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- Hinging Mats | Archival Methods Expert How-To Guide
Archival Methods Expert How-To Guide
Hinging Mats: The Tools You’ll Need
On the left are some of the tools you’ll need for hinging mats: a pair of sharp scissors for cutting your hinging tape / a Burnishing Bone in the size that suits you / a roll of Tyvek or Linen Tape for the actual hinge / a clean sponge or rag to moisten your Linen Tape (more on that below) / and a CLEAN work surface.
Depending on just how you decide to hinge your mat you may also need the type of utility knife or single-edge razor blade you prefer to use. If using any sort of knife, make sure you use sharp and preferably new blades for each hinging session (see the comparison of dull & sharp blades above).
Helpful Hint: if using a knife or razor, make sure you carefully wipe off any oil that might be on a new blade, as they are often coated during manufacture to prevent them from rusting prior to purchase.
Hinging Mats: Which Hinging Tape Works Best for YOU!
Linen Tape adds another step, as it’s water-activated and you need to moisten it before assembling your mat and backing board.
While both tapes work equally well and are 100% archival, some “purists” insist on using Linen Tape as it is the “traditional” material for hinging mats at major museums, galleries and frame shops, while Tyvek Tape offers “peel & stick” convenience.
Hinging Mats: A Word About “Width” & “Length”
Both Tyvek and Linen Tape come in 1″ and 1-1/2″ width rolls. What might be best for your applications? All things being equal we often recommend using 1-1/2″ tape—no matter which kind of tape you choose—as using the wider width will add just a bit more surface area to your hinge.
For 11 x 14″ mats and smaller, 1″ hinging tape will work fine. For anything larger than this consider using the 1-1/2″ width.
If you’re still not sure, go with 1-1/2″ and you’ll be all set for any size hinging you need to do.
In terms of the “length” of your hinge, there are two schools of thought. In the photo above of a unassembled mat the hinge does not extend from edge-to-edge. This is perfectly fine, as you will find everyone from museum professionals to gallerists to Archival Methods itself hinging mats this way.
In the photo above the hinge does extend to the edges, in fact it runs past each edge on purpose and you will need the sharp knife mentioned above to trim the excess tape once it has been adhered.
So what should you do? Again, it’s personal a choice. “Expediency” has the tape running almost to the edges, so there’s no trimming, while “tradition” has the hinge running from edge-to-edge.
In terms of “which side” to hinge your mat, some individuals will ALWAYS hinge along one of the long sides (as pictured above), as in theory a long-side hinge will lend greater structural support. Others will ALWAYS hinge across the top of the mat (this will be a long side for a horizontal mat / a short side for a vertical mat), as that is a “traditional” standard practice. In the end it too is a personal choice.
Hinging Mats: Common Mistakes We’ve ALL made
Hinging mats is a relatively straight-forward process of 1. orienting your window mat & backing board correctly; 2. lining up your hinging tape dead-center over the junction of the two pieces of mat board.
In the photo above we’re using two pieces of scrap board for practice, and there are two fairly obvious problems: 1. the two contact edges are in fact not in contact (there’s a significant gap at the top); and 2. the tape has been placed on a diagonal across the areas we wish to hinge (it does not run down the center seam between the two mats).
By practicing a few times with scrap board you’ll get the hang of addressing these issues correctly.
Here’s another potential problem. In the photo above: 1. the tape is running straight, and it perfectly straddles the junction between the window mat and the backing board; 2. the window mat & backing board are lined up correctly; 3. but we didn’t flip the window mat over and have thus applied our tape to the front, beveled side of the mat = trashed mat. Be sure that the beveled side of your mat faces down when hinging.
Here’s the last common mistake we’re all familiar with. This is a “weighted” mat, which means that the bottom border of the mat is a bit wider than the top border. This “weighting” is done by most museums, galleries and frame shops to make the mat look “proportionally correct” when it’s hanging on the wall. This is another problem of orientation, as we’ve inadvertently hinged the bottom of the mat (where the “weighing” is) and not either the top or side, where your hinge should always be located.
Hinging Mats: How to Do It Right
In the photo above we’ve used a black window mat (the top board) and a matching black Museum Board backing (the bottom board) as it makes the mat’s window at the top and the tape hinge in the center more visible.
To review, ALWAYS make sure that you have the top window mat oriented correctly, which is 1. upside down, and 2. with the bevel away from you—so when you close the mat after hinging it will be correctly oriented. Also make sure the “weighted” side of your window mat is toward the top when opened like this, so that it’s at the bottom when it’s closed.
Cut the Tyvek self-adhesive tape or water-activated Linen Tape you’re using to your desired length, usually within a half inch of each side of the mat board if not going edge-to-edge (see photo above).
If you wish to hinge edge-to-edge, go about 2″ past each side for your hinge to extend across the entire mat (see photo above).
Helpful Hints: 1. If using a sponge to moisten your Linen Tape, we recommend using a sponge that you reserve only for hinging and not anything else. 2. Moisten your tape on a separate sheet of cardboard or wax paper to keep excess water off your work surface (see photo above). 3. When using Linen Tape try moistening a few pieces of practice tape in order to get a sense of the correct amount of water to apply—too much moisture might saturate your mat and too little might not offer good adhesion.
When applying your hinging tape, straddle the seam between the top and bottom boards so that the tape is dead-center.
Then use a Burnishing Bone to burnish down your tape to ensure good contact & adhesion.
If you’re running your hinge across the entire length of your mat, carefully trim it with a sharp knife by using the edge of the hinged mat as a guide (see photos above). We recommend doing this on a Self-Healing Cutting Mat or on a piece of scrap mat board to protect your work surface.
After completing all the steps above, close your mat and “square it up” a bit to make sure the hinged window mat & backing board are in alignment at the hinge, and you’re done!
Now your mat is ready for mounting whatever is going into it!
Hinging Mats: Let Archival Methods Do the Work!
Most people order custom-cut window mats from Archival Methods that we’ve already hinged to acid-free backing boards.
Yet photographers, artists and collectors sometimes want or need to hinge their mats themselves, so Archival Methods has created products that offer you the flexibility of hinging your mats yourself (see photos below).
In closing, if you would like more information on matting, or on the archival storage and presentation materials that are right for you, please contact us here at Archival Methods. We’re always there to help with any archiving, storage, or presentation questions you may have.