Aug 10, 2009

Super magnets for putting up artwork

Here's a cool technique for mounting flat paper-based works to a wall:

Basic technique:

  1. Drive a flat-headed nail into the wall until it is flush.
  2. Place the paper against the wall, over the nail
  3. Put a neodymium disc magnet on the paper, over the location of the nail. It will stick to the nail and pinch the work, holding it against the wall.

This technique easily scales to larger works:

More nails: For large-area works (e.g. 40"x40" or more), place a nail about 1" in from each of the four corners. For wide works, use 3 nails along the top edge. For long works, place a nail in the middle of each vertical edge.

More magnets: If the work uses heavy paper, you can stack up 2 or 3 magnets over each nail to increase the pinch pressure.

You can buy neodymium magnets from a number of household goods stores - the Container Store calls them "mighty magnets". Some hardware shops sell magnets, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are not too expensive - less than a dollar a magnet - and they are reusable.

Ward Shelley showed me this technique. It has several advantages over the pins, clips or tape:

  • You don't have to be super-precise about the location of the nails. Once you have the work up, you can "slide" it, moving each corner so it slides under the magnet. I place a level on the top edge of the work and adjust it until it is level. This is much more tolerant than working with pins.
  • Unlike clips or pins, the magnets leave almost no impression on the work - I've found I can put up a work and take it down and not see any mark where the magnet was. Unlike tape, there is no risk of tearing.
  • The magnets are unobtrusive and have a more minimal look than pins or clips.

The one downside is that, when the work comes down, you have some nail holes in the wall, instead of pin holes. In most art locations this is no problem, because the walls are patched and painted all the time. In a home location, you may want to stick to pins.

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