Chopper vs buying chop


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Mar 18, 2004
Kennett Square, PA
We're in a quandry. :confused: - whether to buy a used Morso Chopper and order length; or continue buying chop. Your comments will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Marjorie, If you do a search (at the top) chop vs length you will get several threads on this subject as far back as 2000.
I believe the best option is to buy some length and some chop. Until 2000, when I moved to a smaller location, my mix was 60% length and 40% chop. Now that I have less room, and an advisor that wanted me to have less inventory in stock, I have reversed those numbers. I keep a very close eye on COG and last year, because of an increase in business, I tripled what I paid for chops, but my COG went up less than 1%. I'm not convinced that you save money by buying length, by the time you allow for shorts and keeping money tied up in inventory... except for those profiles you turn over very quickly. It's truly a balancing game.
If the used Morso chopper is reasonably priced it is a good idea even if you continue to buy primarily chop. The Morso will allow you to trim mis-ordered or mis-measured chops, cut filets and cut strainers and support frames for complicated projects.

Peter Bowe
Saline Picture Frame Co.
I recently had to deal with this. When I opened last year everything was chops. I bought a chopper and now purchase length of mouldings that don't have alot of compo or will crack when chopped. If a frame is small like a 8x10 get a chop or face alot of extra leftover.
I have saved money doing this and you don't have to buy in quantity.
If a job is 6 feet and the suplier sends you 10 you are still way ahead.
This has added nicely to my bottom line. Any extra that I get I make an occasional 8x10 or 11x14 out of and make some found money on top of everything else.

If it is a high end moulding and it has to come in ups then I usually get it chopped.

It worked well for me!
Our median chop price for the wood frames for which we have corner samples is $4.19; a corresponding length price for the same moulding is $2.41 for a difference of $1.78.

Assuming a standard 16” x 20” frame eats up 7 feet of moulding, you will be saving $12.46 per frame if you cut it yourself. If you get “free” delivery for length, there will be greater savings than this since you generally pay through the nose to have chops sent UPS.

Divide $12.46 into whatever you are planning to pay for the used chopper. That will be your “break even” point.

Even if you bought a brand new chopper, you would probably be making money after 125 frames or so (I’m guessing what a new Morsø costs, though – $1600???).
Doesn't most companies have a minimum foot charge for chops. I was thinking for instance that LJ had a minimum charge of 6' for a chop even if you order a 3"X3" frame. I'm not sure if it was LJ or someother company that taught me a very expensive lesson one time!

I think most companies have a minimum chop charge of 4 feet.

Larson-Juhl will not (cannot?) cut a rail less than 6 inches.
Most of this discussion seems alien to me; I can’t believe a statement like “I’m not convinced it’s less expensive to buy length as opposed to chop when considerations of inventory capital, waste and whatever are taken into account". That sounds like distributor brainwashing to me. Of course it’s less expensive; it’s also way more efficient. We’re ordering Décor today and I’m looking down the price sheet: 9862 is $2.43 chop, I’m paying $.62. That 9862 is arriving along with 2,000 ft of other molding with a freight charge of $247 making a freight charge of something like $.12/foot for a total cost of $.74. We’ll sell it for $4.50/ft., a heck of a deal for our customer and a heck of a deal for us at a markup of a bit over 6. What would the chop price be? $8.00, 10.00? Surely everyone can see there is a problem here with the prevalent paradigm. There’s a huge advantage in buying length!

90% of our sales come from our length molding, 10% from chop and we tell our customers they’re not getting as good a deal choosing a chop frame as they would with in stock molding. Some people don’t care, but most do.

When we were planing our business it never occured to us to base it on chop service from a distributor. We started with about 50ft. each of around 100 patterns, 1000 sheets of mat board. Everything we sold we made from our inventory. We kept adding patterns and increasing footage, always getting the best or second best deal from the supplier. The notion of being in the framing business without a chopper or saw was, well, alien. We don't have a policy of a 6" minimun rail; we can do between 3 and 3.5 depending on the width of the molding.

I think there is a lot of really bad business advice out there. Fortunately, no "advisor" told us to limit our inventory. We didn't get "educated" to the virture of depending on chop services at trade shows. We sell chops, we can't avoid it, but they're a small, unencouraged part of our business. Also, probably 90% of the problems we face with frame making comes from chops, delays to our customers resulting from out of stocks, wrong size legs, damage in shipment, poor chopping. Our frame maker hates to see chops arriving (we do about 10 chops a week).

There's no question chops are a good deal for distributors (how else could they afford to deliver them for "free"?)and I can see no reason why they'd help a customer shift from chops to lengths, and if you buy length on the chop model, order just enough molding for each job, I guess it is a toss up between chop and length but that's not the proper model.

There is a risk in buying large quantities of molding, but if you're good at this business you should know what will and will not sell in your market. In a market economy, specialized knowledge (in our case, knowing what patterns to stock)is the most powerful factor in success. Specialized knowledge (and good taste, another form of specialized knowledge)allows us to take an educated risk and buy length. If we're wrong, we fail (and probably should); if we're right, we gain an advantage.

I think a lot of shops like mine began as FIY shops where inventory was necessary. These shops prospered because they offered low prices and instant gratification as well as a sense of accomplishment on the customers' part in return for a smaller selection of molding to choose from. FIY is a RPITA so they moved away from it but kept and developed the knowledge needed to buy in length.
Warren has the correct answer to your question, Marjorie.

You will never regret buying a chopper. Never.

Use chops for mouldings that are difficult to chop, too wide to chop, or too expensive and not sold often enough to stock.
Well, I'm definitely convinced. Thanks, everyone for your opinions. Now all I have to do is find a used Morso that I can afford.

Keep in mind that you don't have to buy large quantities of length. If you do you will save some money because you will get it at a cheaper price but then you have to store it.
I just order up a stick oo two as needed. No worries about warping over time or space taken up with storage.

I think I got my chopper at for about 1500.00 with a spare set of blades. It is the same one many other companies sell, it's just the generic brand. (It works great)

Good luck.
I make a chop/length decision each time I order. I use Decor (2 stick minimum of a moulding) and LJ (1 stick minimum of a moulding). I have a chopper and dual phaedra chopsaws. If a moulding is one that I can reuse for something spec or if there will not be much left over, I order length. If it's something that I can't see using for something, I order chop. If it's the only thing I need from the vendor and my inventory of 70+ moulding I keep in stock doesn't need any replenishing, I order chop. A rough estimate is 90% length, 10% chop.