Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How to hang a painting - using mirror plates

This is the third post in a series of posts about how to hang a picture using different types of hanging hardware

This post considers what a mirror plate is, why use mirror plates and how to attach them to a frame.

The previous posts are:

What is a mirror plate?


A Mirror Plate - also known as a picture frame plate - is a piece of metal (usually brass) designed to lie flat against the back of a mirror or picture frame. It's then used to attach the mirror or picture frame to the wall - usually using screws.

This is what a mirror plate looks like.

A brass plated mirror plate

They come in different sizes and can have different sized screw holes. The screw holes are usually flat on one side and counter sunk on the other side.

They are normally solid brass, brass plated, nickel plated or carbon steel. Some have three plain holes while others have two plain holes for the frame and a slotted hole. Some are completely flat both sides, others have a one side which is counter sunk.

For larger works, the plate is normally rectangular and includes a number of holes for additional security.

You can see a range of mirror plates in the selection offered by
Other suppliers also have them and you should be able to find them in store at the major DIY stores although they sometimes don't list them online.

You also need the appropriate sized screws to fix them. These should be the same metal as you select for the plate (eg brass screws with brass plates). The screws also need a surface which will take screws!  Do not use nails as they are not generally not strong enough nor long enough!

If you are hanging anything very heavy you will also need rawl plugs and longer screws and heavy duty plate fixings.

Why use a mirror plate?


The benefits of using a mirror plate are as follows:
  • the frame is secure on the wall and cannot be removed without the use of a screwdriver. This is why they are often a standard fixing for exhibitions where you want to ensure nobody can lift a picture off a hook and walk out with it. 
  • the frame is flush to the wall and does not lean out in any way. 
  • frames which include mirrors or glass are safe. If anybody brushes against the frame it will not move and cannot be dislodged easily
  • It enables you to position a frame accurately on a wall. You don't have to guess where it will end up once the slack in the hanging wire is taken up
The downside of a mirror plate is that you are left with a hole when you take the picture down. However this can be filled and painted over. This is what very many galleries do all the time.

How to fix a mirror plate into a frame


Assembly Kit: You need:

  • a pair of mirror plates appropriate to the size of the artwork - one for either side - plus associated screws (mirror plates are typically either 32mm x 32mm or 38 x 38mm in size).
  • a measuring tape or a ruler
  • a soft pencil
  • A screwdriver
  • A bradawl or a sharp nail and a small hammer (for making sharp indentations in the wood)
  • a spirit level (to check the level of the frame)

Basics:

This mirror plate secures a
lightweight artwork to the
plasterboard partition wall
using a hardened steel pin
  1. Using a soft pencil and a measure, turn the picture over so you can see the reverse. Mark a point to indicate where the mirror plates should be fixed
    • EITHER half way up rear of the frame verticals (or slightly higher). Make sure the measurements on left and right are both the same distance from the top edge of the frame.
    • OR either side of the top part of the frame. (less used technique)
  2. Now place the mirror plates over the mark. Make sure the part with just one hole is not too close to the frame (ie allow space for the screw driver to work
  3. Place the top hole over the mark. Using the pencil mark up the place of the other hole on the frame
  4. Using two screws - and the guide marks - screw the mirror plates to the frame
  5. Place the picture on the wall and using the protruding hole as a guide, take a pencil with a long point and mark out where to drill
  6. Use a third screw through one of the remaining screw holes to screw the frame flush to the wall. A steel pin can be used on plasterboard walls if the artwork is small and light.  You will need to use rawl plugs and longer screws if the work is
  7. Before you drill the second hole check that the frame is level using the spirit level and make any necessary adjustments to level it up.
  8. If the mirror plate is painted white (or the colour of a painted wall) it disappears into the wall. Which is why very many galleries have painted walls!

Things to think about:

This is cheap frame and the
mirror plate has split the wood.
The frame looks OK from the front
because the wood is quite deep
  • Type of wood: If the wood is not robust screwing anything into it might split it. Cheap frames invariably use softwoods and these are much more susceptible to splitting.  By way of contrast, the close grain of a wood like oak means it won't split.
  • Width of Frame: thin frames are not great for mirror plates (again the risk is that the frame splits and/or the plate is not secure). This is why open art exhibitions generally ask for frames which are robust enough for mirror plates.
Works should be sufficient to withstand mirror plating for hanging purposes.
Mall Galleries - Terms and conditions - Frames
  • Weight of picture frame: You MUST use a plate which is suitable for the weight of the picture you propose to hang. If in doubt I'd always recommend you play it safe.
  • Location of screwholes
    • if the two screwholes in the frame are too close to the edge they may compromise the security of the hanging
    • if the screwholes in the frame are too far from the edge this can make it impossible to screw the plate to the wall through the third screwhole. 

More information about how to hang using a mirror plate

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