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What Are The Little Pieces of Wood That Come With A Canvas?

Resolved! If you have ever wondered 'Why have I got a bag of wooden sticks with my canvas?' then I am here to answer your nagging question. This is also a handy bit of knowledge if you want to look like a master of the arts.

What are canvas keys?


These are called canvas tightening keys, also referred to as canvas wedges or stretcher bar keys. Small but mighty, these pieces of wood are to strengthen the canvas if it begins to sag.

Canvas keys are normally stapled to the back of a pre-stretched artist's canvas in a clear plastic bag. They can also come as plastic triangles which are used in the same way.


There is no need fit the canvas keys before you start working.

When painting onto a canvas, the weight of the paint can cause it to droop. This can make it difficult to do detail or can distort old paintings. If you notice the canvas is getting loose, this is a good time to add the keys. Needless to say; wait for your art work to dry first and rest it on a clean surface 😱.

We all know that a canvas can be perfect for more than just painting projects so this rule applies to any art work on a canvas. If the middle of the canvas is sagging, hammer those wedges in.


The wooden frame which the canvas is attached to is known as the stretcher bars. If you look at the back, in the corners of the stretcher bars you will notice slits. This is where the canvas keys go.

Simply hammer all 8 keys into these slots. A useful tip is to do the lower levelled ones first.

Some cheap canvases will come with keys which are too thick for the slots. It's normally only 1 or 2 in the pack of 8. If some elbow grease with the hammer doesn't do the trick, just leave some slots empty or buy a new pack. When buying canvas keys, you're better spending your money on wooden ones rather than the plastic triangles.


The clever clogs amongst you will notice that I took the above picture while the canvas keys were laid one way and the below picture shows them hammered in another way. Don't let this confuse you. It isn't possible to hammer these in the wrong way around as one slit is higher than the other. I would love a genius reason why I did this, but sadly it is just because I am human.

You now know the answer to this little mystery.

Go forth with this arty knowledge and use it when painting or be the hero at a pub quiz.

So, what is it you are making with your canvas? Get in touch; we're @mayinspire across all social media platforms. We adore when the creative industry community connects.

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