Cutting windows in mat boards : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello all!

I would be interested in people's thoughts on cutting windows in mat boards. I am an amateur who will be dry mounting and using cover mats with windows for several prints a year for personal portfolio and occasional framing. Do you recommned having a frame shop cut the windows or should I invest in a mat board window cutter 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 board would probably be a 22x28 board for a 16x20 print.

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


-- Scott Jones (, July 29, 2001


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.


-- Dave Willis (, July 29, 2001.

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.

-- Sandy Sorlien (, July 29, 2001.

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!

-- Dave Richhart (, July 29, 2001.

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.

-- Sandy Sorlien (, July 29, 2001.

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.

-- Ken Burns (, July 29, 2001.

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.

-- David Rose (, July 29, 2001.

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

-- Dave Willis (, July 29, 2001.

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.


-- Sandy Sorlien (, July 29, 2001.

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

-- Michael A. Smith (, July 29, 2001.

Computerized mat cutting is now state of the art. One farnchise, I believe it is Fast Frame, has these cutters.

-- David Stein (, July 29, 2001.

I have had good success with the Logan Compact which I purchased from Dick Blick Art Supplies for about $70 including a cutter. The cutter has a slotted guide which rides down a lip on the holddown bar. It is extremely easy to use and cuts straight. I cut several different size mats with no problems. You have to watch for your pencil marks to stop and start the cutter at the right place, but that is not difficult. The advantage of your own cutter is that you can cut non- standard sizes and double mat sizes easily. Also, sometiems a mat window needs to be just a bit larger or smaller to fit a particular print.


-- Doug Paramore (, July 29, 2001.


We use a Logan Simplex 750 of recent manufacture and are very pleased with the results. So far, no problem with curving cuts, but we do have two other small difficulties not mentioned in previous posts: (1) the mat guide tends to stick unless pressure is applied to the black knobs in precisely the correct fashion; (2) when using the bevel cutting head, a slight overcut is required in order to avoid a hanging corner. Personally, we don't find a slight overcut at all unattractive; in fact, they leave the (correct) impression that the work was done by hand. But the Simplex 750 is not cheap, and it might take quite a few mount jobs to realize a savings over custom work. (Custom work does not appeal to us because we often have to trim our contact prints slightly before mounting). Good luck. Nick & Marilyn.

-- Nick Jones (, July 29, 2001.

I agree with Ken. If you're only matting several prints a year, I think you'd be much better off having them done commercially rather than investing in a mat cutter and trying to do them yourself. In my expeience, cutting mats is like anything else - you have to do it with some degree of frequency to become proficient at it. I bought a Logan of some kind - I forget the model but it cost around $120 from Light Impressions. It worked fine but I didn't use it enough to become really proficient and so much time passed between matting sessions that I had to relearn it every time I used it. So I've gone back to a local frame shop, though I'll look into using the company Michael mentions.

-- Brian Ellis (, July 29, 2001.

Hi Michael, Thanks for the tip on Superior, I'll check them out. I do like to use our local purveyors. Cheers, Sandy

-- Sandy Sorlien (, July 30, 2001.

Yes, go with Superior Archival Mounts. Excellent work, reasonable rates. I tried cutting myself w/ a pretty expensive Logan for two years. Did absolutely the best I could, I'm not a total klutz, and I still wound up ruining about one window in three (the problem being that tendency for the cut to curve at the start). The cost of all the ruined board made doing it myself more costly than anything Superior's been charging me. I hope Superior hangs in there -- it's an awfully narrow "niche" they're occupying.... -jb

-- Jeff Buckels (, July 30, 2001.

Great discussion with lots of helpful ideas. Thanks everyone!

-- Scott Jones (, July 30, 2001.

Scott, I just noticed you said you were going to drymount your 16x20s. There were a few threads on this site recently about drymounting, check them out. I would not drymount a print that small, just flatten it (if it's fiber) and use paper corners so it can be removed.

-- Sandy Sorlien (, July 30, 2001.

No Scott, Sandy is wrong. Dry-mounting is more archival. See my article on "Advances in Archival Materials" on our web site.

Michael A. Smith

-- Michael A. Smith (, August 01, 2001.

I own a Logan 700 Simplex mat cutter purchased about 15 years ago. The 700 is similar to the current 750 Simplex model. I had the same problem that Sandy was describing (the first inch of the cut was not straight on bevel cuts) and I used it and used it only for straight cuts since then. Recently, I contacted Logan Technical Support (getting their phone number was a major accomplishment) and asked them about my problem and whether their newer models fixed the problem I was encountering. They told me that my 700 Simplex is a good cutter and my problem was probably that the blade was extended too far and was flexing during the first part of the cut. Sure enough, I set the blade to just barely extend past to bottom of the mat and the problem has been significantly reduced, if not eliminated.

-- Michael Feldman (, August 05, 2001.

I will chime in here with Michael on the side of dry mounting. I have seen thousands of prints. The prints that are dry mounted have a professional, finished look to them. Always! The prints which are not dry mounted are wavy, and sloppy looking compared to the dry mounted prints. Dry mounting has been used for decades. I have seen prints that old and they show no ill effects from mounting. You may get a print flat as I do before mounting but keeping it flat using any other method is problematic at best. Due to humidity and temperature changes the print will buckel. I enjoyed your article on mounting with the newer materials Michael. Thanks for the info. James

-- james (, August 05, 2001.

Great discussion. Speaking on dry mounting, would some of you let us know what their experiences with dry mounting LightJet color prints to matt have been? (I'm not sure however the term applies to cold mounting!)

-- Paul Schilliger (, August 05, 2001.

I bought a Logan 300 about five years ago for about $70. It will handle up to 28" length and is a push type. Cutting mats is a piece of cake once you get the basic geometry figured out. I've seen the Alto and the objection I have to it is it is not infinitly adjustable for exact cuts for various size prints.

If you get standard size boards, 16x20, etc, cutting a mat takes a couple of minutes. I cut down from 32x40 boards and I spend a time getting the mats and backing to an exact size (32x40 is actually about 32 3/8 x 40 3/4). Once this is done, the mats are simple and fast.

-- gene crumpler (, August 06, 2001.

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