Canvas Stretching with Rope and Tarp Clamps

I am currently working on raw canvas that is approximately 3′ square. They don’t stock that at Blick’s. Plus, I like the studio practice of building stretcher bars and stretching the canvas myself. Kind of old school, but I’ve added a couple methods that make it easier and better.

You can use stretcher bars you bought to your painting’s dimensions or make them yourself (instructions here). Either way, if the bars are about 1 x 2″ I cut the canvas 6″ larger (3″ on each side) than the finished size to allow for the stretching and stapling.

I got these tarp clips at Home Depot and I cut ten lengths of soft flexible rope for stretching up to about 4′ canvas size. Note the loop knot (I think it’s called an overhand knot) and the taped ends of the rope. Maybe you’ve seen the way truckers tie down their loads with ropes? That’s the approach I’m using; it acts like a pulley that lets you easily stretch the canvas tighter than you could by hand. And it’s a lot easier to staple.

I start in the center and tighten towards the corners just like you would do with canvas pliers. You pull it tight and then do a simple knot to keep it tight. I think it’s called a slip knot.

I used 5 pulleys in each direction (10 total). After first tightening sequence, go back and snug up so they have all have uniform tension. Check the painting side of the canvas to check for no fabric wrinkle.

I use an electric stapler. Of course a hand stapler would work fine. The traditional stapling pattern is from center out, but since the canvas is under uniform tension it probably doesn’t make a difference. I do it that way anyway. Tradition, right?!

When you get to the corner, your old canvas pliers do come in handy for the last corner area and to make a nice tight “Hospital Corner.”

Finished canvas.