Cutting mattes

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by BetterSense, Oct 15, 2009.

  1. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    The problem I have is I seem to have a problem shooting and printing for standard frame and matte sizes, especially in 6x6 and 35mm. So I end up with completely arbitrary dimensioned prints.

    I suppose the thing to do is get a sufficiently big frame and cut a custom hole in a matte, but is this an expensive and difficult thing? Are matte cutters big and/or expensive?


    Another issue I have wondered about, is how unsightly it is to have an image with an aspect ratio that does not match that of the frame, which would be the case for me unless I ALSO made custom frames. How do you print full-frame 35mm and other images, and then how do you frame them?
     
  2. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Logan mat cutters are reasonably priced. There are better cutters out there, but they are big bucks. After a bit of practice, cutting mats is not a big deal. You'll find a thread or two on the subject -- probably do a search in the presentation section of the forum.

    Square holes cut a little higher than centered on a vertical board looks good. General rule of thumb -- about 3 or 4 inches of matboard around the hole to let t he image breath. If I have a new or tricky mat cutting job, I like to draw it out to scale on graph paper just to get a feel of how it looks. I tend to stick to standard size mats (12x16, 16x20, 20x24) to make buying wood frames easier. Metal frames you can buy in sections and as long as you have even inches (no fractions), any size is easy to get.

    But the best thing to do is to try out some different mat sizes and positions in the mat -- hang it on the wall for awhile to see what feels best for you. Generally I place the print 1/2 inch higher than centered, unless I am doing the square image on a vertical board -- in which case I might go with 1/3 above and 2/3 below the image.
     
  3. Mtnvue

    Mtnvue Member

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    I, too, cut my own mats and it's not too hard. I have a couple of Logan mat cutters and have been happy with them. One I bought new and spent just under $100 for the compact version with the frame and cutter.

    I am currently printing a lot of square images at about 8". I have used 12" X 12" frames and think they look OK with the 2" of border. The 12" frames are about the only ones that are readily available without getting the metal sectional frames. I get them at craft stores and some of them are advertised as scrapbook page frames. The ones that I purchased recently are wooden and come in black only.
     
  4. eddym

    eddym Member

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    I started out by buying an inexpensive kit from Light Impressions that included a hand-held mat cutter, straightedge, ruler, etc., plus the most important thing: instructions! I used it for quite a while before I upgraded to a 30" Logan cutter. I cut all the mats for my own work, as well as for my wife's pastels. It's not hard at all.
     
  5. dwdmguy

    dwdmguy Member

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    Google "Coupon for Michaels" and you'll always find a 40 pct off coupon and then get the best Logan you can find there.
    I have the Interminate + and it's just fine.

    Having a off ratio matte to image is generally normal. Also, never center your image, always leave more room at the bottom of the matte then the top. i.e. Matte should be cut center in the Horz. position but higher in the Vert.
    Good luck.
     
  6. bsdunek

    bsdunek Subscriber

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    All the above is great advice. I get my frames from Michaels - as dwdmguy says, get a coupon and watch their sales. I use a center finding ruler http://www.dickblick.com/products/fairgate-center-finding-rulers/ to help with my layout and cut with a No. 3 Exacto knife. It goes pretty quick and I can make the opening any size I want. I too seem to end up with odd sizes when I crop my photos the way I want.
     
  7. RPippin

    RPippin Subscriber

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    I cut my own mats as well with a Logan mat cutter. My advice is to also get a self healing cutting board to put under the mat when you cut out the middle. I also shoot square format and have found an inexpensive way to frame. There is a local art supply shop in town with a framing section. They sell me pre cut (45 degree) gallery wooden frame stock that come with wedges to keep their shape. All I have to do is apply a little Elmers glue to the corners and drive in the wedges and hang up to dry overnight. The cost with glass is less than anything from Michaels and I can get a square frame 16"X16" for about $20.00. The only big cost is 4 ply acid free rag mat and the acid free backing. The mat and backing run about $18.00 each for a 30"X40". With the mat, the insert pieces I cut out give me something to frame 5X7 contact prints with, so there is little waste. For about a hundred bucks I can get four nice framed prints with some scraps to do small images with. The initial cost to set yourself up to do your own is well worth the expense. Check out your local art shop and see if they will work with you. They tag on my stuff with their regular order, mark it up a bit and hand it over with no more effort than it takes to write down the sizes I need. Works great for both of us. Good luck.
     
  8. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    There is a web page with some info on positioning the print that has a calculator to figure out the margins and display an example. Clever and fun, I've played around with it a bit. I cut my own mats with a Dexter hand cutter and a straight edge, but am thinking I may invest in a Logan before the next major round of framing, as the current method can get pretty tedious.
     
  9. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    Buy the frame first, then make the print the right size to fit it. You can even take the frame into the darkroom and project the negative right on it, size, and there you go.

    We recently got some frames from Michael's. They were such garbage we couldn't use them. Fortunately, they took them back. They weren't wood at all, just plastic. Horrible! - but all they had. Check other craft stores. Fairly decent standardized wood frames aren't hard to find. If you don't quite like the color, shoe polish might correct it.

    About placement in the matte. It won't work right if the print is off center from side to side. It also won't look right if the print is ON center from top to bottom. It baffles me why people have formulas or rules about how much more space to leave below the print. The whole thing about placement is proportion. For example, if you were to matte your prints leaving the lower part of the matte 1/2 inch more than the top, or anything like that, it would be very different if you were matting a 2x3 inch print on a 5x7 inch board, than if you were matting a 2x3 FOOT print on a 5x7 foot board. In the first case, the 1/2 inch might be too much. In the second, the 1/2 inch would have no visible effect. Vertical placement is best determined by simply looking at it and finding where it looks right. Side to side placement must be measured carefully.

    One very quick and easy way of centering the print side to side if you are dry mounting with the margins trimmed off is to move the print to one edge of the board, so that the edge of the print corresponds with the edge of the board, then take a strip of paper and with it, measure the difference from the other edge of the print to the other side of the board, marking the strip with a fingernail. Then, fold the strip of paper from the end to the mark. What you've just done is to determine without a ruler the difference in size between the print and the board, then divided that difference in half. Then you can use the strip you've made to set the distance of the print from the edge on either side at the top and bottom of the side of the print.

    Then all you have to do is visually set the vertical position, tack it, and you are ready to press. It is incredibly easy. You've done it with no abstract math. I hope I've explained it well enough. Using this method, you can probably matte 4 prints in the time it used to take to matte just one.

    Unfortunately I know of no similar trick for laying out the overmatte. Wish I did!

    Cutting: I learned to cut mattes with a Dexter when I worked in a color lab back in the 1960's. Professional framers laugh when I tell them that, but the fact is, you actually can cut good mattes with it, as unlikely as it seems. Subsequently, I bit the bullet and bought a second hand C&H professional cutter. It's great, but I still mess up now and then, and with good museum board, that's distressing.
     
  10. Larry.Manuel

    Larry.Manuel Member

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    I think there's a fair bit of info in the Lee Valley Tools catalog about cutting mats [also on-line at Leevalley.com].

    Custom frame sizes on the cheap: I imagine [since I'm a professional woodworker] that you could buy an off-the shelf, ready-to-assemble frame and have it cut down and assembled [or not] for very little money by a hungry frame shop owner.
     
  11. david James lee

    david James lee Member

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    i have a logan and it's easy to use. highly recomended. redimat sells high quality blank mats for you to cut.
     
  12. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    I attended a framing workshop many years ago by a guy who was the curator of a major print collection. He claimed if we went behind the scenes at places like the Phildelphia Museum of Art, we would see T-squares and Dexter cutters being used to cut mats. I think if I had a better workspace, work surface, and a stiffer straightedge, I could do better than I do with the Dexter. But the mid-range Logans look like they might be the best answer for those like me who don't practice once a week!
     
  13. Roger Thoms

    Roger Thoms Subscriber

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    I use a Logan Model #750 Simplex Plus which I'm happy with. I have used the 750 to cut hundreds of mats over the years. When I'm not sure I use a cad program and draw the mat to make sure I get the proportions right. Doing a full size drawing on graph paper as mentioned above is probably even better except I don't have any graph paper big enough. With the cost of mat board a little planning is well worth it.

    Roger

    Roger
     
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  15. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    I suppose this is drifting into Presentation, but still relevant to Equipment.

    I don't know anything about dry mounting. Never seen it done. I understand that it's when you have a special tissue, and you sandwich it between the print and the back matteboard, and then you take some kind of special press and heat it up, so it's like glued to the backboard. I don't have the budget or space, most of all, for any large pieces of equipment, so I was planning on printing with generous white borders, taping the print by the corners to the back matte, and then putting a custom-cut window over it, leaving some of the white print border showing around the edges of the image. Is it ok to have the matte touch the print, or should I space it up a bit?

    I previously always just put my prints in albums (or in big piles everywhere), but a family member wants a print and even payed me a small amount for it. It has to be shipped across the country so I wanted to matte it and put it in an inexpensive frame. I will look into getting one of the Dexter-type cutters (I understand it's a hand-cutter) or maybe one of the Logan cutters (sounds like a big piece of equipment to have around).

    I can buy backing material and overmatte material from Michaels?
     
  16. dwdmguy

    dwdmguy Member

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    I get the back Matte mounting Tissue roughly square and simply use a tack Iron in the Center to have the Tissue, which is the "glue" not move. Then off to the cutting table, or a Matte cutter can be used also, after I trim my photo as I wish, and Square, and again, with the tissue still center stuck to it, measure the Horz Center with a squaring T and then the Vert position I wish, NEVER center but a bit higher, place the photo on the matte accordingly and between two other matte boards press in the Hot press at 150F for not longer then 60 seconds.
     
  17. Jon Shiu

    Jon Shiu Subscriber

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    Hi, if you need to have a frame and mat, consider americanframe.com. They offer a free custom cut mat with each frame ordered. You can order plexi and backing board from them also. I usually just order the "standard" profile metal frame in matte black. For mounting, you can get those clear corner mounts.

    Jon
     
  18. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    http://www.adorama.com/LG250.html

    This Logan 250 24" matte cutter looks quite economical for such a cutter. Is the quality good? I'm worrying about it being cheap quality, such that I might be better off just getting a Dexter hand-cutter.
     
  19. dwdmguy

    dwdmguy Member

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    I would sincerely get a Michaels coupon and grab the 700 Inter + unit. Comes with everything you need plus a DVD.
    She's 42"
     
  20. Shadow Images

    Shadow Images Member

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    Logans are POS. Look for a used Fletcher, make sure it has the ball bearing head. Then practice, practice, practice. In my many years as a custom framer I have used them all and Fletchers are the best.
     
  21. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    The advantage of a 40 to 42" long mat board cutter is being able to easily cut down 32"x40" matboard, which can be economic if one cuts a lot of mats. Also it gives one the option to cut larger mats...for example, I mount 16x20 prints on 24x28 mats.

    My system is actually a hand-Logan and a 40" heavy straight edge -- and a few of those orange-handled clamps from the hardware store.

    I started off using a Dexter -- and still use it for straight cuts (cutting boards down to size.) For the angle cuts, the Logan is much easier to use and always gives you a nice 45 degree angle (the Dexter is steeper). Logan also makes a straight cutter that works great for cutting matboard down to size.

    The window can come over and cover part of the image, though I prefer not to do so. Just a personal preference -- I like the have the print itself define its own edges -- not the mat board window. One possible problem when taping all four corners is that the print will shrink and swell depending on the moisture content -- causing the print to ripple. So one can just tape the upper corners, or use "T" taping -- where one puts two pieces of tape on the back of the print that stick up past the print -- then use another piece of tape to hold each of the first two pieces of tape to the mat board

    One can also use photo corners that hold all the corners of the print and the tape is placed on the photo corners rather than the print -- allowing the print to change dimensions freely. (Pre-made photo corners with adhesive already on them can be bought, too. -- I make my own...very easy).

    Bowzart -- the 1/2 inch "rule", as I stated, is just a general guide, useful for the average size print/mat...8x10 on 11x14 up to 16x20 on 24x28. It will give the appearance of the print being centered. But you are correct -- what is important is how it looks, not what "rule" one follows.
     
  22. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    Vaughn, I know you well enough to have confidence that if it weren't going to look good, you'd change it so it would. Your prints and mattes are simply gorgeous.

    What I find hard to take is that I have heard many teaching colleagues give students oversimplified guidance. The problem, really, is that when a student's work looks crummy, it tends to discourage. -- Nevermore, though, I've just retired.

    I agree with you about taping and especially your mention of "t" hinges. Rembrandt used them for a reason, as have most printmakers since.

    Another question from BetterSense: "Is it ok to have the matte touch the print, or should I space it up a bit?"

    I don't think spacing between the matte and the backboard or the margin around the print would look very good, and really don't see what its benefit might be. The visual problem, I think, would be that as the print develops a topography, as it will unless it's drymounted, the shadow of the matte on the print will look irregular and no doubt very distracting. I imagine there could be a problem if you really wedged your print tight into the frame so that the matte was pressed so tightly against the print that the open area had nowhere to go when it expands; then it might "puff" out. I've never had a problem with it.

    The purpose of framing is not merely presentation; it should protect the print from chemicals in the atmosphere, bugs, etc. Ideally, the package should be hermetically sealed.

    The nice thing about dry mounting was the nice flat print. The not nice thing is that the print is married to the board so that its fate is dependent upon what happens to the board down the road. When prints are not dry mounted, they can be rematted. Also, who really knows how those tissues hold up over time? Do they decompose, contributing harmful chemicals which will degrade the work? Museums prefer prints to be hung in the mattes with the "t" hinges as is customary with other kinds of prints for both of these reasons. Real art supply places stock acid free tape. I don't know about Michael's. Why do I doubt? I prefer the "Likkum Stickum" type over the pressure sensitive type. Maybe I'm just displaying my oft-noted Ludditic tendencies.
     
  23. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

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    Check out the red Ansel Adams book which has a section on mounting. I try to standardize, e.g. matting 11x14 paper on 16x20 board. Sometimes I use 11x14 paper but end up with a 10x10 print but still use the same size board. That way I can order the matboard, frames, tissue, etc. in bulk and get discounts. I simplay adjust the placement of the print on the board to account for the size difference. I think it looks nice if you have a number of prints - each one might be a unique size but they are all hung at the same height (a real time saver) and look good.

    One trick which I use is to cut a slice of matboard of thickness equal to the top of the mat board to the top of the print. So if the print is vertical on a 16x20 board and the top of the print is 3.5 inches from the top of the board I cut a 3x5 x 16 inches long. Then I pencil in small markings every 1/8 inch from the sides of the board and larger markings at 1/2 and 1 inch increments. Then place the mat board jig on top of the mat board and align the two with a straight edge, secure, and place the print (already tacked with tissue) on the board and center using the pencil markings on the jig so that the distance is equal on both sides. Then tack down the paper and everything is centered.

    Zone VI used to make a dry mount jig with a wood base and a T-Square with markings which was nice but I never use mine anymore and make my own jigs.
     
  24. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    I purchased a Logan 450 a few years back and have liked it a lot. I know that Fletchers are better, but the cost difference is pretty big. Of course, if you find a good deal on a used one, that would be great. I would also think that the 750 would be even better, and it is not all that much higher. I got mine from FramersIsland.com and their service was great. One really nice feature of the 450 and 750 is that they come with a straight cutter as well, for cutting large mats down to size. If you get 40% off from Michaels, that will be a really good price, but Framers Island has the 750 for $249 with free shipping, so probably about the same price and you don't have to wait, hunt for coupon, etc. (I have no relationship with this company other than having bought something from them once.)
     
  25. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    Although I have a pretty decent Logan matt cutting set, including a 1 meter long guide rail and large cutting mat, I absolutely HATE :mad: cutting mattes.

    Like you, I don't print standard sizes at all, and it is tiresome to have to measure out mattes each time and cut them (and hope for the best the cutting went well and straight, and that none of the corners remains stuck).

    I recently discovered there is actually an art shop in Amsterdam, pretty close by for me, that has a fully computerized matt cutting setup! Just tell them the outside and inside sizes, a possible vertical displacement, and your done...

    Best of all, they cut mattes for an incredibly low price (+/- 6 euro for 40x50 cm), that is the matte + cutting! And discount on bulk! Considering that matte paper by itself is already very expensive (in the range of 12-16 euros for a 70x100 cm sheet here in the Netherlands), this is a bargain.

    I have decided I will outsource much of the stuff in the future there :smile:, it's just not worth the effort for that price.

    Marco
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 15, 2009
  26. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    I disagree, although I might have a different opinion if I were cutting mats every day in large quantities. For those who don't I think they're quite serviceable.

    The real joy of cutting one's own mats (or, if you've just got too much money to spend, having them cut for you) is that you are free to make the photograph exactly the size (read "crop") that you want it to be rather than printing to conform to a pre-cut size. I've found it a very liberating experience, and not particularly difficult to learn and do well if you practice.

    I suppose the era of wholesale dumping of gear and equipment specific to analog photography is over, but there are still bargains to be had on dry mount presses I would think. They are absolutely worth it as a way to complete the presentation process. Give it a go...you'll be happy you did.
    (None of the above is rocket science...don't be timid on that score...it just aint that difficult to do well.)

    BTW, do not skip DW Thomas's link to the optical print centering site. It's the only tool I use to decide exactly what I will do with my print/overmat measurements.