Whether creating your own artwork or picking up finished pieces, if you consider yourself a true manly man this is a good skill to have in your arsenal. If you find yourself thinking that stretching canvas is not manly, please note that it involves a hammer, a staple gun, and that most professional canvas stretchers look like this (phenomenal photo via Matthew Rainwaters).
As Sun Tzu reminds us, victorious warriors win first and then go to war. In other words, preparation is key so lets take a look at what we'll need:
-Towel (or some other clean soft surface)
-Stretcher Bar Frame
While canvas stretching can be a one man job, we've found that it never hurts to have an extra set of hands for larger sized canvases.
Step One: Position the Frame
The first thing that we want to do is position the stretcher bar frame on our canvas. Positioning the frame is important because this will determine whether or not the design is centered when we finish stretching the canvas.
Place the canvas face down on your clean soft surface and use a ruler/tape measure to make sure that the frame is centered.
Step Two: Staple The Sides
Once the frame is in place, starting on the side closest to you, fold the canvas towards the center (make sure it's pulled tight) and put a staple into the center of the stretcher bar. Continue to do this until the canvas is stapled to the stretcher bar on all four sides. At this point your canvas will look like so:
Continue to add staples to each side, two at a time, working outwards from the center staple. The number of staples per side will vary depending on the size of the canvas you're stretching but once you have three to five staples per side (larger canvases will require more) you're ready to fold and staple the corners.
Tip: Don't staple too close to the corners or you won't be able to fold them
Step Three: Fold The Corners
Your canvas should now look something like this:
Note how the top two corners are sort of pinched together-this is what will naturally happen as your staples get close to the corners. To secure the corners you want fold the middle part of the corner (the part that is sticking up on the top two corners) towards the center of the canvas and place a staple as seen in the bottom left corner of the photo above.
Once the corner is secure you can fold the two sides over and add a couple more staples to get something like this:
Repeat this for the three remaining corners and you're almost done. Before flipping over the canvas to see your new masterpiece, use your hammer to make sure that none of the staples are sticking out. Once completely secured your canvas should look like so:
Depending on the thickness of your stretcher bar frame you can hang the canvas by simply resting it on nails (for thick bars) or you can use screw eyes and braided wire.
Tip: If using screw eyes and wire, place the eyes about 1/3 of the way down from the top of the canvas
You're done! Step back, stroke your beard, and admire the awesomeness that you have created. Happy stretching!