Museum quality frames

The frames, that I’m producing are cast from molds of original frames out of resin and are as close as practical to the original thermal set plastic frames.  Please do not confuse these frames as cheap imitations. I’m using modern materials to make molds of original 19th-century frames. The original frames are often quite expensive and difficult to obtain. Occasionally I do sell original frames; however, they are sold at a premium based on current market values.

The original frames were handcrafted and designed, a metal mold was then made from that design. The frames were cast from a thermal set resin, that’s often incorrectly called gutta-percha. Gutta-percha is not plastic by the common definition but rather a form of natural latex, most of it, during the 19th century was used to insulate underwater telegraph lines or was mixed with other materials to create a more hard plastic like substance. As far as it’s known Union Cases and frames were not made from or used gutta-percha in their construction. Then, depending on the age of the case or frame, they are made from a mixture of natural resin, sawdust, and celluloid. the older cases and frames have a different look to them, they look like they are made from beaverboard or wood rather than resin. The newer union cases and frames use a resin called Parkesine. Parkesine was introduced in 1862, as the 1st man-made plastic, it is made using our favorite chemical compound, Nitrocellulose aka Collodion, mixed with some different resins to create, a pliable substance that when heated can be molded. Modern resins are considered exothermic when the two parts of the resin are mixed together, there is a chemical reaction that heats the material hardening it. Unfortunately, the word gutta-percha became a common household name for all plastics in the late 19th-century and is still used today in much the same fashion.

The Frames, and eventually cases that I’m making, are molded in silicone and cast using modern resins that, are possibly stronger than the original frames. so please do not think of them as the same cheap plastic injection molded frame. they are all hand made, one at a time using high-quality materials.

please note, that the frames and cases are molded from original frames therefor they are not designed for modern image sizes, such as 4×5, 4×6 5×7 and 8 x 10. historic sizes are referenced by the plate sizes such as whole-plate, half-plate, quarter-plate.. and so on, for those measurement’s please see my prices

There are a number of different styles of frames, as well as materials that they are made from. I’ll do my best to explain the styles as well as provide a basic example.

Wood Frames:
These frames are typically reserved for the larger whole-plate or larger images. They are very often ornate with gold-leaf accents. Many of them are very deep, much like a picture box, they are basically typical wood frames of the era, with many different variations, the images are protected with glass and separated from the glass via a mat, that’s chosen to accent and frame the subject in the photo. and finally, the Frame is backed with wood or paper and wire attached to hang the photo.


This particular frame measures 12” x  14” and is 2” deep. It’s a fine example of a 19th-century wood frame, with a hand painted, whole-plate sized tintype. Circa 1850’s

European frames:
These frames are typically made from wood and are finished with plaster filigrees and coated with a varnish.  They are designed to accept a separate cassette, that’s often an ambrotype that’s been sealed and matted with a plaster & paper mat. like their wood counterparts, the frame & cassette are backed with paper, there is typically a small ring that’s been attached via a small grommet to hand the photo.


This particular frame measures 7.5”  x  8” the visible image area 2.5” x  3” – it’s a tinted ambrotype, on the back of the cassette, it states: Taken at Canterbury, June 19th 1856
aged 69

These frames are sort of rare, in that they typically do not survive the ages, I believe they are cast in a similar fashion as some of the resin frames, only with a few layers of Papier-mâché, which is then painted and varnished.

they were designed primarily to be hung from the wall, via a small ring that’s bonded to the Papier-mâché. The image is permanently mounted and backed with some paper in the frame  – they, I believe will be easy to create modern molds from and cast in resin, or possibly even Papier-mâché, as a less expensive alternative.


resion frames (so-called Gutta-percha): 

at present time, I have a limited number of frames to work with, as originals tend to be quite costly as do the materials to produce them, there are within this group are 3 different sub-categories that I know of which are based more upon how they are mounted in the frame. they can loosely be called: the case-frame, the paper-backed and metal-backed.

  • The case-frame:
    This traditionally is, I believe one of the more difficult styles to produce in that it was traditionally cast from a two-part mold, with picture being mounted into the front of the frame, in the same fashion as a case, traditionally using a piece of glass, that has been set into the preserver, then the mat is placed on the glass, which is then followed by the image, facing the glass. the preserver is then folded in the back. this cassette is then inserted into the front of the case:
  • consistently these have been one of my challenging to make, as I’m not sure of the best location for injecting the resin – additionally, I have to redo the mold as I had some issue with it releasing correctly, at this point my goal is to obtain perfect cast, then  remake the mold from that cast. so far this cast is the best cast I’ve gotten from the mold, I’ve mounted a quarter plate ambrotype of my daughter in the cast. – this frame is not for sale.



  • The Paper-backed
    I do not have examples with the supporting wires, however I believe the frames used a simple wire to allow the frame the ability to stand up, with another ring and grommet fixture to allow the frame to be hung. the backing of this frame is thin cardboard, that’s locked into the frame using the same style of hooks found on a conventional wood and paper case


  • Metal-backed
    These frames are cast from a single piece mold are backed with japanned tin, they have a support which allows them to freely stand, as well as small ring, that allows them to be hung. the back is locked in place with a small piece of tin at the bottom or to either side, it’s attached via a single screw at the top of the frame allowing it swing open, allowing the picture to be mounted.

    I’m presently working reproducing the stand, however, the following photo’s are of one of my cast resin frames with its current back. presently it’s painted tin, with a small ring at the top, attached the same way as the originals. making them very difficult to tell the difference between an original.


the majority of these look very similar in design to the Resin frames, only they are often cast in iron or bronze instead. I do not have any examples and have no near future plans on making any.


This is an example of a metal frame found on ebay, I believe that it’s early 20th century









Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s