CMC- a wise idea for small shops?

LA Gal

Feb 23, 2004
Canada, Lethbridge
I am new to "The Grumble", so bear with me if this is a much asked question.I have recently scaled down my shop in an attempt to improve my bottom line. I am trying to make changes that will save time, and still make money. Does anyone out there run a small shop (1 full timer-me, and 2 part timers) with a CMC? I am having a hard time deciding if it will be a good investment for me.I have spoken to one nearby framer who feels it replaced an employee; costing less when you factor in payroll deductions, benefits etc. (probably more reliable too....)
Hi! Welcome to the G. You'll probably find the majority of Grumblers will say YES to a CMC.

As a recent "convert" I can tell you that absolutely getting a CMC will be a smart business decision. You'll find that you can work faster and more efficiently even if you don't sell your customers on what a CMC can do for them. You'll complete jobs faster, you'll sell more creative matting treatments AND you'll free up some time to work with those customers who need the extra time.

Let me make a shameless plug for the Wizard Jr Rental program. You have no long term commitment, no huge capital outlay, and the opportunity to get rid of the machine if it doesn't work out for you. That's how we got ours. If it continues to be an advantage we can always upgrade to a lease or purchase. It's a great program for small shops if you're not sure about investing in a CMC.


[ 02-25-2004, 08:51 AM: Message edited by: AWG ]
Right now I'm down to one employee and automation. The CMC was a great addition. I have a fletcher--strong, silent type. I think Ron converses with his Mat Maestro.
I just went upstairs to re-fuel (coffee) and was surprised to see so many responses. Wow! you guys are fast! Thanks Tony; I will look into the Wizard rental program, there is one Wizard cutter in town and I have seen it work. It works with Full Calc, which I have, so that is a benefit as well. I had a demo of the Eclipse at a shop in Calgary a couple of weeks ago. It seems very easy to use...does anyone have an Eclipse?
Welcome to The Grumble LA Girl.

Who's Ron?

He's the most vocal of Grumblers and moderator.
Stick around, you can't miss him!
Ron is a very helpfull guy. He also knows just about everthing he can think of!

Welcome. Im new too. I can tell you that you will not get a clear answer on anything here but you will get lots of perspective.

I sign my lease on my very first frame shop Friday. My Wizard will be arriving in the middle of March. Good luck!
Looks like I just got done with my shower in time.

Hello, L A Gal. I have a bi-polar CMC made by a now bankrupt company. I regret that I did not buy a Fletcher, an Eclipse or a Wizard, but I have never regretted buying a CMC.

Even the Mat Maestro aka iMat makes it possible to do normal jobs with much greater speed and without sacrificing quality.

It also makes it possible to cut mats that I always dreaded before. You know the ones I'm talking about: double mat, 150 windows - all different sizes.

And finally, I can do mats I wouldn't even consider before, like the notorious bunny-rabbit window. Honestly, this last category doesn't come up very often, but happiness means never having to say "No."
Ron & Jay, What were your deciding factors in purchasing? I see the only "con" as the price, I guess I just need to hear some "pros" to help me get over the sticker shock!
If you purchase one you should be prepared to purchase the extended warranty.
Parts don't go bad very often but when they do they cost a lot more than the warranty.

If you are on a rental program the parts are included in the monthly fee.
We have an Eclipse CMC and we are now a one man frame shop that does around 25-35 pieces a week. We were doing more than that when we purchased it, but it was still the best investment that we could've made. I guess the way you have to think about it is how long do you plan on having a frame shop? You divide the cost of a cmc into the years that you are going to have a business and the years that you won't need to hire a person to cut mats the price doesn't seem so bad. We had sticker shock too, but now we realize the great investment that we made. Jay
That’s a tougher question. I decided to get one because:

1. I was advised on here (very important)
2. Gut feeling
3. I feel that mat cutting is a true "art" or "skill". To master that skill requires practice, interest, time, and talent. All things Im short of. If I am to be competitive in this market I have to strive for perfection. Simply put, "frame as well as the next guy or close the doors". The problem is that the next guy has one too.
4. I feel there is more risk in going without one than paying the $300 a month for near perfect mats every time.
5. I think I want the decoration on my wall. Look, I realize most people will want a plain square mat opening. However they will be "awed" by the ornate mats on the wall. I think it screams "professional". I read and believe that many sells take place in the first 10 seconds when somebody comes in contact with your business. A few 60 opening mats and bunnies hanging on your wall can't hurt that first 10 seconds.
6. (Finally) I have read many posts on here that had this very phrase in it "if I didn't have my CMC I simply wouldn't have quoted this job". I simply can't say "NO I can't do that" and expect them to come back later when they have something I CAN do.
Welcome to TG!

I have been in business about 18 months. I went 12 months without a CMC then acquired the Wizard on the Jr. Rental program. I looked at the three that Ron mentioned. (Fletcher no longer available new.) I don't think you can go wrong with any of them. I went Wizard Jr. Rental for cost/cash flow reasons.

The reasons Ron mentioned were big on my list. But, quite the surprise to me, it also enabled me to complete more jobs faster. I still contend that I can cut a double mat on my Fletcher 2100 faster than I can lay it out on the Computer and cut it with the wizard then put it together. HOWEVER, I find I am sizing the mounting board and/or glass while it's cutting. This enabled me to get through a very busy holiday season without adding help. (May have paid for half the year right there! :D )

You CAN find someone to cut those difficult mats for you. Do a search in the archives and you'll find plenty of volunteers. But, if your margin can handle it, you may find it is cheaper than hiring someone for those peak times!

It's a no brainer, Got the cash buy one anyone. Cash a problem, the rental program from wizard is perfect. I'm on the Jr Program. My monthly cost is about what I would pay someone for 20 hours of work. Now does it save me 5 hours per week, YES! Does it give me an edge over compitition without one, YES! Does it give you a production edge on large jobs, you bet-ya! I'm a one man shop I have one. You might find you can have one less part timer. The new 8000 unit fantastic.

my 2 pennies worth

[ 02-25-2004, 11:01 AM: Message edited by: framer tg: ]
We're in the same boat as Cliff, with a 23 1/2 month old business. We're a 1 1/2 person shop (I am the half), and are still very small.

We didnt get our Wizard until December 4th 2003, and wish we ordered it sooner. We haven't needed the manual matcutter (which cost over 4k 2 years ago) since, and plan to sell it shortly to recover some of the investment. We opted for the purchase instead of rental, because the monthly payments were about the same - and we were afraid of going over the allotment. Renting at first makes sense, because the company is generous about allowing an upgrade to the lease or purchase. It's also an easy way to get out if the CMC doesn't work out. (month to month)

It has opened our eyes to a different way of thinking at the front counter, and anything is now possible. I think every shop will eventually have a CMC, to be competitive.
I bought mine with the expectation that I would do lots of specialty mats that I couldn't do before. You know - funny shapes, fancy corners, logos and letters. I also figured I would make precut mats from all my mat scraps.

In reality, I'm doing very little of either, but that's okay.

Veteran Grumblers bear with me, since I've told this story many times.

While I was waiting for delivery of my CMC, I had an order to frame every page from a local business publication. It was a very large double mat and each window had to notch around ads and other superfluous stuff. If you've ever framed newspaper or magazine articles, you know that a 1/16" mistake somewhere can make you start all over from scratch.

I stalled as long as I could and ended up cutting the mat by hand. It took me an entire day - a long one - to lay out the mat and draw the lines on the back of the boards. It took me half of the next day to actually cut it. Luckily, it was right the first time.

After the CMC arrived, I took a spare copy of the magazine and, starting from scratch, cut the same mat again. The computer layout and actual cutting took less than an hour. It, too, was perfect, but if it had been off a little, I would have wasted the board and a few minutes to correct the computer layout - nothing more.

That kind of mat, as it turns out, is not at all unusual in my shop.
I'm a one man shop with limited experience of Specialty cuts and the such. (always took me to long and the fudge factor was to high!)

So...I opted for the Wizard jr. rental program and have been totally satisfied with the results.

The time it saves me is worth every penny.

I have a two person shop, myself and one employee. I started cutting mats professionally over forty years ago, using nothing but a straight edge, sharpening stone, and a utility knife.

Getting large orders out meant working long hours into the night in those days. We used to daydream about a machine that could cut the mats automatically, this was long before PCs or Star trek. I never thought I would live to actually see it become a reality.

There was no way I could justify on paper the cost of a CMC, we just plain did not have the volume. It did not matter, I had to have one of those things before I died or retired, so I leased a Wizard.

I had that machine for about four or five years, then I purchased a Fletcher 6100, got tired of making payments and never owning anything.

I can not even fathom the idea of running a frame shop without a CMC, no matter what the volume. These things pay for themselves right off the bat, they do it better, faster, cleaner, less waste, and will cut just about any mat your customers will want. The heck of it is, a CMC will actually help you to increase your volume, you'll find that out after you have one.

Running a shop without a CMC is just plain foolish, it's like using candles instead of electric lights to illuminate your design table.

Welcome to the Grumble.

Eclipse cmc owner, checking in! I have a smallish shop, (As of today, 1 full time, and 1 part timer and I guess one opening :rolleyes: ).

The Eclipse replaced an employee and the cost has been offset by that position-salary PLUS I've sold more multi opening double mats, fancy corners, v-grooves, etc to generate most of the monthly payment anyway.

Imagine adding on those extras during the Christmas rush when before you were praying no one would ask for a complex multi-opening?

The math is so simple--it pays for itself and then some. Good equipment always does, but in this scenerio especially. SELL more of what you can do with it and you'll pay for it and have profit left over.

The Eclipse is super easy to learn and maintainance is almost none. Quiet. Reliable. Excellent support.
I think it will very difficult to be a competitive framehop without a CMC. As more shops put them in they are quickly becoming the norm against which you will be measured.

Unless you have a very specialized niche many mats are becoming a commodity product. It is hard for you to differentiate your 16x20 two opening B8660 mat from mine. If I can produce mine more consistently and at a lower cost I'm probably going do better if we are competing on that item.

The question becomes can you set up a business model where you can generate enough cash flow to pay for the machine.

I have an Eclipse in a medium sized (five employee) shop. It is a workhorse that has been virtually trouble free for the last three years. It has been a money maker since the first week it was installed

Peter Bowe
Saline Picture Frame Co.
Well, I just arrived home after a long day of slaving over a manual mat cutter (haha) and I am so amazed at this Forum! Thanks to all of you who have bothered to spend the time to share your experiences with me. I have read all of your opinions, and the one thing I am doing first thing tomorrow, is to call Wizard and check into the rental program...I didn't even know that was an option. I have been in business 10 years, and I think I have been in somewhat of a rut for the past couple of years with my staff doing most of the framing. I have been spending many hours in the shop and am seeing how my time could be spent more efficiently, and I know a CMC is in my future. Again, Thanks to you all for your words of wisdom....they are greatly appreciated!
I have myself and two part-timers to do it all. The biggest deciding factor for me was being able to do multi-opening mats quicker and more accurately. I hated doing them. So, I take in a multiple opening mat, lay it out in five minutes or less, save it for later, and order the materials. I used to wait until the last minute to do them. I find I actually like doing them now.

One cool feature of the new Wiz is the "merge" option. I love playing with the different shapes, combining them, and seeing what I get. Brian Wolf had a class in Atlanta on the Wiz, and that is where I learned to use it. In fact, my open competition piece has one of these mats on it.

If you like v-grooves, the machine has a feature where the groove matches the shape of the opening.

I think the machine opens up a new level of creativity without putting much time into the execution of the mat. I had little success doing hand-cut mats. The Wizard's aren't as intricate and masterful as Brian Wolf's, and probably never will be, but they'll do for most of us.
Multiple openings are what the CMC is best for. Here's what I did this afternoon:

One triple opening with 3 different sizes;

One 5 opening - all ovals;

One 6 opening - 4 ovals (in 2 different sizes)and 2 rectangles (each a different size)

3 single opening mats

All double mats - took about an hour total. Get in line for your Wiz now - ours was ordered in early September and took until mid January to arrive :eek: :D

Well...I am receiving the literature on the Wizard today. I visited the website yesterday morning, and the rep couriered the information immediately and contacted me to touch base. As he said; the rental program is a wonderful way to "get you feet wet" Less scary than leasing or buying, and less $

ps.he did mention that with the big framing show in the US (this week?) that delivery could take a little longer. They expect to sign lots of contracts there!
When we ordered ours last November, the delay was 3 months for rentals and 1 month for purchases/leases. It arrived 3 weeks later.

They cranked up their production to get more units manufactured in a shorter time, because demand is very high.

With the 2 recent shows and the NY show starting today, I bet they'll be taking a LOT of new orders. (we will be at the show Sat and Sun, and will makea point to stop by their booth to see a preview of the new 5.1 beta software)

Once you put down a deposit, they put your name on a "list", and the units are shipped by going down the list in order.

[ 02-27-2004, 09:25 AM: Message edited by: Mike-L@GTP ]
I am a small shop and do not regret getting our Wizard four years ago. I don't do too many of the fancy corners like I anticipated, but it has brought us up a few notches in our design capabilities. One thing to consider--if you have a big supplier that is convenient to you, they are probably getting a CMC in the near future and will cut your complicated mats for you. There was a recent thread on this a few weeks ago. So...if a CMC isn't in the cards for you right now, you could probably have your supplier or a friendly neighboring shop cut those mats for you at a cost. It is quite convenient to have that CMC in your shop ready to do the job at any time, but it seems as if more options are out there in the very near future.