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Canvas Keys: What Are They For?

Why you get those little bits of wood with a canvas.

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Those bits of wood that come with a canvas are called canvas keys

Those bits of wood that come with a canvas are called canvas keys, and are for ensuring the canvas remains tight.

Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Have you ever wondered what those little bits of wood that come with a stretched canvas are for? Sometimes they’re stapled to the back in a little bag, sometimes they’re already wedged into the mitered corners of the stretcher bars (the wooden frame to which the canvas is attached). That said, some cheaper canvases I’ve bought have plastic ones.

These bits of wood are canvas tightening keys or wedges, used if the canvas begins to sag a little on the stretcher. You put them into the slots made for them in the corners of the stretcher bars, then tap them in further to tighten or square up (align) the canvas.

If you’ve bought an unprimed ready-made canvas, or are stretching your own, don’t use keys until after you’ve primed the canvas, as priming makes the it more rigid.

Some canvases are made with rigid corners, without the option of hammering in a wedge or key. If you’re using one, just check the canvas is very taut before you buy it; it should stay that way.

Related Video
How to Prime a Canvas
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