Friday, January 13, 2012

The Pony Express rides into town

Here at Poster Mountain we have a tradition of mounting a six sheet as the first project of every year, last year it was a "Singin' In The Rain" which can be seen on our database, this year a great stone litho western six sheet poster from 1933.

This week's blog is about this very 6 sheet that we mounted to kick off 2012, "Via Pony Express". We have in the past shown the crew mounting a pretty large poster, the French Star Wars billboard.  However, it is more common for Poster Mountain to do jobs of this size on a regular basis. So, we thought it would be great to show how we work on something that is large but not massive.

This poster also answered a question that John has had for years. One of John's clients about 10 years ago brought in the top of a 6 sheet poster for "Via Pony Express," but didn't have the rest of the poster and didn't know what it looked like.That top third has moved shops with John and has simply been sitting in our archive room since the last move. So now we finally know what the rest of the poster looks like! This may be a nerd moment, but... How cool is that!

Anyway, back to the poster. 6 sheet posters are roughly 81"x81" and were so named because in the early days they were actually composed of 6, 41"x27" independent sheets of paper that fit together. Although from the 1930's on these poster normally came in 4 pieces, instead of 6. (The reason for printing large scale posters out in pieces is that printers were limited by paper size and the size of their machines. The names of differently sized posters usually comes from how many pieces compose the whole poster: one sheet, three sheet, six sheet and so on.)

Pictured: "Via Pony Express" before we began work on it. It is big enough that we can't photograph it in our photography studio, so we spread the poster out on a table and John climbed onto a ladder to take an aerial shot.
Pictured: Robin making sure that the poster would fit in the standard 6 sheet frame.

With all of the pieces that are linen backed we use a frame around which Robin stretches linen. The frame holds the linen, makes it easier for us to move the piece from station to station and provides some protection for the piece because the stretcher bars act as a buffer. After the linen has been stretched on the frame, Robin and John start to prep the linen. With the 6 sheet frame, the center is far enough away that it necessitates someone (aka Robin) climbing onto the table in order to spread the glue out from the middle.   

Pictured: Robin beginning to spread the glue out.

Pictured: Once there is glue over all of the linen, Robin then evens it out with a roller. 
 After the glue is evenly spread over the linen, a layer of masa paper is applied that forms the substrate upon which the poster lies. The size of the frame meant that we needed two pieces of masa to cover the whole area and placing the paper onto the glue and linen was a two person job. John and Robin put the first piece down then carefully smoothed out any air bubbles before John made sure that the masa had adhered to the linen by going over it with a roller.

Pictured: Robin and John smoothing down the masa paper from the middle out to remove any air bubbles.

Pictured: John using the roller to make sure that the paper is completely adhered to the linen.
 Once the first piece of masa was down, John spread just a little bit of glue across the edge that would be the overlap point for the second sheet of masa. Without this overlap we run the risk of creating a weak point where there is no paper for the poster to bond with. Its also how most large scale posters are printed, with each different piece of the poster overlapping somewhere with another piece.

Pictured: John spreading glue across a few inches of the masa before placing the next sheet of paper down.

Pictured: Robin and John lowering the second piece of masa down. You can also see several frames of varying sizes in the background that are hanging out until needed.
 While Robin was prepping the linen, John had begun to wash the first pieces of the poster. He begins by wetting down both sides of the poster, then spraying a soap solution and massaging the poster to loosen the build up of dirt before rinsing out all the pollutants that have accumulated.

Pictured: John laying a piece of the poster onto the mounting tables, with Robin spreading glue across the linen in the background.

Pictured: John spraying soap over the back of the poster.

Pictured: John spreading the poster out evenly across the Mylar.

Pictured: I made this picture bigger because so you can really see what John is doing. He is using a palette knife to flip a piece of the poster that has folded over on itself.

Pictured: The poster is suspended between two layers of Mylar, John manipulates the paper through the Mylar. Here you can see him squeegeeing out the soapy water and dirt from the poster.

Pictured: The poster after being washed and rinsed, before glue is applied to the back.
After the first piece was washed and rinsed, Robin applied glue to the back. Then she and John move the piece from the glass topped tables over to the frame. There is a sheet of Mylar on the front of the poster, so they lift it up with that, then position it within the frame.

Pictured: Robin putting glue on the back of the first piece of the poster.

Pictured: Robin removing the excess glue from the edges of the Mylar sheet. John in the background smoothing down the last piece of masa on top of the linen.

Pictured: John and Robin holding the edges of the Mylar sheet with the poster sticking to it as they move it over to the frame.
Once the poster is resting on the substrata, John uses the squeegee to remove any excess water and glue while also bonding the poster with the masa. The Mylar sheet over the top of the poster continues to act as a barrier to protect the poster before it is removed, leaving the poster glued down to the paper and linen. Robin begins washing and rinsing the third piece, while John works on the next piece to be mounted.

Pictured: John using the squeegee to adhere the poster to the

Pictured: Robin checking the edges to make sure that the poster was completely flat.

Pictured: Behind the poster, John flipping it over after washing and rinsing it.

Pictured: John brushing glue on the second piece of the poster while Robin begins work on the third.

The second piece of the poster has to be positioned carefully because they need to line it up with the first piece so that any text or images are straight. Each subsequent piece is placed down very specifically otherwise something that is only slightly off on the first two could cause the last piece to be way off.

Pictured: John overlapping the second piece with the first and looking for the registration marks to help line the panels up properly.

Pictured: Robin removing the Mylar from the third piece of the poster after is has been squeegeed down.

Pictured: Fourth and final piece of the poster in the process of washing. The colors have become much more vibrant after being relieved of their burden of dirt that had accumulated.

Pictured: John using the squeegee to adhere the last piece of the poster to the overlap points of the other posters and the substrate.

Pictured: John gingerly removing the Mylar sheet from the last piece of the poster. He does this gently so that he does not pull up any part of the poster.

Pictured: Robin adding the "mount form" to the frame. This form helps us keep track of the posters as they move through conservation and restoration. Each mount form has the client's name, the poster's title and the amount of restoration it is receiving on it.
After the last piece is mounted, the poster is maneuvered through the obstacle course of tables in the studio so that it is out of the way and can dry in peace. When that is John and co. aren't fooling around... we are a rambunctious bunch!

Pictured: John pretending to squeeze the horse's tushie.

The final poster looks great! All of the fold lines are flat and the edges neat, while the poster is seen as it was meant to be for the first time after decades of sitting in pieces. 

It should be noted that several crucial steps in our process have been omitted. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us via email at or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: and Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog!


  1. I've had a poster linen backed. It started popping off the paper. What would be the reason for this?

  2. Hello! My apologies for the delay in responding to your question. Was the poster backed by us? If so then I'm not sure why it would be coming off. If it was done by another backer then it may be the wheat paste they used. Wheat paste, while it is archival and reversible, can be unpredictable. If your poster has experienced a recent change in humidity or weather, that also may be the cause for it's spontaneous demounting.