I’m a great admirer of Jørgen Møller’s Posterhänger design. It’s great for those in-between prints that are too valuable to put thumbtacks through, but not valuable enough to have framed. Plus it’s considerably cheaper than framing, and looks a lot better than thumbtacks. And it’s easier on your walls, requiring only a single hole to hang a poster of any size. I own six of them, myself.
But they’re not perfect. The black rubber end-caps are easy to lose and hard to replace, as are the white plastic clamps that actually grip the poster and slide into the aluminum tubes. What’s more, I have one poster which, due to whatever combination of size, weight, and thickness, a posterhänger will not support. I came home three times to find it lying on the floor. The problem, I realized, was that the plastic clamps did not grip the poster hard enough, and it was slipping out.
It eventually occurred to me to replace the plastic clamps with binder clips with the wire handles removed, which have much greater gripping power owing to their spring steel construction. My balloon rapidly deflated, however, when I realized that even if I used the smallest binder clips available (3/4″), they would not fit into the aluminum tube that came with my posterhänger. Using binder clips would require remaking the whole system. Too bad, so sad. Maybe someday, right?
Now fast forward to last week, when my Moms presented me with this nifty quilted portrait of, ah, myself. Normally I wouldn’t hang pictures of me on my own walls, but hey, it’s from my Moms, and I want to display it, preferably without damaging it in any way. Seemed like the perfect opportunity to try my hand at DIY posterhängering. Here’s what I did: Materials:
- 3/4″ OD aluminum tubing long enough for the top and bottom edges of your poster
- Screw less than 3/16″ diameter and about 1/2″ long
- Two nuts to fit screw
- 3/4″ OD washer, preferably thick rubber, to fit screw
- Fine steel wire
- Table saw with 1/8″ thick blade suitable for aluminum
- Drill with 3/16″ bit
- Flat file less than 1/8″ thick
- Round “rat tail” file
- 150 grit sandpaper
- Tape measure
- Tubing cutter (optional)
- Countersink (optional)
Step 1: Measure and mark your tubing
You need two identical lengths of aluminum tubing, each of which is at least as long as the top (and, presumably, the bottom) of your poster. I allowed an inch overage, which still looks fine and leaves a little fudge room. While you’re marking the cuts, go ahead and mark the midpoint of each section to locate the hole drilled in step 3.
Step 2: Cut the tubing to length
I used a tubing cutter to cut the bulk tubing to length, but next time I will just use the table saw required for step 5. It’s a lot faster and gives a neater cut.
Step 3: Drill a hole in the center of each tube
I was lucky to have a drill press and vee-block on hand, but they are not strictly necessary. Just eyeball the centerline as well as you can, and drill a 3/16″ hole through one wall of the tubing only.
Step 4: Mount the temporary cutting guide
An assembly consisting of a screw, a nut, a washer, and another nut is used as a guide to keep the tubing from rotating while you’re cutting the slot. Mounting it requires feeding the screw from inside the tubing, which I did by running a fine steel wire into the hole from the outside of the tube and pushing it through until it poked out the end. Then I wound it five or six times around the threads of the screw, as shown, and pulled it back through. As long as the screw is the right size, it’s cake. Then tighten down the first nut. If you have trouble here, jam the screw sideways against the edge of the hole to hold it still while you start the nut. Then add the washer, and finally a second nut to secure it. Finger-tight worked fine for me.
Step 5: Cut the slots
I cannot, alas, take on the responsibility of explaining the safe use of a table saw. This is something you need to understand thoroughly before you attempt this or any other operation using one. Therefore I will not give specific directions, only describe generally what I did. The rip fence was set at 3/8″ to center the slot. The blade was raised just enough to cut through the tubing wall, which was slightly more than 1/16″. The tubing was fed into the saw, using push sticks, being careful to keep the guide washer rotated against the surface of the table throughout each cut. Ear and eye protection were worn, and all reasonable safety measures were taken.
Step 6: Clean up the tubes
Remove the temporary guide hardware. Using the flat file, clean up both the interior and exterior edges of the slot, as well as the exterior circumference of the through cuts at each end of the tube. Switch to the rat-tail file to clean up the interior circumferences at the ends. I also used a countersink in a hand-drill to chamfer the mounting holes a bit.
Step 7: Polish the aluminum
If you’re into it, you can spend as much time here as you like; take it all the way down to mirror-bright if you want! Me, I’m content with a “satin” finish, and a quick rub-down with 150 grit paper was plenty to satisfy me.
Step 8: Mount and hang your poster!
Attach a binder clip to the top and bottom edges of your poster, out at the corners. Remove the wire handles from the clips by compressing them, as shown. Then slide the poster sideways into the slot, with the clips inside the tube. Make sure the mounting hole faces backward! Repeat for the bottom tube.
Notes and ideas
You only need a single nail to hang your poster via the mounting hole in the top tube. It should balance nicely and, as a bonus, it’s self-leveling if accurately located.
The original posterhänger design included rubber plugs to close the ends of the tubes. These are aesthetic and not necessary, in my opinion, but if you like them it should be easy to find black rubber stoppers that will fit the ends of the tubes nicely. You’ll need a bit of extra length at each end, of course, so you don’t end up squishing the corners of your poster.
There is no particular reason why the tube has to be round. In fact, most hardware stores also carry a 3/4″square aluminum tubing along with the round, and using it could make this project a lot simpler. It’d be easier to drill the mounting hole on-center, for one, and more importantly, it’d no longer be necessary to install the temporary hardware required to keep the round tube from rotating during cutting.
Finally, since this entry first posted, a helpful commenter has pointed out that there is, in fact, one smaller standard size of binder clip than I thought. These “mini” binder clips are only 9/16″ wide, and I have tested and verified that they do, in fact, fit into a standard posterhänger tube. So if you’re having slipping problems or have lost the plastic clips that came with your posterhänger, “mini” binder clips will make an effective replacement.