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Matting and framing is relatively simple, and doing it yourself costs less and is more rewarding than using a framing service. In this course, photographer and professional framer Konrad Eek describes the tools, techniques, and creative decisions involved in matting, framing, and hanging photographs.
The course begins with an overview of framing concepts, terms, and tools and then shows how to choose and work with the various components of a framed print: matboard, frame, glazing, wire hangers, and more. The course also examines the issues and creative options behind hanging an exhibit, whether in a gallery or in a home.
Earlier we demonstrated techniques for cutting down board with an X-Acto knife and a straight edge to get it to the size you needed to make your mat, and then using a hand held cutter to create the window in that mat. That's a really affordable and accessible way to get started in mat cutting. However, sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where you need to do a much higher volume of mat cutting. In that case, I think you'd find the hand held work a little bit painstaking and a little bit too time consuming. When I came out here to Quartz Mountain to work on this photo workshop of the students, one of my responsibilities here is to prepare the final exhibition for hanging. And with that in mind I knew that we were going to be dealing with close to 80 works of art that all needed to be matted.
So initially 80 mats does seem like a high number. But when you start to think about the logistics of actually producing 80 mats, first the board has to all be cut down to size and 80 mats translates into at least 160 boards. One of the things that our lead instructor, Susan Grant, brought with her as part of her toolkit was a series of techniques that allowed the students to print on a vast variety of substrates. We have prints being made on metal, prints being made on wood, prints being made on fabric, plexiglas, and as lovely as they were, they were presented a great series of challenges for me as far as the matting went.
Mounting a work on paper is really quite simple, and you just need an over mat and a backing board but as soon as we started to deal with the thicker materials, I had to start to cut spacer boards, I had to start to cut insets, and recessed boards in order to hold the work in place and make it ready for mounting on the wall and display. So by the time it was all said and done, I have made well over a thousand cuts using this cutter. And finally, in order to prepare for the exhibition we do all the mounting and preparation and the hanging of the show in just two days.
So you can imagine without the tool of a production cutter how difficult, if not impossible, it would have been to make this all happen. This particular cutter is made by Logan, and it's capable of handling oversized matboards. This will have a cut length of at least 60 inches. Standard matboards, as we have discussed earlier, are 32x40 inches and Logan, Fletcher, several other companies make cutters in both sizes. The smaller ones to accommodate up to 40 inches, the larger one 60.
Prices vary anywhere from a few hundred dollars to the smaller ones to a thousand and more for the larger production cutters. Several advantages to the production cutter, number one, it comes with graded stops that allow you to cut the boards down to size, to cut your windows without actually having to make any marks on the board or window. As an example we're going to start out by cutting this full sheet of matboard here down to 11x14 pieces. I'll make it happen first by setting the production stop here, at 11 inches, I'll open up the cutter and take the 32x40 board and place the 40-inch side along my baseboard here, close the cutter, slide forward, and notice there are two blades here, one on each side.
This is for perpendicular cuts basically cutting the board down to size, this is the one we'll use later that's beveled to cut the window. I clicked this forward, and this little rod comes out locking it in place that puts the blade down and then I just draw it towards myself, and sometimes I get a little catch at the end but did you see how quickly and cleanly that cut that down to 11 inches. Once again I'm going to slide it over to the stop right here, that sets my distance correctly. Lock the blade down, and just pull towards myself.
I'm going to reset this to 14 inches. I'm going to take the 11-inch wide piece I just cut, turn it 90 degrees, and then cut it to 14. Slide it over to the stop, and I always take a minute to just make sure everything is square, against the different stops that makes for accurate cuts, and you can see I'm getting some scrap left over there, and I'm just setting off to the side, we'll use some of that later.
You can see as I go along how quickly and smoothly this works compared to what we did with the hand-held cutter. If you remember, when I was cutting the boards to size it took three to four passes with the X-Acto knife to get through the board. Where this does it very cleanly in a single pass. And so here I am, I have taken that one full size board and cut it into six 11x14 boards in about the same amount of time--or maybe a little more--than it took to make one cut with the hand held cutter.
And if you look at the edges here you'll see they're all very clean and square, and if you look at the size of the boards they're all wonderfully uniform. You see nice square edges everywhere on the board. So next what we want to do is use this other set of production stops here, here, and with this adjustable arm here to cut the window and the mat. This arm you need to take off when you're cutting the board down to size then you'll replace it when it's time to cut the window, and we'll take a piece of the scrap that we saved to use as a backing board to make sure that the cuts in the window are very clean.
We don't use a backing board when we're cutting the board to size because we want the blade to completely penetrate through. It actually comes through about an eighth of an inch, and you get a nice clean cut without backing. Okay, we're going to take a look at our work of art up here. This is another one of the student pieces from here at the Oklahoma Arts Institute. We're going to measure it to determine the size of the window we want. We're going to make a window that's 10& 1/4x6 & 7/8, and so looking at the math on that 10 & 1/4 out of the 14-inch dimension leaves 3 & 3/4 inches divide by 2, and that's 1 & 7/8 inches for the legs on each side.
6 & 7/8 out of 11 gives us a 4 & 1/8-inch remainder. Once again, we're going to make three legs the same, so we're going to make the top one in 7/8 inches and the bottom 2 & 1/4 inches just giving us a nice bottom weighted mat. So I'm going to take a matboard, I'm going to put it face down. I'm going to cut the odd-sized leg first, so I'm going to set this stop at 2 & 1/4 inches and tighten these screws to keep it from moving while I make the cut.
And you want to be sure not to over tighten these, if you do that you'll slowly wear out your cutter by putting more pressure on the adjustable parts than they need. And then I'm going to set this starting point at 1 & 7/8 inches and the stopping point at 1 & 7/8 inches as well. We mark our start with this little device here, then I'm going to turn the blade in and pull it towards myself in a smooth motion. And now we have made our 2 & 1/4-inch cut for the bottom of the mat, I'll then reset this to 1 & 7/8 inches, rotate the board 90 degrees.
Cut, lift, turn, cut, lift, turn, and stop for a second remembering that this bottom leg is thicker so I need to readjust my stop to make the cut stop at 2 & 1/4 inches that way I won't have an over cut. And there the center falls out, and we can line it up with the work and see that we have got a very accurately cut window, very clean cuts in a fraction of the time it took with the hand-held cutter.
What I'd like to do now is go on with this, and we'll go back to the mat we did with the hand-held cutter and start to show you some different techniques for assembling mats and mounting the photographs.
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