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Picture Framing Tips and Techniques

All About Imitation Wood Picture Frames

By January 26, 2020November 3rd, 2021No Comments

All About Imitation Wood Picture Frames

All about imitation wood picture frames

If you want to learn all about imitation wood picture frames, it’s best to start with what they are. Imitation wood picture frames are made of polystyrene, a dense, substantial plastic, easy to cut and to screw into. Their chief benefit is that they are as much as half the price of comparable wood frames yet are indistinguishable from wood frames when hanging on a wall.

Given the fact that picture framing is primarily a visual art and, further, that customers are increasingly sensitive to the rising cost of framing, you would think less expensive frames that look exactly the same as wood would be popular. Yet among traditional picture framers imitation wood frames receive a chilly reception. On reflection it’s not hard to figure out why.

Why Most Traditional Storefront Framers Don’t Like Imitation Wood Frames

Most traditional framers work from commercial storefronts. They have fixed overhead costs. Since many traditional framers arrive at their price by marking up the cost of their labor and materials, if they start out with a lower base material cost, their mark up may not be sufficient to cover their overhead. Of course they could increase their mark up to arrive at a similar price, but imitation wood picture frames, when held in the hand, are noticeably lighter and clearly made of plastic – they only look like they’re made of wood. Customers perceive the difference and expect a lower price, a price that – given the high cost of overhead – may not be sufficient to keep the storefront framer in business. So if traditional storefront picture framers aren’t the right audience for imitation wood frames, who is?

Why Most Contract Framers Love Imitation Wood Picture Frames

Imitation wood frames are used commonly in contract framing where the framer is bidding on a large job with multiple pieces for a corporate client’s offices or for a hotel chain or for hospitals or other institutional spaces. Such contracts often include hanging – which means the client never actually handles the framed art – and are budget sensitive as the client is choosing the framer based on his ability to deliver the contract within a certain budget.While the framer may have to accept a lower per piece mark up for each frame to win the contract he will benefit from having the larger quantity of pieces the contract delivers and will make up in volume what he gives up in margin. For most framers this a wholly acceptable trade-off.

Why Most Do-It-Yourselfers Like Imitation Wood Frames

Imitation wood frames are also an attractive option for do-it-yourselfers who are on the look out for ways to frame at a lower cost. This is particularly true when the framer intends to frame something that is not itself intrinsically valuable, such as posters, open-ended digital prints, snapshots and sentimental keepsakes where the cost of framing should be reflective of the lower value of the item to be framed (no one wants to pay $300 to frame something that is worth less than $100). In these cases, imitation wood frames can dramatically lower the cost of framing and present a wide range of attractive possibilities in which the framed pieces look more expensive than they actually  are.

Frequently Asked Questions about Imitation Wood Picture Frames

Do imitation wood frames have be joined differently than real wood frames?

Yes. Imitation wood frames cannot be routed for assembly with a slot and peg system. Rather, they are glued together with Plastibond Glue and clamped in a band clamp. Read more on this topic.

Are they available in any size I want them?

Yes. We will cut them to any size you specify and send you the four pieces to glue together to make the frame. We also carry the glue and band clamp you will need to complete the job. Check out our selection of custom cut imitation wood frames.

Do these frames look cheap and plasticky?

Not at all. Hanging on the wall imitation wood frames are indistinguishable from real wood frames. For many people, the first time they know they are looking at an imitation is when they hold it in their hands. Imitation wood frames are noticeably lighter than real wood frames, which in itself can be a benefit.

Are they strong enough?

Yes. Imitation wood frames are sturdy and will not bow under weight. But don’t drop them. A hard blow can shatter pieces off of them. Also, if you are framing in sizes greater than 22″x24″, opt for acrylic instead of glass, to reduce weight strain at the joints.

Will they crack when screwed into?

Imitation wood frames can take self-tapping wood screws (the kind most commonly used in wood frames) without cracking.

Will imitation wood mouldings melt when cut with a power saw?

Some melting is possible along the edges but the flaw can be corrected. What’s more, melting can be avoided if done correctly. Use a 40-tooth blade in your saw and don’t let the blade linger as you cut through the moulding. Read more on this subject.

Can they be cut with a manual miter saw?

Yes, because a manual miter saw generates very little heat when cutting.

Can they be sanded?

Yes, but only with a manual rotary sander. Power sanders generate too much heat.

That’s all you need to know about imitation wood frames.

See our selection of imitation wood mouldings in lengths to cut and join yourself

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