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You Can Cut Your Own Mats (I Promise) Posted on 27 Apr 2012
Having recently registered a few illustrations in the upcoming Bangor Art Society juried show, I found myself in need of 20x24" mats and frames for two 16x20" images.
This should have been the easiest thing in the world, since that's a standard frame size, but unfortunately I live in the wilds of Bangor, Maine and a day-long search through every craft and home dec store in the area turned up nothing. One or two larger frame sizes were available, but mats for anything larger than 11x14 were simply not to be had.
I'd never tried cutting my own mats before, mainly because I'd always heard what a difficult process it was, the thousand things that could go wrong, and how the only people who would attempt such a feat were the sort of rugged mad-survivalist types who build underground bunkers in which to stockpile canned food and live "off the grid."
But, since I had no other option, I picked up the cheapest, most basic handheld mat cutter money could buy (a Logan 1100 Freestyle Basic, about $20 at AC Moore) and a few sheets of matboard. I made a few practice cuts on edges and scraps, found it ridiculously easy, and had the two mats I needed in about 10 minutes. No special equipment other than my living room floor, a sheet of foamcore to cut on top of, and a yardstick to serve as a straightedge (Although measuring and marking precisely, including the exact 2mm overcut for each edge, seemed to be essential).
The mats turned out fine - they compare favorably to the precut mats I've bought in the past, and after the initial investment of the mat cutter, future mats will end up being significantly cheaper. I'm forced to conclude that there's some sort of vast conspiracy out there discouraging artists from cutting their own mats. It's incredibly straightforward, can be done by anyone (my blog photos should be proof enough of how shaky my hands are) and combines two of my major interests: saving money through DIY and playing with sharp things.
So artists: disregard the naysayers, measure twice, cut your own mats.