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Strategy for gluing linen to plywood

I have a 3 yd. roll of Claessens #15 linen on the way (will use for landscapes) and I would like to glue it to Baltic birch plywood to make my own linen panels and am interested in feedback on my strategy for gluing it on. My local hardwood supplier has 5' X 5' Baltic birch in 1/8", 1/4", or 1/2". I've used their 3/4" for shop jigs and furniture and it is good quality - not the big box store stuff. I doubt I would go much larger then 18" X 24" using panels so will use either 1/8" or 1/4".

I have read that "Miracle Muck" is well regarded for this purpose but unfortunately it should not be ordered if freezing temperatures are expected during shipment so that would preclude me from buying this for a few months. I picked up a quart of David Smith Acrylic gesso at a local framing shop; they thought it would work well for gluing. So I was going to try it until temperatures consistently got above freezing (forecast of -14 tonight).

My plan is to start with an 8" X 10" piece of Baltic birch, put poly on the back and sides to seal it, put a coat of sanding sealer on the front to keep the wood from absorbing too much of the gesso and raising the grain, and then gluing the linen to it using the gesso. I was planning on using a laminate roller to smooth out the linen after gluing and then will put some weight on it until it dried.

Any thoughts? Would 1/8" or 1/4" plywood be better? Is the sanding sealer idea worthy? Should I wait until it warms up and I can get Miracle Muck? Should I just move south?

Thanks for any feedback.



  • Check at your local art or craft store for pH neutral PVA glue, which is basically just fancy Elmer's glue.
  • And actually it was Daniel Smith Acrylic Gesso.
  • edited December 2014
    Putting sanding sealer on before gluing sounds like may prevent a good glue bond between the linen and the panel. If you want to decrease the amount of raised grain, dampen the panel face with a wet rag, let it dry thoroughly, sand off the raised wood fibers, and the grain raising will be dramatically reduced when you apply the glue.
  • What's wrong with just putting a strip of double stick scotch tape on all 4 sides of the panel, they're small & the tape is acid free (can be used for photographs). Once they are framed, it won't be seen anyway. I do this w/ 8" x 10" matt board scraps for small oil sketches or mock-ups.
  • Thanks for the comments. I found some acid free glue locally designed for paper and book binding. Label says it works on wood and canvas so I'll give it a try. And I'll wet the plywood and then sand it.

  • Let us know how it goes. I've got a few paintings that should probably be on panels.
  • @MeganS ; @thebigskyguy ; @stevek ; I'm curious, it's been 2+ years how did it turn out?
  • Curious too. I tried gluing my expensive linen canvas to a 1/8" thick plywood board, I used Elmers glue sold in spray can. I did not do any special prep to the wood or canvas, and glued on a small (8×10") and another large (18×22") boards, the result was just mediocre, I got air bubbles trapped in the middle of the large board and the canvas came out loose on the edges of the smaller one. And
    , yes, I used a press roller to push excess glue and any possible air bobble AND placed a heavy weight over the boards too for drying. Well, I just ruined the canvasses, and gave up any further attempt to glue.
  • gmello

    Here is a relevant extract from MITRA: is possible to also use acrylic gel medium or even an appropriate PVA adhesive. Certainly the method you propose above is fine as well as it is simply another reversible option. Of course there may be some slight mechanical-related damage that is localized around where the painting is tacked to the wooden support but in the end this may be a minor drawback. Kristin deGhetaldi


  • Denis,
    Thank you for the information, the MITRA forums seem pretty ample, could you please indicate where the above extract came from?
  • I used the lineco glue that was in martins link. It went ok. I had a hard time getting the edges to really stick. I want to try the pressure sensitive film (can't remember what it's called and which artist uses it), it's like double sided contact paper.  I like linen, I like cotton and I like panels. Each has its own characteristics that I enjoy. 
  • MeganS
    There is such a thing as double-sided Scotch tapes, I am not sure what you mean by double-sided contact paper. If anything, I do not believe a double-sided Scotch would permanently hold a "thick" canvas on a wood board, it seems too slim for the job. I had the same issue with the edges not sticking well, using spay canned Elmers glue, it gets kind of wavy no matter how much rolling you do over! I will continue my quest about this, I like the idea of canvas on thin wooden boards instead of stretching. By the way, once I glued a huge cotton canvas on a board in combination with stretching with staples on the sides. I used a simple commercial "spray glue" (any available in art supply stores), and it worked! Still, you really have to make sure you roll off the canvas from center to sides, to assure no trapped bubbles will stay.
  • edited March 2017
    I've tried gluing canvas to MDF. It makes a firm surface to paint on but I discovered it is really hard to make sure you've gotten rid of any air bubbles trapped between the board and the canvas.  I rolled it and pushed really hard from the centre to the edges and it looked and felt very smooth. However,  after it had dried and I'd begun painting on it I noticed bubbles had formed under the canvas. Because the glue was already dry at this stage there was no way to get them out without ripping the canvas off the MDF. It was a large sized board so in future I'll only glue canvas to smaller boards. For larger pieces I'll stretch canvas. I actually prefer the slight 'give' you get when you put a brush to  a stretched canvas.
  • Rob

    Stick a pin in the bubbles and ease the air out. You can even do a neat and tidy slice cut though the canvas bubble and get some PVA in there with your palette knife, when tacky roll to the slice with a brayer. Resurface with some gesso if needed.

  • edited March 2017
    Good idea, Denis. I'll try that if it happens again. The panel in question is the one I did my rhubarb painting on and I didn't want to risk damaging the painting so I just left it. It's hardly noticeable under the finished painting.
  • Rob

    I was wondering about all those spherical distortions...


  • Some

    OK. I deserve that one.


  • Woops! Put it on the wrong thread! Denis, hope u enjoy! :)
  • Use unprimed or primed linen. Prime the unprimed linen as a  last step....
    (This is also how to mount a finished painting on linen or cotton duck on board)
    You can also mount water colors on rag paper right onto the wet gesso- and actually can squeegee a fine watercolor onto a board with no damage at all: experiment first! 

    I use 1/4  inch masonite, primed both sides with 2 coats gesso- to keep from warping, lay flat to dry.
    Next, attach 1 x 1 pine strips, flush to the edges, back side... ( using screws from the front) putty the screw indents- gesso them- this is optional...
    ....but a good idea for when you need to fold / stretch the linen  to the sides/ edges; folding carefully on the corners. Use a light staple gun- 5'/ 6ths staples . 
    Glue- Elmers is archival, use enough.
    Get the linen soaking wet.  Set it on the glue. Center the linen carefully.
    Use pieces of heavy cardboard, a small squeejie, or a wood block; scrape from center outwardly to press out excess glue to the edges. Stretch the wet linen, staple from center of opposite sides (staple to the 1" x 1" inch sides), moving out to corners- as you glue it. If you haven't had experience stretching a linen canvas you might not want to attempt this.  You are going to have to work fast

    Place a heavy sheet of plastic on the canvas/ board
    Place a folded blanket over the plastic- smooth out the wrinkles
    Place a piece of plywood over the blanket
    Put as much weight as possible , you want maximum pressure.

    Since you are working small, make three of them. You can work out issues on the first one. Always have several canvases so you don't get "precious" or inhibited, or furious when you make a mistake.

    By the way. Have you painted on primed wood directly? Copper? these are fun. Try painting on linen stretched on wooden stretcher supports- stretched linen is so wonderful, strong to paint on. Actually it's the best. research how to prime; gesso is fine. pre-primed linen is fine. 
  • I agree with charlie boy about not using sanding sealer, etc.
    have a blast painting!
  • @gmello Went searching for the artist that uses a film...he's on this forum! Ha! @garrykravit used a BEVA film that uses heat. He has a machine that presses, but there are people who have used an iron. This has to be easier and more consistent than liquid glue. There are pressure adhesives too, but I'm unsure if archival. 

    Here's Garry's video.

  • Great! I'm going to try that. No more bubbles in my panels.
  • edited May 2017

    This is video may help you, shows two ways to do it archival and non-archival and addresses other important issues such as shrinkage.
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