Spencer Devlin Howard

Amateur Carpentry

Both my parents are crafty — good with their hands, inventive with materials, strong aesthetic eyes. So I’m blundering my way through basic woodworking with the confidence of someone who’s watched and assisted in enough crafting and construction to infer and intuit a method of working, but has no real experience to back it up.


The frames of the original Stretching Portraits are simple. In contrast to the scrollwork and finely detailed carpentry you’d expect of a wealthy Victorian home, these frames have a simple design, which really makes the stretching illusion work. The sides of the frames are canvas painted like fluted moulding and unroll with the portraits themselves. The tops and bottoms of the frames are real wood with square caps containing simple rosettes at each corner.

Funnily enough, the doorframes in my own home aren’t a bad match.

I bought inexpensive moulding and accents, hedging my bets in case I end up completely mangling the work. I chose a soft pine that (hopefully) will stain well enough to create the illusion of a nice walnut or mahogany. Disney’s own set dressing accomplishes its goals using all kinds of workarounds and facsimiles. The graveyard scene of the Haunted Mansion, for instance, places floor-to-ceiling scrims between the track and the closer-than-you-think animatronics to simulate distance, fog, and a boundless realm of the supernatural.