Stretcher Bars


Grumbler in Training
Sep 14, 2004
Bakersfield, Ca
New to the "Chatboard" but lots of questions were raised at the Atlanta show, so expect me to slowly post them all as I get my head sorted out (don't you just luv us new grumblers?? ) A point was raised that all stretcher bars should be sealed before a canvas is stretched on it- do you think this only applies to fine art, or is this becoming an industry standard? And what do you prefer to seal it with- gesso? Comments? Suggestions? Chocolate recipies?
Welcome to the Grumble. I have not heard that one. I order my stretcher bars from a frame supplier so I'm assuming they are already sealed. At least I hope so! I've never made my own bars from wood from say, Home Depot. I may have to rethink it if I ever decide to try doing that. I guess you would have to ask your supplier

Hey Crystal,

Welcome to The Grumble … yada, yada, yada!

I do not believe that most stretcher or strainer stock is finished unless it is so advertised – and I’ve never seen it advertised as such.

The strainer stock I buy from Larson-Juhl is just unfinished raw lumber with a lip.

Although the F.A.C.T.S. documents state that stretchers/strainers should be sealed, I rarely do it (oops, another firestorm of criticism comin’ up). Most of the rolled oils that come into our shop is “Island Art”, the stuff people buy on vacation from sidewalk artists.

Using Polyurethane, I have only sealed the surfaces of the strainers about a dozen times or so.
Thanks y'all-
The majority of the stretchings I do are actually canvas transfers which seem to be quite popular, followed by Bill's "Island Art". Fine art usually is stretched, but there have been those few exceptions!
Crystal, welcome etc etc etc.

I reframed a canvas that my mother did in 1926, and I noticed when I relined the oil, the canvas had burned the bars.... go figure.

BTW: I was born at Pres. Hosp. and grew up a few years up the hill above Kernville in Johnsondale.
Say "hay" to all the sheep ranglers in Wasco for me.

My brother-in-law is Castilliano, and years ago it was fightin words to even refer to him and Basco..... now they're in Boise area and they love going to the Basque restraunts. Their favorite one is a place that's out a bit, owned by a basco with mexican and 1 korean cooks.
Everytime I go with them, we roll out the door.

I am very interested to know where in the FACTS standards it says that stretcher bars for oil paintings should be sealed as I have not found it there. Perhaps you are referring to FRM-2000 5.03 but the more specific 10.02 regarding contact with wood elements has an exception, 10.02.1, specifically for artwork such as oils stretched on bars. According to the A.I.C., The Williamstown Art Conservation Center, and, I believe, FACTS, there is no need to seal the stretcher bars. Paintings are segregated from the canvas and therefore the bars also by a ground or priming layer of rabbit skin glue or gesso or both.

If you do want to seal a stretcher or strainer, for instance the artwork is paper-based going back on original bars, according to FACTS a metal or glass barrier is required. I've found that Marvelseal works well and meets the standard.

Do you ever seal stretcher bars at the National Gallery?


The F.A.C.T.S. have been argued for and against for some time and with some vehemence, but (although this may be controversial and subject to debate), I believe that the standards quoted below meet that criteria:

“Standard Guide for Maximum Preservation Framing

5.05 Artwork shall be completely separated and isolated from any potentially damaging materials by an impermeable barrier such as glass or metal. (Editorial: I read that to mean Polyurethane, too, for stretcher/strainer bars)

5.06 Some photography, textiles and some other artworks may require non-alkaline materials. (Another editorial: I read that to mean not using raw unfinished wood stock)”