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Articles by Chris A. Paschke, CPF GCF

Framing Matters, IEA Newsletter - Wax-On

"Hardboard, 8-Ply, and Honeycomb"

June 2012

In our world of encaustic it seems we never get our fill of discovering new techniques, new tools, and new substrates. In framing a substrate is a surface which art is mounted to for stability and support, such as a photograph to foam center board. Wax is a fragile material which needs to be adhered to a sturdy, rigid substrate with wood being most common. Ceramics and stone also work well because of their absorbency. The substrate supports the ground, the surface on which paint is applied. The ground must adhere well to the support while accepting the paint with the right degree of absorbency.


Many artists cut and prepare their own ⅛" unprimed hardboard panels. The most common substrates are ⅛" hardboard, untempered Masonite, ¼", ½" or ¾" plywood, though Lauan, pine, even heavy illustration board, 8-ply rag mat board, honeycomb panels and paper are used (photo 1). Better substrates and cradles are made of Baltic birch or maple plywood, they may be purchased coated or uncoated, cradled or plain. Cradles are available both from special custom suppliers and commercially. Commercial Ampersand Hardbord is pre-sealed pressed wood which resists warping and moisture penetration, available as ⅛" flat, ¼" flat, cradled with ¾" strips, 1½" cradle and 2" cradle. Other brands also include ¾" flat and 2½" cradles. Hardbord is also an excellent surface onto which paper can be mounted.

201206_001bPhoto 1
(top to bottom) Cradled panels, honeycomb panels, 8-ply rag board, ¼" and ½" Baltic birch plywood.

8-ply Mat Board

Mat board is the multi-ply paper based board available in 4-, 6-, 8-, 10, and 12-ply thicknesses used in framing as the natural spacer between glazing and artwork. Rag board is a mat board made of pulp originating from cotton linters broken down to fibers then molded into board. Museum rag board is a market phrase designed to suggest the board is a permanent, durable, stable product that would be selected by museums to safely house valuable collectibles. The most common in framing is 4-ply, but 8-ply is being used as a painting surface these days for drawing, pastel, and encaustic (photo 2).

201206_002bPhoto 2
Art on 90# paper mounted to 8-ply rag, topped with encaustic.

Though not the best choice for large 32x32" originals these 32x40" sheets are easily cut with blade and straightedge and 8-ply or thicker are great for encaustic up to 16x16". Sometimes you can get fallouts and endcuts from your local framer at discounted prices or purchase one full sheet and cut into your small squares of choice. See more about framing 8-ply originals in Framing Matters WAX-ON, January 2010, "Sink Mounts for Hardboards".


Board provides a lightweight, extremely rigid board for framing, mounting large works of art, encaustic art, models, and packaging. Honeycomb core is made of chemical pulp and is adhered to the alpha cellulose conservation facing boards with a polyvinyl acetate (PVA) adhesive. The honeycomb interior has 7/16" cells that are the source of the board's strength and rigidity. Tycore is the most stable of any fiber based mounting board constructed of honeycomb supports faced with acid free, off white paper in 30"x40" and 40"x60" panels ¾" and the 48"x96" panels ½" thick. Sold as five sheets to a case. It is favored by museums for all mounting of valuable collectables because of its superior lightness and rigidity.

Hexamount panels are also constructed of hexagonal honeycomb center with lignin-free, buffered, conservation facing paper which passes the Photo Activity Test. Adhesive used through the panel is PVA. Both sides of the honeycomb core is surfaced with a layer of conservation board which is easily cut with sharp mat knife and metal straightedge. Available ¾" thick 30x40" and 40x60", and ½" thick 32x48" and 48x96" with either black or white virgin fiber alpha cellulose white wood pulp facing papers. Price per package of five sheets.

201206_003bPhoto 3
Tycore ¾" (top R); Hexamount ½" white (center) and ½" black (bottom).

Both boards are available to west coast artists locally through Hollinger Metal Edge, Commerce, CA.

Hollinger Metal Edge, West 800-862-2228, East 800-634-0491,

Gaylord, 800-962-9580,

Talas, 212-219-0770,

University Products, 800-628-1912,

Copyright © 2012 Chris A Paschke

For more articles on mounting basics look under the mounting section in Articles by Subject.
There is a special section in the library for all past IEA Framing Matters articles from Wax-On!

Additional information on all types of mounting is found in:
The Mounting and Laminating Handbook, Second Edition, 2002,
The Mounting And Laminating Handbook, Third Edition, 2008 and
Creative Mounting, Wrapping, And Laminating, 2000 will teach you everything you need to know about getting the most from your dry mount equipment and materials as an innovative frame designer.

All books are available from Designs Ink Publishing through this website.

Chris A Paschke, CPF GCF
Designs Ink
Designs Ink Publishing
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