Arqadia, a leading UK supplier of picture frame materials, interviews James Cropper Art and Framing Director, Geoff Leech, who answers some common questions on managing mountboard.

Arqadia, a leading UK supplier of picture frame materials, interviews our mountboard expert, Geoff Leech, who answers some common questions on the subject.

When it comes to choosing mountboard, there are hundreds of variables that you must wrap your head around, including colour, thickness, texture and quality. So where do you start? In this guide, we hope to help shed some light on the matter and make selecting your mountboard a little bit easier.

Croppers is a papermill founded in 1845 in the Lake District by James Cropper. Now in the safe of hands of the 6th generation Mark Cropper, the company employs 550 staff and exports to 48 countries worldwide.  Geoff Leech is Art and Framing Director at Croppers and has worked for the company for 40 years. He’s a worldwide authority on mountboard and has answered some questions below in order to bring some clarity to this often-confusing area of the framer’s trade.

What are the different types of mountboard that are produced?

We produce four different types of mountboard: Museum 100% cotton fibre; Conservation Quality grade; Aesthetic White or Black core and a Standard Core range. We’re unique for the fact that we can produce all of these different types at our own mill, without the need for secondary suppliers.

How is the mountboard made?

At the mill we have four fourdrinier paper machines, three of which make all the elements required to produce all our mountboard ranges, including specialist features such as additional textures, embossing and surface coating.  We use neutral pH and AKD sizing regimes, alpha cellulose or cotton fibres with pigment dyes, which have a high lightfastness and bleed resistance. All the elements are then brought together with neutral pH water-based adhesives via a state of the art 1.9m wide 4ply laminating machine.

What is the difference between conservation and non-conservation mountboard?

A conservation mountboard must consist of high quality alpha cellulose (min 87%) and must not contain any OBAs (Optical Bleaching agents) or Lignin, both of which can cause fading and yellowing. They must also be, and continue to be, alkaline pH and chemically stable.

What are the differences in the levels of quality?

Non-conservation boards can include waste fibres, non-pigment dyes, OBA and Lignin, all of which can lead to fading, yellowing, and an early degradation of the board.

What are the benefits of buying higher grade mountboard?

Apart from peace of mind and ensuring that the best materials available are used, the benefits are in protection, preservation and providing the highest level of permanence and resistance to deterioration and change.  Also, using alpha cellulose fibres extends the life of cutting machine blades due to its smooth, dense composition.  Using grades such as Standard and bulky mechanical (beermat) fibres can cause ragging as well as yellowing and acidic deterioration.

What issues can arise with mountboard and what are the solutions?

Dirt specks are the bane of a mill’s life, especially for us with over 4000 colours in production, approximately 60 colour changes per week and a fast-flowing river source that’s either got too much or too little water in it!

However, by ensuring that we programme the paper machines with less critical orders prior to making mountboard, plus employing dirt scanners, filters, refiners and count checks we can minimise the impact downstream.  We also inspect every pale colour and the top 20 sheets during processing; if any are found to be beyond our agreed tolerance, we then proceed to hand sorting every pallet.

Mountboard consists of living, breathing fibres and will be affected by humidity and moisture changes. By storing boards flat in their bags until required, the board has the best chance of remaining stable and flat throughout the cutting process.

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