The Art of Picture Hanging

We’re hanging pictures at our house. You need the right tools for this and a good sense of proportion, the latter of which I lack. You also need a picture, which should be rectangular. I’ve included a snapshot of what you should have on hand.

The spackling compound is essential, because I guarantee you’ll mess up your wall trying to find the exact spot to pound, screw, or glue the fasteners. Don’t try to get them right by measuring the first time. This is going to take a while.

You’ll need a calculator and a little time to search your memory for the long-lost grade school algebra skills. These might help you place the picture on the wall so that it symmetrically aligns with the boundaries of the wall itself, the toggle switch plate, the coat closet door frame, and the edges of the expanding universe compatible with the time frame following the big bang.

The formula for finding the place on the wall such that there are equal spaces are on either side is width of the picture plus 2x= width of the wall (w+2x=W).

w+2x=W

2x=W-w

x=W-w/2

Of course, this doesn’t work for your wall, usually because there is some kind of fancy bevel or other contour the architect thought would be suitable for torturing homeowners trying to hang pictures.

The next step is to consider your picture-hanging kit, which is designed by aliens who are always running their fool experiments on earthlings. The parts are made of durable plastic, which break when you breathe on them.

After you have tossed the kit and the worthless instructions in the garbage, go to the hardware store and buy something called Hangman picture hangers, designed by Bear Claw. After your careful measurements, you will completely fail to screw the hangers in the exact spot which should correspond with the brackets fastened on the back of the picture. Don’t worry, at this point it’s completely normal to have explicit thoughts regarding the word “hangman.”

That’s because no matter how often you measure using a precision-calibrated tape measure, you will end up using terms like “skosh” to adjust the position of the picture and the hangers to fit the hangers into the brackets. The scientifically proper use of the word “skosh” (which comes from the Japanese word “sukoshi” pronounced “skoh shee” meaning a little bit, although I’ve never heard anyone pronounce it this way) involves telling your wife, husband, friend, or whoever is assisting in the picture hanging fiasco, to sagely advise that person to “Move it just a skosh to your left—other left.” Remember that most of us pronounce skosh as just plain one syllable skosh with a long “o” and absolutely nothing rhymes with it in plain English. I think I first heard it from a guy who was from Texas.

The reason the skosh is so essential is that you will have to move your fastener or your picture just that exact distance or you will screw your hanger into the exact same hole you started with and which is hopelessly wrong, whether it’s in the dry wall or firmly in a stud.

You are required by Federal law to use a level to make sure the picture hangs straight and doesn’t slant even a skosh to the left or right. There will always be people who will judge the picture is not level just by eyeballing it, even if the level is absolutely spot on with the bubble exactly centered. The only way to counter this tendency is to offer them enough beer to make them tilt in the opposite direction.

You’re welcome.

Author: James Amos

I'm a retired consult-liaison psychiatrist. I navigated the path in a phased retirement program through the hospital where I was employed. I was fully retired as of June 30, 2020. This blog chronicles my journey.

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