the thumbnail master

New Albany Framer

CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Feb 15, 2006
New Albany Indiana
I am a novice framer who is framing my own photographs for the convenience of it and in an attempt to save money. I have no aspirations to frame for money. I am fairly proficient at matting, but my initial experiments with framing have to say the least been a challenge. I have found my first attempt to put a frame together in a vice cumbersome and awkward at best. A wholesale framer suggested that the thumbnail master would be ideal for me. It is a machine that cuts a slot in each end of the frame in which plastic pegs are inserted to join the frame together. Glue is still needed, but he said that you can handle the frame more quickly than you can with a vice. He also said that assembling the frame is less awkward than a vice, and the joints are very stable. Finally, he said that buying any of the entry level v nailers was a waste of money as they do not produce joints anyhwhere near the quality of the more expensive machines. What is the consensus of those who have had experience with the two type of frame joining methods?
If the joints are good to start with, then an entry level DIY "v" nailer will give as good a result as any high end machine. It just takes 100
times longer to do.
For ease of use I think the Frameco tools come out better than the Logan tools.This is based on my observations when teaching DIY framing here in the UK.
I still ocasionaly use the frameco band clamp and pushmaster when repairing delicate old frames.

I have not seen the thumb nailer so cant comment on it.
The problem with the plastic fasteners is that they are plastic.

The glue will hold the corners until they are stressed - by the weight of the package or by being bumped or dropped - then the glue joints fail and the plastic fasteners break.

I've had frames come in with three of the four plastic corner fasteners broken.

If your vise isn't working, you may need a better vise. You won't find the good ones at Home Depot. Expect to spend at least $50 for a decent vise.
Don't use a thumbnailer, but it seems to me that it is along the lines of a router cutting key holes.

Are you any good at carpentry? Do you have a biscuit cutter? Use that.

You are having trouble using a corner vise? practice with that! I hazard a guess that all us who use v-nailer and thumbnail systems fall back on corner vises and brads for certain specific mouldings. Got to know the basics before you can venture into the advanced aspects of framing.

Take a good frame class. and while there ask questions. Active education is better than passive learning. You're doing great coming here and asking questions, but take a class! It will really help you out in the long run.
As much as I hate to agree with Bob on anything, I have to say he’s right about the Thumbnailer. By the time you have routed out the channel for the thumbnail, you’ve got less surface area of the moulding to accept the glue. IMHO corners joined by thumbnailers are much weaker than those joined either by a V-nailer or the standard glue, drill and brad method using a right angle vise.

And, as Ron points out, they break with alarming frequency.

And, with a very narrow mouldings, there may not be enough width to accept the plastic insert.

We’ve had very good luck with the Pistorious VN-J - a non-pneumatic, hand operated V-nailer.

But if you’re having trouble joining corners with a standard vise, the problem may lie (?lay) with your miters rather than your vise.
interesting conversation concerning the
"thumbnailer" To this day I have never seen a broken joint so I could not comment on that. It does however seem to me that a thumbnailer,while an intersting option would take up more time to create as well as machinery and space to do it in..A " v" nailer takes what...a few seconds in time? Wahm,bam and your done..what would a router take?