Canvas Stretchers




Making your own canvas stretchers is a cheap alternative to buying them. Building your own will cost you about a third of the price. You will need the following materials:

1 standard 2x4
4 corner clamps
4 wooden clamp blocks
wood glue
heavy duty staple gun

You will also need access to a woodshop and a good attitude!

Step 1: Take Your Measurements

Before starting any cutting, measure out the desired length for the dimensions of the canvas. Make a mark where you will cut the wood with the minor saw.

Step 2: Make Your Lenth Cut

After you have measured your lengths, use the mitre saw to cut the wood to the desired size. You will only need to measure twice, as the two vertical stretchers, and the two horizontal will be the same length (you will have two pairs of exact same lengths). Make sure to bring down the saw and spot where it hits the wood before turning it on. This will assure an accurate cut.

Step 3: Bevel Cut Your Length Pieces

You should now have two pieces of wood at the desired lengths of your stretchers. It is now time to bevel cut them in half vertically. This will assure a tight, suspended canvas over your bars. Adjust the bandsaw to 15 degrees clockwise and align the blade so it is in the middle of the width of the wood piece.
Use the push bars for the last few inches of the cut to avoid proximity with the blade.

Step 4: Bevel Your Corners

Go back to the mitre saw and adjust the angle to 45 degrees. These will be the corners of your canvas. You will turn the blade clockwise if you are feeding the wood from the right; counter clockwise if you are feeding from the left. Ideally, you will cut the right side of all the lengths first before rotating the blade and cutting all the left sides. Make sure the bevel on each of the four pieces is facing upwards with the shorter side closest to you.
You will have two pairs of the four lengths of wood. To ensure the pairs are the exact same length, clamp a wood block where one length of each pair ends, and use it as a mark for the second piece of the pair. This is a lot easier than measuring four times!

Step 5: Assemble Your Stretchers

You now have your wood cut down to the required size and shape. The hard part is over, congrats! You will need your clamp blocks, corner clamps, wood glue, and paintbrush.
Place the clamps on top of their blocks in each of the four corners. Place your stretchers in the clamps but do not tighten them. Using the paintbrush, apply a thin coat of glue on all the ends that will be clamped together. Tighten the four clamps assuring that the corners are flush to one another.

Step 6: Staple Your Stretchers

Without loosening the clamps, insert four staples on each corner. It is not necessary to wait for the glue to dry to begin this step. The staples should be about a half inch apart and a half inch from the edge.

Step 7: Drying & Clean Up

Once all sides are fastened, allow about ten minutes for them to dry. In the meantime, sweep up the sawdust around your workspace. You now have your own custom-made stretchers - happy painting!



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    11 Discussions


    3 years ago

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    I saw some wooden stretcher bars here that are some simple and good looking here :)

    Noddie Molder

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Very neat way of making canvas stretchers. One snag.. How do you tension the canvas as the time goes by. I don't see any means of putting in corner wedges, which are used for tensioning the canvas when it sags. And they do. regards NM

    1 reply
    04mewmNoddie Molder

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I realise this was posted almost a year ago, but thought i'd comment anyway for the help of others. To stretch the canvas without corner wedges, first wet the back of the canvas with a damp cloth. And then dry it with a hair dryer and repeat the process. It works on the same principal as when you wash cheap jeans they get tighter. Same idea. Hope this helps.


    10 years ago on Step 7

    This is great! - Next I need an easy method to stretch the canvas on evenly please? Any instructions for this?


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Nicely done, with some very useful tips. I'd love to see one on canvas stretching, too.

    (btw, it's a mitre saw, not a minor saw.)

    1 reply

    11 years ago on Introduction

    I thought you meant how to make a stretcher... like the kind to carry people with... my second thought was... If you had to move somebody quickly... do you really have time to turn on the table saw?

    1 reply
    Noddie Molderjongscx

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    if you need a stretcher to carry someone in an emergency, you can always use a ladder. If you haven't got a ladder, then you'd have to make one! I wouldn't know where to start! Two large coats with poles through the sleeves make an emergency stretcher too


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Not a bad instructable - I would have personally found the actual canvas application method more interesting -- I would love to see that added as a few extra steps.

    Great work, and keep up the good work!