Friday, January 20, 2023

Making Linen Panels

Making linen-wrapped birch panels

I recently made panels from birch plywood with linen mounted on them. One is for an existing frame I have, and the others for common sizes I can get ready-made frames for (an important consideration).

Below is my process

The wood is 1/4" thick birch plywood that I bought at Lowe's in a 2' x 4' sheet:

Blick Premier Belgian Linen type 135
unprimed, medium, smooth

For gesso, on 2 of the panels I used Michael Harding. I am experimenting with clear gessoes and tried Winsor & Newton's on the other panel this time around.


From some reading, I have become aware that I should be doing a coat on the bare wood before the gesso, as a moisture barrier/sealant. I read of some artists using a product like Zinsser "bulls-eye" shellac. I will try this for the next round...

Carrying on, after I cut the panels, I do a light sanding on the edges. (I hand-saw these and wind up with little splits along the edge.)

Using a brush, I then coat a side of a board with Lineco glue and attach the linen to it.
I will use a brayer to make sure it gets evenly pressed on. I leave a reasonable margin of linen beyond the panel.

it is glued, and a weight
will be put on top next

I then put a weight on them to press down - usually a stack of art books.

I have dealt with the edges differently. Sometimes I have just cut them flush to the front. Other times, I will wrap them around to the back. This time I wrapped them around and glued them to the sides. I then needed to do that as another step.

getting the glue on the edges

the edge after gluing

After that,
3 coats of gesso with sanding in between each

what they look like while drying
The clear gesso (top right) looks milky when wet, but dries clear

The finished panels

close up or texture of clear coated panel

close up of panel with white gesso


Three things to probably improve this process and/or the quality of the resultant panels:

1. Finally get a power saw of some kind

2. Use the finer (portrait) grade linen

3. Put down a coat of some protecting varnish before gesso

4. Apply 4 coats of gesso, rather than 3

I do think the Winsor & Newton Gesso feels better than the Liquitex. The Liquitex seemed to have too much pumice in it. But I won't know for sure until I make a picture on it.

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