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Thread: Keeping borders square when trimming photos

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Feb 1999

    Keeping borders square when trimming photos

    For those of you who dry mount, how do you keep the edges square when trimming the borders and dry mount tissue? I use a carpenter’s square and utility knife, but I often screw it up, ending up with a photo whose edges are not square to each other. Do I need to buy a dedicated paper trimmer?

  2. #2
    Pieter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2018

    Re: Keeping borders square when trimming photos

    First of all, I assume your print is square to the paper and the image edges are perpendicular and parallel. If the carpenter's sure isn't working for you (possibly moving while being used), a paper trimmer--I prefer a rotary one like the Rotatrim) will give good results as long as you carefully align the paper with the top edge. It can be a little difficult to see where the trimmer blade will be cutting, but with a little practice it works very well. I also use a stainless steel ruler and xacto knife with good results. Some SS rulers have a cork backing to prevent slipping.

  3. #3
    Drew Wiley
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    SF Bay area, CA

    Re: Keeping borders square when trimming photos

    I use a dual-rail classic Rototrim mounted onto a big laminated table with its own long stainless steel squaring bar. I also have a smaller Rototrim. Doing it with a box knife and carpenter's square would seem awfully dicey. It's hard to even find a suitable carpenter's square. Those are actually stamped out, not machined, so running a knife blade along one doesn't mean it's running straight. If you can find a high quality draftman's stainless square, that would be a lot better, but nowhere near as good as an actual linear cutter like a Rototrim. Good guillotine-style cutters like Dahle makes are themselves rather expensive; but I wouldn't trust the cheap kinds sold in strip mall office outlets.

  4. #4

    Re: Keeping borders square when trimming photos

    Make sure your print is flat before trimming. Put it in the press for 30 seconds or so, take it out and put it back in for another 30 seconds. This will make sure that the print is flat and doesn’t have moisture. Do the same to the mounting board. Use a roto trim or other good sharp trimmer.

  5. #5
    Tin Can's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011

    Re: Keeping borders square when trimming photos

    never mind

    I do it differently

    let Drew lead
    Tin Can

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    Re: Keeping borders square when trimming photos

    For prints with easel borders, back when lots of dry mounting was done.

    Tack on a sheet of mounting tissue that is identical or slightly larger than the print size with the taking iron, center of the print.
    Line up the easel border on the straight edge of the rotary cutter then roll trim off the edge.
    The industrial sized rotary trimmer has a straight rule guide that is precise/accurate 90 degrees to the rolling cutting edge, this produces precise/accurate and nice cut edges on the print to be mounted. A GOOD roller trimmer is a worthy print mounting tool in many ways.

    Alternate to a good rotary trimmer would be the Kutrimmer.

    These easily cuts 4 ply cotton acid free board and does a good job trimming prints with mounting tissue tacked together before positioning the print to be pressed.

    The straight edge cut with a razor knife works, it can be error prone and produces less then ideal trimmed edges if not properly and carefully done. Applying a metal straight edge or square directly on the print is not so good as it can easily damage the print. Cover the steel rule or square with stick on thin felt or even blue masking tape helps to prevent print damage.

    BTW (if ok with LFF admin), My binding has 16x20 dry mount tissue on sale:


  7. #7

    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Los Angeles

    Re: Keeping borders square when trimming photos

    I always had a lot of success with a guillotine paper cutter for many years. It was a good quality one my dad brought home from the office when I was in high school. Trim the print and dry mount tissue together as Bernice points out. An expensive Rototrim would be nice of these days, but Mr. Can had a cheapie recommendation that I bought that works pretty well. I did a lot of dry mounting when I was a teenager in photo classes. Mom’s iron was my dry mount press. I still have the mounted prints, they look fine 50 years later.

  8. #8
    Vaughn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Humboldt County, CA

    Re: Keeping borders square when trimming photos

    Straight edge with a razor blade or exacto knife. Prints up to 16x20. Trim tissue and print to the image area, and dry-mounted inside the window with about 1/2 inch between window and print. I'd eyeball it, make sure print was square inside the window...trimming off a 1/32" (or whatever needed amount) down to 0" to even it with the window if needed. Something (easel or the mat board or my measuring) might have been slightly off square. Then tack it down and into the press.

    A framed example...
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 24x28mat.jpg  
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  9. #9
    Jim Jones's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Chillicothe Missouri USA

    Re: Keeping borders square when trimming photos

    All of my printing is digital. The paper extends well beyond the mat window. I center the image in the window and tack the paper to the top edge of the overmat for maybe two inches (to reduce the possibility of buckling). The print is still available for traditional mounting if desired. This system has worked without problems for years. Epson 13 mil paper might not lay quite as flat as dry mounted paper, but most of my photos don't deserve the best anyhow.

  10. #10
    Roger Thoms's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    San Francisco, CA, Flagstaff AZ

    Re: Keeping borders square when trimming photos

    I invested in a Rototrim many years ago and have never looked back.


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