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Thread: Cutting windows in mat boards

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Cutting windows in mat boards

    Hello all!

    I would be interested in people's thoughts on cutting windows in mat boards. I a m an amateur who will be dry mounting and using cover mats with windows for seve ral prints a year for personal portfolio and occasional framing. Do you recommne d having a frame shop cut the windows or should I invest in a mat board window c utter and if so which kind? The Logan name comes up often. There seem to be many differing qualities and sizes. What features are worth the cash? My maximum boa rd would probably be a 22x28 board for a 16x20 print.

    Thanks for any input you may have for this window cutting neophyte!


  2. #2

    Cutting windows in mat boards

    I've used an Alto and a Logan. The Alto was a friends, and the Logan was at the local community college where I was taking a class. Both did a fine job. These were cutters with guides. Some people can do quite well freehand, but I'm not one of those.

    Anyway, the Alto I used was a push cutter and the Logan was a pull cutter. I don't really have a preference between Logan or Alto. As long as you're using sharp blades, there isn't too much of a difference between them, but some find the Alto easier because it is a push cutter.

    Whether it's worth it depends a lot on you. My local photo shop and one of the art supplies sell pre cut matts. That art supply charges $1 per cut if you have them do custom cuts which can get kind of expensive quickly. You'll have to do the math for yourself.

    I will eventually get one. There is a fantastic supply place here in St. Louis where 4 ply buffered (or nonbuffered) archival museum board is like $6 or so (I haven't bought in a while and can't remember the exact price, it may be a dollar or two more) with a $25 minimum. The local art supply charges twice that much, so considering the savings on supplies and cuts, I cut my own. seems to have pretty good prices. I called to ask a question about mat cutters and immediately spoke with a real person who was quite helpful.


  3. #3

    Cutting windows in mat boards

    I cut my own mats for years but never got them really perfect, because I couldn't afford a really good device. Now I have Light Impressions do them and ship them to me. They usually do a beautiful job. I suppose I could have purchased a great cutting device with the money I've spent on LI over the years, but I've saved a lot of time too.

  4. #4

    Cutting windows in mat boards

    Scott, with practice, patience, a Logan mat cutter, and good fresh blades...I am able to cut mats as well as most of the local so- called "framing shops". The mat cutter will only work as well as the person operating it. Overcut, or undercut and torn corners are distracting. Expensive cutting equipment can produce some very ugly work in the hands of an uncaring operator.

    I think the $70 I spent on a middle grade Logan was a bargain!

  5. #5

    Cutting windows in mat boards

    I respectfully disagree with Dave. I am a very careful cutter and practiced for years. The inexpensive Logan Simplexes I used, and which my students use at school, were prone to slightly curving the cut near the corners, and also to slipping blades. Over and undercuts are not the problem. A consistent straight bevel without curvature is. The times I've used superior cutters, it made a big difference.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Cutting windows in mat boards

    I must respectfully disagree with Sandy. I have used a Logan Simplex for years and have never had the problem that she describes. I would suspect that improper procedures are being followed. Now, back to the original question. If we are talking about only several prints per year, you will waste a lot of board in relearning how to do it. IMO, for quantities this small, you will be much better off purchasing pre-cut boards.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Sep 2000
    Farmington, MI

    Cutting windows in mat boards

    I have cut matts for years with only a #11 Xacto blade/knife, a cutting matt and a heavy steel straightedge. I get results that are as good as I see in museums and galleries. You just have to have the right touch. Make the cuts with the blade held at 45 deg. +/-, tight against the straightedge, making the cut with several passes and changing the blade frequently. Finish off the corners with a straight razor blade. Give it a try- if it works for you you can avoid the cost of a matt cutter.

  8. #8

    Cutting windows in mat boards

    The Logan cutter I used runs about $300. I never had any problems with curvature. The Alto runs about $100, and I never had any problems with curvature either. I think curvature is due more to the operator rather than the device.

    Respectfully, Dave

  9. #9

    Cutting windows in mat boards

    Ken, suspect all you want, I don't think "improper procedures" are the issue. It sounds like perhaps my Logan is a lemon. I bought it way back in the early '80s, it was very inexpensive, and maybe they are better now. I don't know, but believe me I follow directions and have a steady hand and change blades every 4-8 cuts for museum board.

    Pre-cut mats are not usually a good solution, unless you want to print to match the window opening. Your cropping decisions should come first, then custom-cut yourself or order the window to complement the print proportion.


  10. #10

    Cutting windows in mat boards

    Paula and I used to cut all of our mats ourselves. It took forever, even though we have a high-end Esterly wall-mounted cutter where you can pre-set the stops--so no meassuring was necessary. But just last year Superior Archival Materials in Philadelphia bought a state-of-the- art computerized mat cutter and now we have them cut our mats for us. The price is very reasonable--especially if you are doing many in one size. Sandy, their board is far superior to Light Impressions board and their charge for cutting overmats is cheaper. They charge a one-time $5 charge (that's one $5 charge for a lifetime) for setting up each size. After that your dimensions are in the computer and all you have to do is call and tell them you want your standard size horizontal, vertical, or whatever. I believe they can even cut odd-ball shapes. And they can cut up to a 60-inch board if anyone makes really big prints. Their web site is and their toll-free number is 1- 888-857-1722. (It's 215-427-2271 in Philadelphia, Sandy.) I warmly recommend them.

    Michael A. Smith

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