Hung Ho
Got a Dream? Cut it Out!

How to frame stuff cheap

SEE MAG'S HOW-TO VIDEO to master this easy technique!Mag_dscn3881_1

If you forgot to shop for gifts and you're crabby about it, my dead-easy tin-framing technique will guide you steadily up the Mood Index so that by the time you’re done you’ll not only feel good, you’ll also have some hand-worked gift arte. (We’ll call it ‘arte’ to distinguish it from Art, which is executed by people who know what they’re doing).

Skill Rating:  Easier than falling off a unicycle and way less painful.

15 Steps to Frame and Fortune

Stuff You’ll Need

(Visit a stained glass shop or order online from

Roll of ½-inch copper foil (or get ¼-inch and make two passes) - $10

Flux and patina neutralizer - $3

Patina - $3

Flux brushes - $1

Glass bevels in various sizes

Solder (60/40 or 50/50) - $8

Flux - $4

Soldering iron - $40


Wooden dowel



Cobble together photos, locks of hair, genealogical charts, pressed flowers or handwritten quotations.   For archival quality framing (free of trapped dust, condensation and pet hair) use a lint-free cloth to clean the glass with distilled water mixed with a bit of ammonia.   Place your cherished article between two pieces of glass. Wrap the edges with copper foil and press the adhesive backing against the glass.147_1_applying_copper_foil_to_glass_dark_1


Add a hanger by twisting a piece of wire into a loop. Use copper-foil to affix it to the top edge.

147_2_hang_form_a_hanger_loop_and_center 147_3_attaching_loop_with_short_piece_of

Burnish the copper foil with a piece of wooden doweling to assure a really smooth adhesion with no bubbles.


Spread flux over the foil with a small brush. It’s okay if flux gets on the glass.


Plug in your soldering iron and while it’s heating, place your work on a block of wood so you can rotate it as you solder.  Unravel solder coil about 8 inches and hold the tip against the copper foil.

Wearing leather gloves, place the heated tip of your soldering iron against the solder and start melting it, spreading it along the edge of the frame. The solder will form a bright rivulet of molten metal. Blobs will drop onto your work surface but they cool fast and scrape off easily.


  • When you’ve tinned the top edge and the sides, flip the piece over and do the other side. Reheat any blobby bulges with the soldering iron and drag them smooth.

After the piece has cooled, dampen a cloth with neutralizing solution and clean off residual flux.


The tinned edge will age to a dark grey over time, or you can add a patina to turn it instantly black, bronze or copper-coloured. If you do apply patina, clean off excess flux first with neutralizing solution, then brush on the patina. 


When you're done, clean both sides of the glass with a glass cleaner like Windex. If you smell something acrid, your soldering iron is overheating. Some irons don’t have a thermostat so they just keep getting hotter. This would be a good time to unplug it.

Hang your arte.

Bask in self-appreciation.

Additional Tips

If you want to press and dry leaves and flowers in less than 2 minutes, try a microwave flower press, available for $30 at Lee Valley Tools (

If you don’t feel better after doing this project, try something more life-threatening, like Emergency Marine Plumbing.



Cool. Thanks, Wayne.

wayne thurston

Mag, Having spent almost 20 years in the picture framing industry and teaching all aspects of framing I must correct you on one item.(yup only one) When making your own glass cleaner for conservation purposes, use Isopropyl alcohol (99% pref) in a 1:3 mix with water. This will, not only give a cleaner, streak free glass, but also, will leave no residue as does ammonia or vinegar. For other glass cleaning, the ammonia is great, but not for conservation works of art. Thanks for your great and unusually worded advice. I love it.
sincerely, wayne thurston

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