A shelf of pictures on an otherwise empty hallway wall.
Having just (a decade ago) finished building a new house, I wasn’t in a rush to start driving holes in the walls to hang pictures. Maybe the elapsing of a bit of time would help us prioritize pictures, decide where to hang them to best advantage, or do anything to avoid plastering old holes just to drive more. At any rate, Jean had framed pictures sitting in closets, under the bed, and behind doors that she wanted hung rather than hidden. Finally it was decided that our picture hanging efforts would begin with a review of gallery hanging systems, or what they call “the art of hanging art.” I’m not one with any real need for hanging art, but the idea of being able to move, change, or rearrange pictures without having to spackle and repaint the walls had real appeal for me.
The five shelf brackets hold the shelf securely to the wall.
Our first solution was found at the House of Antique Hardware (https://www.houseofantiquehardware.com/picture-hanging-hardware), which offers a system that I had seen in a library a long time ago. A specialized molding, shown in the link, is added to the walls of the room to create a wall picture hanging rail. Then, there is a wide selection of ‘S’ shaped hangers that hook over the rail. Using a 65-pound-test clear, braided fishing line that is all but invisible allows you to hang almost any size picture from the railing anywhere and at any height. The rail becomes a permanent highlight of the room’s appearance, while pictures can be moved, rearranged, or removed for painting, without having to touch the walls or molding ever again.
The second solution was for smaller pictures and those in the 8X10 to 11X14 size. We have a hall that runs half the length of the house leading to a guest bath and bedrooms. It was clear except for a thermostat. I decided a shelf would display them nicely, and a railing on the edge of the shelf would keep them from falling off in any one of Oklahoma’s up to 600-or-so fracking earthquakes we get a year, or being knocked off while someone is carrying something down the hall. Again, they could be changed or rearranged without having to punch holes in the wall. The railing, what is called a fiddle rail, has a maritime historical background. It puts a railing on the front of a shelf or counter top that is high enough to prevent contents from falling except in the worst of sea conditions, while at the same time not limiting continual access to the books or implements normally stored there. The fiddle rail is set on top of a series of turned wood spindles, which represents the hardest part of the assembly. The antique Victorian wall brackets are no problem. They just represent drawing a design pattern and then some time sitting in front of a jig saw. Getting all 66 (in our case) spindles in place between the shelf and the rail before the glue starts to set, however, is the tricky organizational feat.
Between the pictures of kids and grandkids on the shelf is a picture of
the chime tower at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA. It was
on a bench between the tower and waterfalls that my wife and I became
engaged 55 years ago.
There are several ways to attach the wall brackets that the shelf sits on. The method I used has several advantages. A keyhole bracket fitting is easy to find at almost any hardware or home improvement center. If the wall bracket is wide-enough, say an inch thick or more, an inset can be routed into the side going against the wall that will make the metal fitting invisible. With lumber of ¾-inch, an inset is cut in the edge of the wall bracket that will just barely be detectable. These are hung on screws in the wall that can be adjusted in and out to the correct length to make the shelf secure. With this method, not only is it convenient to just lift the shelf off the screws to repaint the wall, but it is also great for renters who would want to remove the shelf and take it with them when they move. Now my wife can display pictures anywhere and everywhere, and I never have to touch the walls. Not only does this shop job check another item off the honey-do list, but it helps keep tools and skills sharper for the next canoe project.