Weekend Project: Framing Mementoes

Back in May, my wife and I spent three weeks in England, visiting London, Brighton, Cornwall and Bath before going back to London for a couple of days. And, as travellers tend to do, we brought back a bunch of mementos. Some of them went to family and some of them were ready to use as soon as we got them out of our suitcases.

But some of them needed some … er … extra preparation. They were sitting loose around the house, and needed to be organized somehow.

Also sitting around the house were some framed prints that I bought at Ikea during my bachelorhood. The prints themselves were scenes of Paris — nice enough, but with zero sentimental value. When I moved in with my then-girlfriend, the prints first went up in the spare bedroom, I think, and then in the guest bathroom.

So, while the prints really didn’t mean much, I figured why not repurpose the frames to house some of our mementos? We had enough photos, prints and programs from an excursion to Emirates Stadium (home of Arsenal FC) to fill them both up. And this weekend, I finally had the time and the motivation to get it done.

The Ikea frames in question, prior to repurposing.
The Ikea frames in question, prior to repurposing.

So the first step was to measure the prints to know what I was dealing with. I was planning on dealing with both frames in one afternoon, but with weekly errands to run and an underestimation of exactly how much time it would take, I only wound up dealing with the bigger one.

Turns out the big frame was 19.5 inches wide by 27.5 inches high, big enough for two 8×12″ photo prints, a program, a 5×7″ photo (signed by Arsenal legend Charlie George) and some commemorative coins, all from our tour of the Emirates.

The next step was cutting a piece of foam core to fit the frame. I wanted to use foam core — which is basically foam in between two thick pieces of paper — because it’s sturdy and it would allow me to mount the program flush with the rest of the items in the frame.

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The tools of the cutting trade.
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The foam core, cut to size.

Now, it was time to do the math. I figured this would be the most frustrating part — and I was right. I wanted to make sure there was an inch of border space around the edge. I divided the remaining space into quadrants, with 1.5 inches in between. The 8×12″ prints fit perfectly; the other items needed a little bit of finagling to get centred in the space, especially the program, which was an odd size (9 7/16″ by 6 11/16″).

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Who says you’ll never need those math skills again after you graduate?

Once I figured out the measurements, it was time to transfer them onto the foam core. Pencil worked perfectly, as long as I used a light hand; I was able to erase it later and make a nice clean presentation.

Next up was cutting out a hole in which to mount the program. It was a tight fit, but it had to be to hold the program in place. Then I glued the prints in place using a spray adhesive, which worked pretty much perfectly. But be careful with the spray adhesive — it’s very sticky, and even the lightest contact will stick things together. One of the 8×12″ prints has a smudge on the corner thanks to not being quite careful enough.

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Like I said, powerful stuff.

The last sticky wicket was the coins. It occurred to me a bit late into the process that the coins wouldn’t be very flush with everything else if I just glued them to the surface of the foam core. So I positioned them, traced around them, and cut through the top layer of paper in the foam core. This allowed me to push the coins and sink them into the foam core a little bit. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked. And contact cement was holding them in place (although maybe just barely).

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The improvised solution for the coins.

After flipping the foam core upside down to place it into the frame, which was only slightly stomach-churning, I popped the program into its spot and put the backing on the frame. Done!

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The finished product.

Looking back on it with a critical eye, there are things I would do differently, but on balance, I think it looks pretty good. We haven’t figured out where we’re going to hang it yet, but I think it’ll look pretty good wherever it goes.

Have you ever done a framing project like this? How did it go? Any tips on what I could have done differently? Let me know in the comments below.

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