Now you might be wondering: what on earth is an Ambrotype storage frame? I’ll show you. A while ago, I photographed male model Taz. We created a number of images together, three of which I had made to go together, as a tryptych. I envisioned them in nice, bright frames, but – as we are about to move house again, this time back to the UK – I figured this was good time to try out making a DIY storage frame for these clear glass ambrotypes. I’m happy with the way it came out, even though the colour scheme is too dark for these specific images.
You will need: Bookbinders board or similar sturdy cardboard (equal or slightly greater in thickness than your glass plate) Box cutter / Knife + surface protection Folding bone Ruler Glue Paper, to cover the cardboard String, for the closure Black paint/ paper
1. Decide on the size of your frame.
Measure out your images, and add some space for the front framing. Make sure you don’t make the edges too narrow or you might struggle later for attaching spots for the ‘hinges’. I chose 2 cm framing for the fronts, so my size was plate size + 1,8 cm on all sides.
2. Measure, draw & cut out all the parts you need.
Cut 9 pieces of cardboard, all the same size. 3 of these will be the backs. 3 will be the spacers, and 3 the fronts. Leave the backs as they are. Cut a window in the spacers, leaving only 1,5 cm at the edges. If your plates are unvarnished/ delicate you must make sure the spacers are thicker than your plate, or they will end up damaged once you try to insert them into the frames later. Cut a window in the fronts, leaving 2 cm at the edges. Measure the distance your hinge will need. The inner hinge needs less space than the outer. Take a sturdy piece of paper and double it up by gluing and folding. I have made my outer hinge by inserting a piece of bookbinder’s board into the paper fold, to provide some extra protection on the outside of the frame. Make sharp folds where the hinge should be bending.
3. Prepare your parts for assembly.
The backs: make 1 side black by covering them with a black paper/ fabric or by painting it black. The spacers: Cut one short side out of each of them, by cutting the edges diagonally, and cover those cut-outs with the same paper you will cover the outsides with. Lay those aside, you won’t need those again until you are finished. Cut a little ‘canal’ halfway in the long side of one of your spacers, to allow for the closure to be attached later on. I didn’t think of that till later on, so I had to cut my canal through the paper covering. (see images at part 4) The frame: Cover one side with a paper of your choice. Make sure to cover all edges as well.
4. Assemble the back parts.
Glue the spacers onto the backs, against the black side. Cover the backs + spacers with paper. Be careful to cover all outer edges and to mind the pattern of the paper, if that is part of your design. Mind the little cut canal, and which backing + paper you use this spacer on, as this frame will later be on the top.
5. Assemble the frame.
Put all pieces in the order they go in – minding paper and patterns. Glue the inside hinge in place, then glue the frames on top of them. Glue the outside hinge in place (in between checking if placement is correct) and the string you wish to use for a closure. Then glue that front in place as well. Fold the whole thing up and place under some weights to dry.
6. The finished product.
Insert the glass plates. Mine had been varnished and so can withstand a little rough handling – so I could just push then in. Obviously be more careful with yours if you need be. Remember those little paper covered parts we had set aside from the spacers? Insert them in place for a fully finished product.