I have a confession to make. It cuts deep into the philosophy of the do-it-yourself stretcher and primer. It is this.... I tried to get someone else to do it. All that stuff about the spirituality of the thing... crap! crap! I was unravelled by a matter of scale.

3 months down the track I have stretched and glued and primed and sanded all the last lot (which I will come back to as it is a more golden moment in my stretching and priming history)... and I decided to work on some larger canvases. They are 138 x 200cm and I've had them professionally stretched. I tried to have them professionally rabbit-skin-glued but the professional reluctance to help out on this score landed my loomstate lovelies back in my studio with lots of work still to be done before painting could commence.

So I'll rewind a bit...


I don't have any photos of this part of the process which is probably a good thing as I don't recall that there was a single glamourous moment here. Rewarding? Definitely. I built up my biceps over the period of a month (I stretched 30 canvases).

Every person I have ever gleaned any knowledge from on this subject has stressed that you should not pull to hard on the linen as it will tighten up with the glue and because you can damage some of the fibres in the linen. Still, I had to learn this the hard way and did break some fibres. Ideally you want your finished canvas to be tight like a drum but here you need to have faith that that will happen in the next step. Also beware, I thought that if I needed a little more stretch I could spray the linen with a little water. Conversely, it shrunk as the fibres swelled with the water, then stretched out again when it dried.

Day 37 and 38 RABBIT SKIN GLUE

I used Langridge Rabbit Skin Glue which comes in granules and looks a lot like raw sugar. DO NOT LEAVE IN THE TEA CUPBOARD. I left mine on the kitchen bench and there was an incident...

Langridge has clear instructions on the label; mix the granules 1:13 part water and leave to soak for at least two hours (I left mine overnight). Then melt in a double boiler and apply.

Other wisdom suggests a mix of 1:10, melt slowly, leave to set at room temp for a day. It should be the consistency of apple sauce. Then heat again and use warm.

... and the wisdom that came too late for me was from an old text book that says the glue should be applied luke warm as any hotter and it will lose its sealing power. Mine was not boiling but I'd say it was a fair bit warmer than luke. It seems to have sealed well though.

I did two coats over two days. The first is a little more difficult as the glue absorbs into the raw linen. I left the profile (sides) til the second coat. I was very happy when it was done!