it will not have static on it, unless someone rubs something dry across its surface. The frame should be kept in a vertical
or near vertical orientation at all times, to
prevent the glazing from sagging onto the surface
of the drawing. The back mat will have to be
spliced, but if the joint is vertical, it will
only show for a short distance, above and below
the top and bottom of the work. When the frame
is moved, it should be set on blocks of soft
foam, that are sized to that the frame compresses
them a bit, but not completely. This will damp out
vibration that could dislodge charcoal.

How about cutting it into four equal-size pieces and frame each individually? The customer gets four framed pieces instead of just one, and it'll sure make life easier for you.

I kid, of course. But I did once see a map, probably about that size, cut into nine pieces, each of which was framed in a small black frame, then all were hung in a grid. Pretty cool look for something without much value. I want to try it some day.
Originally posted by wpfay:
Rob, I was aware that the new anti-reflective (Optium) coatings dissipate static, but was unaware that the Abrasion Resistant treatment had similar qualities. It would be wonderful if true.

Jim, can you corroborate?
Yes, Wally, the Optium Acrylic products are somewhat anti-static, by virtue of their anti-reflective coatings applied by Tru-Vue.

Rob, I hadn't heard about anti-static properties for AR acrylic. Could it be that Paul was referring to Optium Acrylic, which has the Tru-Vue AR (anti-reflection) coatings? That product, and its UV-filtering cousin, Optium Muesum Acrylic, both are somewhat anti-stitic by virtue of the Tru-Vue AR (anti-reflective) coatings.

By now we all understand that for glass, "AR" means "anti-reflection" and for acrylic it means "abrasion resistant". But there's still plenty of room for confusion in the terminology.
Isn't the use of Optium a moot point for the original question - 8' x 6' vs. Optium max size 41" x 71", wholesale over $500?

Pat :D
There are two sources of static dispersive acrylic,neither of which is available in big
enough sheets to work with this item. McMaster-
Carr sells acrylic sheet that is only static
dispersive (not also anti-reflecive) in sheets
as large as 4'X 8'. The TV Optium material also
has a static dispersive layer, which means that it
will not hold a charge (unlike glass that will)
and it is ideal for glazing friable materials like
charcoal and pastel.