Picture of Stretching the Canvas at TechShop
What you need

Staple Gun (with ¼ staples)
work area (Large TechShop table)
Extra pair of hand (if need be)
Canvas Stretching Pliers (if you want)

Once you have your frame built, you need to stretch the canvas. I used per gesso canvas, which I do not recommend. With the per gesso canvas you can really get a good pull.
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Step 1: The Canvas

Picture of The Canvas
Tear your canvas about 3 inches larger on all four sides. Lay your canvas down (gesso side down) on a clean work area. TechShop has large work table that work out wonderful for stretching your canvas and the area is nice and clean and that is not on the ground.  Put the frame on top of the canvas, with the top of the frame point down.

Step 2: Pulling the Canvas

Picture of Pulling the Canvas
This is how I pull a canvas without gesso.  If you have a rectangle shape, you will start with the longer side.  Place one staple right in the center of the board. Move to the other side of the frame and pull and wrap the canvas around the frame adding other staple. You can use the canvas stretching piles to pull the canvas around the frame. I found that I can get the same results with or without the pliers.  Next move to one of the smaller side and add a staple in the middle of that side and jump over to the last side of the frame add other staple. You should have four staples in the frame one in the center of each side. Going back to the first side that you started with, pull the canvas and add two staples on both side of first staple. Repeat this all the way around that frame, following the same order that you started, till you get to the corners of the frame.  Be sure that you are pulling the canvas tight as you go. This was the first time I used gesso canvas, and I had to pull the canvas a different way. If you need to, grab someone to help pull the canvas.
butynski (author) 3 years ago
Yes, I have managed very well without using pliers. I have only used pliers once, and I did not like them. I made this for other friend and they wanted me to use the pre-gesso canvas which is harder to pull. For cotton canvas, which I normal use. After you pull the canvas and apply the gesso to the canvas; the canvas will get a tighter. I have made stretcher frames that are 8 x 6 and 4 x 6 for a friend and for a frame that size, it takes both of us to pull that canvas that are that size.
Phil B3 years ago
It appears you pulled the canvas with only your hands. A friend is wanting a stretching tool. He asked if I could weld a short rod onto the bill of sheet metal pliers, but he has not found the pliers he wants to use, yet. Do you manage well without stretching pliers?