A summer or two ago my husband and I took a little road trip to some national parks in southern Utah. Along the way, I conned my husband into stopping at a couple of antique/junk stores. This is most definitely NOT his favorite pastime, but I guess because we were on vacation, he was in a good mood and agreed to the detours. 🙂
In one of the little shops, I came across a whole box of clear plastic signs with black numbers on them. They were the numbers that gas stations used to use to show the price of gas. Even though my husband couldn’t see the potential in the old plastic numbers (?!), I loved their graphic quality and quickly snapped up 3 numbers that represented our house number. The price made them even more appealing at $1 a piece!
Once I got the numbers home I had to figure out a way to display them – a task that was not as easy as I had hoped. First I tried hanging them directly on the wall with a spacer behind them, but I didn’t feel like they had enough impact that way, plus I didn’t like that I could see the spacer through the clear plastic. I decided that I would buy frames for them. Easier said than done! Because the numbers were not intended to be framed, they hadn’t been manufactured to a standard frame size, which I thought was very thoughless of the gas station number people! I suppose I could have had custom frames made, but it seemed silly to pay $50 to custom frame a $1 item.
After searching unsuccessfully for a standard frame that would fit them exactly, I ended up concluding that I was going to have to jerry-rig something together. In the hopes that some of you may find it helpful with your gas station numbers (just kidding…I know of exactly one other person who is searching for frames for gas station numbers – hi Mandy!) or any other odd-sized document or graphic that you’re hoping to frame, I thought I’d show you how I made mine work with a standard frame from Ikea.
I found the frame size closest to my numbers, which happened to be the 11-3/4” x 15-3/4” Ribba Frame. My numbers are 11” x 15”. So you can see that I was just barely off size-wise. With the matte, the opening was too small, without the matte, it was just a little bit too big.
I got out a cutting board and my sharpest x-acto knife and measured carefully on the BACK of the Ikea matte a measurement that allowed for ½” of empty space around all sides of my number, with about 1/2″ of the clear plastic overlapping the matte. Then with pencil I drew those measurements on the back of the matte. Using my sharp x-acto knife with the cutting board underneath, I carefully cut through the matte along the lines I had marked. It helped a lot to hold a straight edge down on the matte with a lot of pressure – mattes are kind of thick and not the easiest to cut. Holding the straight edge helped me to use the pressure I needed to cut all the way through the matte. Even doing that, I had a couple of slips where I went a little off course. They were correctable though, and not noticeable in the finished matte (thank goodness!).
After cutting off the excess matte, I left it face down, centered my number on the back of what was left of the matte, and taped the number down all the way around with clear packing tape. These numbers have a little bit of weight to them (certainly more than a standard print or photo), and taping them in just a few places didn’t hold them securely enough. I cut the width of the tape down so that none of the tape showed on the front side of the numbers.
After that, it was just a matter of attaching the matte back into the frame. Because you don’t use anything behind the number (usually you would put a piece of cardboard behind a photo), the little black tabs that you fold down to hold the picture in place have a little extra wiggle room. Be sure that you press those tabs in firmly against the matte.
Then all that’s left is to hang your completed project on the wall. I ended up just driving a smallish nail with a head into the wall and hanging the frame right on the nail. I didn’t want to be able to see any kind of hanging apparatus through the clear plastic surrounding the numbers.
Hope that helps you if you’re struggling with displaying an awkwardly sized piece of art, be it a plastic gas station number or any other weird treasure you may find!