Vacuum Mounting

(Excerpt from ART HARDWARE: The Definitive Guide to  Artists’ Materials, by Steven Saitzyk © 1987)

Vacuum Mounting utilizes an adhesive in combination with pressure to mount and  flatten the artwork. The adhesive is usually applied to the back of the  art-work, which is then placed on the mounting board and both are put into a  vacuum mount press. The vacuum mount press removes the air to create a vac­uum,  which in turn presses the mounting board up against the top glass cover with  tremendous pressure, flattening the artwork and forcing the adhesive into the  two surfaces. This creates a strong bond. There are a number of special  advantages to this system. Heat, for example, which might accelerate the aging  process, is not used. In addition this system can be used for wet as well as dry  mounting with a spray, not with tissue.

In wet mounting, blotter papers are used in the  vacuum mounting press to keep the work flat and to accelerate the drying time.  The vacuum forces some of the moisture into the blotter paper covering the  artwork in the press, and, if the blotters are changed frequently, the drying  time is greatly decreased. This is important because if the mounted artwork  takes too long to dry, mold may set in and damage the artwork. A wet mount in  the vacuum mount press is usually reserved for jobs that require a  water-reversible archival mounting.

There are a few companies that make vacuum mount  sprays. 3M offers a spray, which is currently the brand of choice. A vacuum  mount spray is designed to allow you “open time” of two to eight minutes to  reposition the artwork for placement. This means that after the back of the art  has been sprayed there are approximately two to three minutes of waiting time  until the tack is reduced so that the surface is sticky, but will not bond  firmly without pressure. The next two to eight minutes may be used to position  the artwork. This unique feature allows precision mounting, and I have used it  with a number of contem­porary artists to create artworks that could not have  been created in any other way. After ten minutes from first spraying you must  place the artwork in the press for permanent bonding. The 3M Vacumount Spray  Adhesive is pH 6.8 (which is essentially pH neutral), holds up well under  accelerated aging tests, and is only reversible in organic solvents, not in  water. It is important to note, however, that the use of sprays such as these  require the use of personal protec­tive equipment and proper ventilation. (See Hazards.)

Vacuum mount presses are available in sizes up  to 48″ x84″, but the most common are those that will handle up to 40″ x60″  boards. The system allows for the use of almost any type of mounting board, even  sealed wood up to %-inch thick, but, as with any product such as this, the  technical specification and limi­tation must be read first and followed  accurately and completely.