Posts Tagged ‘straight edge’

Hand Trimming Wallpaper

March 28, 2021

A lot of high-end wallpapers come with an unprinted selvedge edge that has to be trimmed off by hand before the paper can go up on the wall.

Hmmm … they charge you more because it’s a “designer brand.” But they give you less, because it takes a lot of time, precision, and razor blades to trim this off, when the company could have simply done it at their factory.

O.K., moving past that … To trim off the selvedge, I used my 6′ brass-bound straight edge and lots of new, sharp, single-edge razor blades. The “Trim” mark guides printed on the material by the manufacturer were pretty much on-target.

Thus the pattern on the trimmed strips matched up very nicely once pasted and hung on the wall.

Disguising a Bowed Wall

June 6, 2020

The right edge of this wallpaper was plotted to butt up against the outside corner of this wall. Only problem is – the wall was curved or bowed or whatever you want to call it – either way, it ended up with a sliver not covered by the wallpaper.

This was a mural, where each panel has its own individual design … so there was no piece of excess paper with a repetitive pattern to match up a patch.

No biggie … It’s a busy enough pattern and a non-prominent location (read: near the floor, behind a piece of furniture), so that a minor patter mis-match would not be noticed.

I took the scrap of paper that I had trimmed off at the baseboard and then used a straightedge and razor blade to cut a wedge-shaped piece that I used to fill in the narrow area.

VoilĂ !

Manipulating a Thick, Stiff Paper Around a Curved Wall

July 2, 2018

Curved walls like this pose a problem when wallpapering, because it’s virtually impossible for the framers and drywall guys to get the walls perfectly smooth and straight without bows or dips or humps. You may not see these imperfections when looking at the wall. But they can cause difficulties when hanging wallpaper.

Wallpaper wants to hang straight, and must have a straight edge for the next strip to butt up against. Walls that are not perfect can throw paper off-kilter, and can create wrinkles, bubbles, or an un-straight edge that will show gaps or overlaps when the next strip is butted against it.

Some papers are more pliable and malleable than others, and can be tweaked and twisted into compliance. In contrast, the non-woven material I am working with here is thick and stiff, and unwilling to conform to anything other than flat wall. As you can see in the second photo, by the time three strips were up on this curved wall, some wrinkles had inevitably formed in the last strip.

Non-woven goods have the installation option of pasting the wall. But I preferred to paste the paper, for several reasons, but mostly because that would give the paper a bit more softness and flexibility.

Because the paper had become soft and flexible, I was able to work those wrinkles out. It took time and finessing, but the paper ended up flat and smooth against the wall, and the seams were butted without gaps or overlaps.

This wallpaper pattern has a thick gesso-like texture on a metallic silver background – Quietly glamorous, really. It is by York in their Candice Olson line, and was bought at below retail price from Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. (713) 520-6262 or She is great at helping you find just the perfect paper! Discuss your project and make an appointment before heading over to see her.

Hand Trimming A Patterned Grasscloth

June 7, 2018

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Most wallpapers come with their edges pre-trimmed by the manufacturer. But some – usually the higher-end products – come with the selvedge edge intact, which means the installer has to hand-trim the material to remove this unprinted edge.

This is done with a straightedge (not shown in the photo), a single-edge razor blade (lots of them!), an appropriate surface to cut into, and a steady hand.

The manufacturer will print marks (trim guides) on the wallpaper, so you know where to trim. But these are not always accurate, so often you have to go by an element in the design (1/4″ away from the tip of the red dog’s nose).

You also have to use a tape measure to make certain that the width of the strip is the same along it’s entire length. If it’s not, you will end up with a trapezoid, or a strip with one or both edges that are shaped like a boomerang – and no strip of wallpaper will butt up against a boomerang!

Hand-trimming is tedious and time-consuming and precise. It’s important to have the right equipment, to pay attention, to take your time, and to have a steady hand.

Selvedge Edge Needs To Be Trimmed Off By Hand

March 24, 2018

The wallpaper mentioned in my previous post had an unprinted selvedge edge that had to be trimmed off by hand. I used my heavy brass-bound straight edge (not shown) as a guide. This takes a lot more time and precision than hanging pre-trimmed goods.

“Iconic” Martinique Banana Leaf Wallpaper

August 20, 2016




This “Martinique” (French island in the Caribbean), wallpaper pattern is the exact same as was used in the ’40’s in the Beverly Hills Hotel – and on TV shows like Friends and the Golden Girls, and in celebrities’ homes, and on a Mariah Carey album cover, to name a few. I have hung it several times – it is retro, it is timeless, and people love it.

It is also expensive. And thus there are knock-offs. Most of the knock-offs are easier to hang. This one was not.

While most wallpapers these days come pre-trimmed by the factory, this paper came with a selvedge edge, which I had to trim off by hand with a 6′ straight edge and plenty of sharp razor blades. I spent maybe an hour and a half just trimming the edges off six strips of wallpaper. And the trim mark arrows printed by the manufacturer were not distinct, so it was hard to tell exactly where to cut, which means it was easy to get an edge that was not perfectly straight. That means you can get perfectly butted seams, but also what we call “gaps and overlaps.” In addition, the pattern was not perfectly matched by the manufacturer, so there were some slight mis-matches once on the wall. Luckily, the pattern is busy enough that these are pretty disguised.

The paper had a thick vinyl coating that was difficult to cut. The thick manila paper backing sucked up paste, leaving little to hold the paper to the wall. The paper backing opposed the vinyl surface, causing curling at the seams. I added extra paste, I added more moisture, I striped the wall behind seams with paste, but I still had seams that wanted to curl up a little. Usually, once the paper is good and dry, the seams give up their moisture and that causes them to shrink, and then they pull tight to the wall. By the time I left, most of the seams were tight and flat.

In the end, the finished wall looks fantastic, and the homeowner loves it.

I put this bright and bold “Martinique” wallpaper pattern on an accent (headboard) wall in a guest bedroom in a new home in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston.

Yes, Virginia, the Electrician IS in My Way

November 11, 2015

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I guess people think that, if they’ve got one workman in the house, they may as well have them all come, and get everything done at the same time. The thing is, it’s really hard to work with all these trades on top of one another. I didn’t know the electrician was going to be hanging a chandelier in the same room where I was working, or I would have set up my table in another location.

You see, he is in my way. We’re both trying to walk around the room, and running into each other. He is working almost directly over my table, sawing a hole in the ceiling, and getting debris on my table, and, if I happen to be pasting a strip of wallpaper, that puts little bumps stuck in the paste that show under the new wallpaper. People also tend to set things on my table. That get in the way and put stains on the wallpaper.

“If your table is in his way, we’ll just move it a little,” said the homeowner. Oh no you WON’T touch my table! First and foremost, you just simply do not ever touch another workman’s tools or equipment. Second, that wallpaper table has to stay pristinely clean, and I know for a fact that his hands are not. Third, the table is made of three boards that come apart, which you are not anticipating, and there is also an expensive straight edge suspended underneath that you are not aware of that will fall to the floor and get banged up and ruined.

Oh, yeah – and he turned off the lights in the room, too. Now, how am I going to hang wallpaper in the dark? ?? ???

The electrician didn’t bother to put a drop cloth under his ladder. And in the second photo you see how he left the homeowner’s floor.

Now, would you let a guy like that put grubby his hands on your clean, expensive, intricately-set up equipment??

My New Toy – the $100 Magnesium Straight Edge

November 9, 2013

Digital ImageDigital ImageHere is my new straight edge (leaning up against the grasscloth I hung today in a home in Rice Military).

Many metals, like aluminum, will scratch or mar wallpaper; magnesium will not. The width of this tool prevents warping, the weight prevents it from slipping while you’re cutting, and the thickness provides a sturdy brace for your razor blade. This straight edge is used as a guide when trimming the selvedge edge off certain wallpapers – usually the higher end papers.

An interior designer’s client thought her price for wallpaper and my labor were too high, so he’s going to find them on his own. Hmmm. I wonder if the guy he digs out of the Greensheet has invested in a $100 straight edge, or has a van loaded with other specialty tools and pastes, used specifically to hang wallpaper with precision.

My Newest Toy – 6′ Magnesium Straight Edge

September 10, 2013

This just arrived in the mail today. It’s used when table-trimming the selvedge edge off of un-trimmed wallpaper, which are almost always the higher-end brands. The straight edge will also come in handy when trimming grasscloth, removing banged edges, or cutting a piece to fit into a corner.

The thick sides help keep your razor blade straight, which ensures a straight cut, and the magnesium won’t mar the paper, as aluminum or steel can.

The tricky part is cutting strips that are longer than 6,’ the length of the straight edge, because once you move the tool to cut the next 6,’ you have to be VERY careful to keep everything lined up and absolutely straight.