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Behind every great canvas is a set of seriously tough stretcher bars—at least, that’s the hope. Flimsy bars and poor construction can doom an artwork the minute it’s mounted. Avoid that nightmare with stretcher bars made of wood—a traditional material that offers strength without breaking the bank. Rounded up below are our favorites, which all land somewhere on the Venn diagram of quality, ease of assembly, and affordability.
Utrecht Heavy-Duty Canvas Stretcher Bars and Keys
Solid and consistent, these stretcher bars fit squarely and are a great choice for artists of all skill levels. Made of ponderosa pine and hem fir, and seasoned and kiln-dried to resist warping, each measures 2¼ inches wide and features double-mortised and slotted corners to ensure a tight joint every time. These bars are solid enough to handle tension well yet take staples easily. They also come in more than a dozen sizes, from 10 to 85 inches, so you’ll almost always be satisfied. Plus, they are properly packaged to prevent damage while in transit, and they come with keys so you can tighten your canvas once fitted.
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Frank A. Edmunds Canvas Stretcher Bars
Can’t make up your mind on which sizes to buy? Grab a sample pack of bars. With this option, you get nine pairs of basswood bars in lengths from six inches to 18 inches, plus a nylon bag to store them. These sets can be used for painting, but they’re also designed with textile artists in mind: This is a fine choice for needlepoint and cross stitch projects, as the bars feature eased (aka rounded) edges, which helps to better distribute stretch while allowing you to skip the step of blocking. The basswood is pleasantly soft, splinter-free, and extremely lightweight.
ANOTHER GOOD OPTION
Masterpiece Monet Pro Stretcher Bar Kit
Stretching a canvas for the first time? This set is good for beginners, although it’s a great choice for anyone seeking a bit of guidance. Each kit comes with two bars and one cross brace (two kits are needed for a full frame). The braces are keyable, so you can adjust the tension over time. The bars are an impressive 1 7/16 inches deep and 1 5/8 inches wide for easy stapling. Bars are available in sizes that increase in one-inch increments from 10 inches to 60 inches. Assembly instructions are on the label.
Fredrix Standard Stretcher Bars
Need lots of bars for the classroom or a workshop? Buy in bulk and save some money with this cost-efficient option from Fredrix. They feature the manufacturer’s tried and true tongue-and-groove design, which offers reliably sturdy support. We’d rank these as light-duty bars, though, as they are thinner than our top pick, but you can always add corner braces for more strength. The packs of 50 are available in 10 lengths, from eight inches to 48 inches.
BEST Heavy-Duty Stretcher Bars
As the product name suggests, these bars are truly one of the best you can get. You’re paying more than the competition, but they will offer long-term stability and can tolerate the demands of large works. Made of kiln-dried white pine, which has a very low tendency to warp, the bars have been finger-spliced, which means that pieces of lumber have been bonded to yield an ultra-strong bar that stays durable even if you choose a piece on the longer end. The result is a smooth, drum-tight canvas. This is the only option on our list that offers sizes that increase in one-inch increments, from eight inches to a whopping 144 inches.