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Mat Board Cutters - Are They Worth The Time And Aggravation?

SUMMARY: Whether to buy pre-cut mat board or buy mat board cutting equipment so you can do it yourself is a question many artists must ask themselves as their business expands and they begin to sell more and more of their art. This article offers some insight into why buying a mat board cutter isn't worth your time or money. William Boyle, REDIMAT's expert cutter, talks about the problems of cutting a mat.

Choosing Between Pre-Cut Mat Boards and Buying Your Own Mat Board Cutter

William Boyle - Expert mat cutter
William Boyle, REDIMAT's expert cutter

"Purchasing pre-cut mats not only will save time and labor, but it assures you a much needed consistency of preciseness of cut and quality (often-times not achieved when doing it yourself) for each and every mat you show to the public."

Learning about mat board cutters and mat board cutting equipment can be enough to make your head spin. When deciding between whether to buy a hand-held mat cutter, specialty mat cutters or just buying your mat board straight from a wholesaler, there are a lot of factors to consider. For example, buying your own mat board cutter may save you money in the long run, even though you have to make a large initial investment.

However, when you invest in mat board cutting equipment, you are also committing yourself to learning more than you ever wanted to know about mat board cutters, and that can take some time. Mat board cutting is not easy, and it can certainly be aggravating for an artist who would rather be out in nature taking photographs or drawing portraits. Before deciding whether to buy a mat cutter, consider the following reasons why mat cutting equipment might not be much better and cheaper than buying pre-cut mat board.

The Pain and Aggravation of Mat Board Cutting

Over Cuts - Over cuts occur on the inside corners of the mat board when the blade has cut too much into the board. This happens when the blade goes too deep into the mat board. Also, if the blade is not positioned correctly, the blade will either cut too far or not far enough.

Undercuts - Undercuts happen in the bevel of the mat board when not enough mat board is cut out from the inside of the mat boards frame causing a jagged or curved inside corner. This usually happens when the blade is cutting too deep and is not finishing the cut.

Wings - If the person cutting the board does not follow through on the cut or the mat board cutter does not keep a perfectly straight line the edges of the mat board may lip or curve, causing a "wing" on the outside corners of the mat. Another reason for wings may be that the blade is too deep and is curving toward the outside of the mat.

Angles of the Mat Board - Getting a 90-degree angle in the corner is difficult, and if it's not done perfectly during the initial cut, the rest of the angles will also be compromised. When cutting the mat down, the outside cut aligns the inside cut. The mat cutting machines angles must always be kept perfectly square.

Angles of the Blade - To get the slanted angle on the inside of the mat board the angle of the blade must be kept at a perfect 45-degree angle. A perfect 45-degree angel can be difficult to keep for any mat cutting machine, not to mention added difficulties and inconsistencies if the blade is dull.

Dull Blades - Dull blades compromise the evenness of your cut. To keep blades sharp they must be consistently sharpened or replaced. If you don't use your blade correctly every time, or if you work with poor quality mat board, you further contribute to the dulling of the blade.

Cheap Mat Board - Penny pinchers may think that inexpensive mat board will go unnoticed by customers and save money for the bottom line. Unfortunately, it is more difficult to cut through poor quality mat board because the papers texture is not as consistent. Inconsistent mat board will dull the blade faster than high quality mat board.

Clamp Marks - Mat board cutting machines often require you to use a clamp to hold down the mat board while cutting. Clamps keep the board and blade from slipping or shifting, but clamps often cause unsightly marks in your mat board. If the mat board is not held down tight enough it can cause the blade to slip and destroy your mat board. When a blade slips, not only do you ruin the mat board you just cut, you also ruin part of the main mat board paper you were cutting from.

Double Trouble - Double or triple mats cause double trouble when you're trying to do it yourself. It is much more complex to cut and paste together a double or triple mat and any inconsistency in the initial cut will become even more obvious when glued to one or more mats.

Oversized Mat Backs - The mat board back should always be slightly smaller than the mat boards front. Making the back about 1/16 inch shorter makes it easier to center the back to the mat board. Therefore, if the back should slip slightly the edges of the back-board will not stick out behind the front board.

Jagged Cuts - Not using the right kind of backboard can cause a jagged or uneven cut along the edges of your mat board. To avoid this you will need to use another mat board as a backing sheet. The backing sheet supports the mat board you are cutting helping to make a smoother cut.

Five Reasons to Buy Professionally Cut Mat Board

State of the Art Cutting Equipment - To avoid the listed problems, REDIMAT does not attempt to use manual mat cutting equipment that causes the problems listed above. The state of the art cutting tools are computer controlled, leaving little room for human error. When REDIMAT used manual mat board cutting equipment they lost about 5% of the mats they cut even with a professional doing the cutting. With the state of the art system they loose less than 1% of the mat boards they cut, if that.

Time - Although cutting your own mat board may save you a couple pennies per mat board, don't forget about the time you're spending cutting mat boards. It's important to determine how to best spend your precious time as an artist. Learning how to cut mat board can take longer than expected. Then, once you have mastered the art of cutting the mat board, you must continuously maintain your mat cutting equipment. This all takes time away from creating and selling your art. Also, you can't write off your time for your taxes.

Mistakes - Mistakes happen, it's that simple. One mistake here, two mistakes there and pretty soon those mistakes start to add up to a lot of lost mat board and time. Mistakes cost precious time and money, not to mention the aggravation it will inevitably cause the person cutting the mat board.

High Quality Mat Board - Professional mat board suppliers buy mat board in bulk, allowing them a volume discount in all the mat board they purchase. This allows them to keep their costs down, passing the savings onto their customers. Individual artists most often will not receive the same bulk rates professionals get just because they don't buy as much mat board.

Tricks of the Trade - Professional mat board cutters cut hundreds of mats per day and they have come across and mastered every mat cutting problem imaginable. They know all the tricks of the trade. They are experts that have the time and inclination to master the art of mat board cutting and they won't rest until the mat board is flawlessly cut.

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