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Articles by Chris A. Paschke, CPF GCF

"More Than A Mat Cutter To Me"

July 1991

In the realm of creative mat design new trends, concepts and materials are always being invented to make creative surface mat designing more time and cost effective. Wonderful tapes, beautiful exotic papers, wet and dry pigments are all among the elements and materials accessible to any framer for surface mat design and creative enhancement.

Upon deciding to use a full size sheet of decorative paper or material (18"x24") it is vital to find a time effective way of cutting multiple strips cut from these exotic, decorative papers or surface laminates in exact proportions. This accuracy is essential in making these creative surface mat designs not only effective visually but also profitable.

As a framer one of the most basic and versatile pieces of equipment you own is your mat cutter. Originally designed only as a means to an end for achieving a precision sized and efficiently executed bevel cut piece of heavy colored mat board, it can readily double as a trimmer, paper cutter and metal straightedge for lining up the above mentioned decorative papers and heat set laminates. As long as the cutter is equipped with an accurate full length mat guide and squaring arm across the bottom, the slideway (or bar) will become the straightedge and the head will become the hand held blade.

By using a slip sheet under the bar, as in regular mat cutting, support will be given to the papers or laminates allowing much narrower strips to be cut in sequence. Always begin with a sharp new blade to ensure clean smooth cuts, and depending upon the materials being sized blade changing may be required.Set the mat guide at the desired widths, for surface mat enhancement common strips would be ⅛", ¼", ½", ¾" and 1".

The bevel cutter head is used to cut the paper strips so calibration of the strip widths may need adjustment or at least conscious notice of the actual width executed, since often cutters are adjusted for the width of the surface color paper of the mat. Basically just cut a test strip or two on scrap to verify the desired strip width matches the actual cut width.

Once all of the strips for any particular design have been cut the same cutter may now be used for a straightedge. The big difference between this cutter/ruler and using any other cork backed hand held ruler is the speed and accuracy in which strips may now be lined up (as well as cut).

Precut the mats to be decorated on the same mat cutter to ensure the precision and accuracy of the squaring systems and always maintain the same positioning. By this I mean to place the mat consistently flush to the bottom squaring arm since the mat cutter bar/slideway should be in perfect 90 degrees to it. If however, the cutter has a great deal of lateral movement in the bar/hinge system...maybe you need a new cutter!

Reset the mat guide to accommodate the desired decorative paper strip width away from the newly cut mat opening, place the mat face up under the bar (flush to the bottom) and use the bar/slideway as a straightedge for the paper strip placement. Tack the strip lightly in place, miter the corners and burnish the strips in place as needed.

Using a vertical cutter when cutting a marbled paper will ensure no exposed white inner paper, this does not matter when laminates are being used or when the strips are to be mounted on the bottom mat (see "Tiered Matting"). If the vertical cutter is to the right of the bar simply adjust the calculations from the mat guide to accommodate the space difference.

Accuracy is the key to a well executed design. A dynamite idea will never sell when poorly executed. If too much time is taken trying to produce a basically simple maneuver it is no longer time effective, for it will cost the customer far too much for the labor time involved. Get the most from all your equipment, put your mat cutter through its paces, get more for your money and turn it into profits!

Copyright © 1991 Chris A Paschke

For more articles on mounting basics look under the mounting section in Articles by Subject.
Additional information on all types of mounting is found in:
The Mounting and Laminating Handbook, Second Edition, 2002,
The Mounting And Laminating Handbook, Third Edition, 2008 and
Creative Mounting, Wrapping, And Laminating, 2000 will teach you everything you need to know about getting the most from your dry mount equipment and materials as an innovative frame designer.

All books are available from Designs Ink Publishing through this website.

Chris A Paschke, CPF GCF
Designs Ink
Designs Ink Publishing
785 Tucker Road, Suite G-183
Tehachapi, CA 93561
P 661-821-2188