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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.

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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

Tools:

  • 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
  • Marker
  • Tubing cutter (optional)
  • Countersink (optional)

Step 1: Measure and mark your tubing

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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.

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


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Comments

  1. Silverman says:

    There is a size of binder clip smaller than 3/4″, for instance Office Depot item 975992. I’m not sure if they’d fit in the original product but they are substantially smaller than “small” binder clips. I use them to hold together glass-only picture frames.

    1. Sean Michael Ragan says:

      That’s good feedback, thank you. I want to say that I have tested one of those 1/2″ clips against my posterhanger tube, but I am not sure. I will check and see if it works and post the results here, in any case.

    2. Thanks again for this comment. I was able to put my hands on some of these “mini” binder clips at Office Depot today, and turns out they work! With the wire clips removed, they just fit into a posterhanger tube in the proper orientation. Which will be really useful information to anyone who’s had the “slipping” problem with their posterhanger and/or has lost the bundled plastic clips. I may even do a separate post about it.

  2. cairn says:

    To reuse the original Posterhanger, I wonder if you could just get some small neodymium magnets and pair them front and back along the top edge of the poster before sliding it into the aluminum tube. I don’t know if they’d be strong enough to support a heavier poster of quilt, but might be worth a try.

    Nice remake though.

    1. Sean Michael Ragan says:

      That’s a great idea. Probably would work better than binder clips, honestly, if very slightly pricier. Since the tubing’s aluminum, of course, the magnets wouldn’t interact with it. Good thinking, and thanks for sharing it.

  3. Dave Bell says:

    Nice re-make!
    I remember another style of hole-less hanger, probably from 20-30 years ago, but may still be available. It consisted of a plastic hanger bar with a triangular cross-section, rather than tubular. Inside it was a smaller cylinder of “grippy” plastic, like silicone. Think of a long, slim glue stick. The bottom edge of the triangular bar was open, and you’d slide the poster up into it, behind the gripper bar. When you let it hang, it would drag the gripper down and wedge it into the triangle, making a very firm hold.

    1. Sean Michael Ragan says:

      Interesting. I’ve never seen any other version of the idea, but then I haven’t looked very hard because I assumed Jorgen had basically invented the notion. I should know better: There’s nothing new under the sun, especially when the application is this simple.

  4. Dan says:

    In the UK at least, a far simpler design of triangular plastic hanger is very common. They’re also used for binding documents.

    At the risk of sounding condescending, I’ll describe them incase you’ve not seen them: They’re a long hollow triangular prism, slit down the length at one corner of the triangle. They’re made so that the slit holds itself closed tightly enough to grip a single sheet of paper, but can be forced open to take typically 20 sheets if you’re using them for binding. They come in lengths to fit from A4 documents to A1 or bigger posters.

    You mount them to the wall either will a hole in the back, like this, or with a string looped through the top one.

    Do you not have them in the US? I’m surprised, as they’re incredibly simple and cheap. Every student uses them for hanging posters on their wall in halls.

    Ah, found a link:

  5. esemjay says:

    I understand the aesthetics behind the aluminum but couldn’t you do something similar with PVC and some silver paint? You could then cap the ends as well. But all in all a great idea.

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