Computeris(z)ed Mat Cutters (CMC's)


True Grumbler
Jul 22, 2000
Perth, Western Australia
Dear All:

I am curious re. people's experiences with CMC's. I realise this has the potential to
be a volatile issue, and would thus appreciate responses by E-mail should the sender consider it appropriate. Only two CMC's appear to be represented in Oz (the Gunnar's and Wizard's), which appear to be two of the leading manufacturers worldwide (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

As the price of new machines in Oz is much of a muchness, to me the key issues are maintenance & reliability (we are on the wrong coast relative to the reps), operating costs, & mat cutting capability - with the first being the main issue.

We also are looking to purchase a CMC. Any experience/opinions helpful. thanks.
We have two Wizards and they get a good workout. Their service is, at times, trying but manageable. The productivity of the product is directly proportional to the operator. After 4 yrs we haven't maxxed out the machine, but it has outdone us. The better you are, the better it is. We elected the wizard for 2 main reasons: a beveled cut rather than a routed edge and leasing. Our opinion: always lease major technology. If something comes out a lot better,it's adios Wizard and we aren't paying a ton of money for an obsolete paperweight. Buy major assests that will last; lease those that don't
I know a lot of you may not be able to attend the Atlanta show ,but if at all possible try to make it and attend the classes from Wizard,Fletcher,and Eclipse(not sure about this one)
at any rate there are three of the major CMC and you can attend classes on all three and compare.There is even an incentive pricing if you attend all three.

This seems to be a great way to decidebased on what you see and not on bias opinions.
Ok, call me old-fashioned (or a hopeless romantic) but when I look at those Computerized Mat Cutters, I feel like John Henry staring down the Inky-poo! I went head-to-head with one of those once, and ended up in a tie. It wasn't any faster or more accurate than me, but it did give me a shiver. I thought that framing would be the last bastion of the hand-craftsman, but it looks like the days of me and my Keeton are numbered. Oh well, Bury me with my Keeton!

Seth J. Bogdanove, CPF
21 years framing and still loving it

[This message has been edited by Bogframe (edited July 25, 2000).]
Take away my Fletcher-Terry F6100 Computer Mat Cutter and I would close my shop. It changed our shop so much and I wouldn't want to go back. Got tired of the same white beveled mats with straight cuts and wanted more variety. Now almost every order has reverse bevels mixed with regular bevels, maybe round corners in the bottom mat and standard corners on the next mat and maybe something else on the third mat. Not just because we can but in the need for detailed design that makes the framing look better. Imagine "Dance me to the end of Love" framed in three shades of blue gray suede mats and no bevel of white or any color to spoil the design, just subtle color on color. and the mat shape is square but the top 2 corners only are rounded to a 3" radius. Yes, this can be done by hand, but not easily or quickly. Competing by hand against my F6100 is no contest - I'll blow you away. But the F6100 isn't for production, it's a custom framer's tool and just happens to be fast at custom framing.

PS - I've tried 2 brands of CMC and this, in my opinion, is the best by far.

[This message has been edited by Scarfinger (edited August 01, 2000).]
We have only had our Wizard 3 weeks, & could kick myself for waiting so long. Slapped 2 oversized mats on today with no trouble. Before had to haul out o/s cutter, clean off table etc. Cannot speak to troubles so far but hear many good things about Wizard & Fletcher. Leasing is the way to go. Whatever you do get a CMC.

Ditto to Scarfinger's comments about CMC. A friend in the business told me the day I approached him about the CMC option,his response was..."Greg, its a no brainer, get it and enjoy." We got ours 2 years ago from Wizard and have NEVER regretted a day. I figure the CMC is equivalent to having 2 master mat cutters doing the work in a small fraction of the time and it doesn't require benefits. To date we have never maxed out the capacity of our cutter. Don't permanently retire your old manual 60" or 32" mat cutters. They still come in handy on occasion. We leased our Wizard for the same reasons given by Bob Carter. Fortunately the Wizard was available as a Lease option. Leasing made the jump to technology palatable. besides, always lease technology, hardware changes too fast to justify owning it.
Tried leasing long ago. Didn't like it - too ridgid! I have a lot of high tech equipment including a photo lab and digital photo lab and I bought outright or financed myself. By being financially organized ahead of time I have been able to save large sums at the purchase negotiation including discounts, free start up supplies, and prepaid shipping. It's more work than just signing the paper but I fight for all I can get. I had a rental CMC with it's corner charges but my numbers say I will be ahead over the years I will run this machine. Besides, The F-6100 makes me a happier framer and happier framers make more money.
I think the numbers will justify your decision on leasing or buying. If you use enough cuts to consistently exceed the $200 monthly fee, you've probably made the right decision to buy. If not, the amortization probably points toward leasing. We just like the option of opting to newer technology as it becomes available. But the one thing we all seem to agree upon: We sure wouldn't be without this critical and efficient piece of equipment
With high tech equipment flexibility and timing are what counts. Leases tie you to specific time periods and are costly to get out of. A friend and I got new photo equipment at the same time. He leased, I financed and bought. He's in for a period of years, I can sell, or trade any time. Our payments were about the same for the same time period. During the period neither of us found the need to change. At the end of the period he signed, they took away his old machine and brought him a new machine. His payments went up and continued. I saw no new technology I needed and waited. 14 months later we both found new profitable technology and I bought. I had saved 14 months times 2000.00 and got 17,500.00 of new tech thrown in with the new machine as the supplier promoted the new tecnology. My friend had to pay the 17,500.00 to upgrade his machine. I also traded in my old machine for 15,000.00 credit on the new machine. I was ahead 60,500.00 and my machine is 14 months younger. Hmmm, I think I'll buy a Computer Mat Cutter.

And I don't like corner charges. I often cut a CAD designed Japanese mat which has 40 Intertwined openings in the mat border. The mat totals about 500 "corners" I need to be able to cut as many of these as I want anytime with no further costs.
Scarfinger-You made the decision that you felt made the most sense for you. Good for you.While not promoting Wizard or any other brand, any decision any businessperson makes should include doing the math.The numbers will tell all you need to know. Without questioning your numbers, at a purchase price of $24k with a nominal interst charge (8%) for 60 months, it would take me 162 months to equal the same owning schedule as my $200/mon cost (and we view our payment as a cost of doing business).After 13 years, I suspect we will have a pile of rubble that will be sitting in someone else's warehouse, because I know we will have upgraded a couple of times. Our flexibility is 100% after 2 years. In our case, we feel it makes more sense for us to follow this plan. We rarely need to buy more corners, but it's only because we need them. Kind of like , buying more glass or anything else. We only buy more because we have sold more. I'm not criticizing anybody for buying this important piece of equipment, but technology is moving faster than my amortization. Remember Beta,Commodore 64, Dos programs, routed edge CMC's,8 Track and pretty soon Video tape?
Bottom line: do the numbers. One size doesn't fit all. It's no difference between leasing your space and buying your space. Do what's best for you, but do make the decision to get on board the Technology Express
Incredible amounts of money are wasted by upgrading such as the windows fiasco. Many of us still run DOS programs. They are very easy to use and their speed on a pentium is amazing. Our frame pricing/customer history program is written in an DOS database program and it flies. All data is entered by the numeric keys - no distracting mouse, the worst piece of human engineering ever.

Hey, if you want to lease, get a good machine. They can all be leased.
Reading again - No difference between leasing or buying your space? After 20 years the leasee walks away - the owner sells for half a million or leases to someone else for thousands a month for the rest of their life.
Your numbers miss future value. I have no doubt my Fletcher F-6100 will have significant value 5 years from now. It's a great mat cutter and in 5 years it still will be. There will be newer machines that do a few more things but there will be lots of framers that want a good computer mat cutter.
Ignoring the decision whether to lease or buy, what features are most or seldom used? What should a potential buyer be looking at when comparing the various units. I just got a mailer from Mat Maestro but so far none of the postings have mentioned that make of cmc. I guess I'm trying to find out how to compare apples to apples when looking at the different cutters. Keep the comments and information coming.
Dear All:
I am reading all these replies with great interest - thanks for the input. I am curious where you all stand with respect to the technical capabilities of the various CMC's and their corresponding software packages. The brochures provided by the manufacturers are very skethcy on this area. (I guess I'll have to see the machines in action, but am unlikely to be able to get to this year's show, in 4 weeks).
FYI The per corner lease option on the Wizard CMC is not available in Oz, so it's a moot point for me (though quite relevant to other readers, of course).
It's hard to answer so many questions, however I would like to add one more as a non-CMC guy. What would users most like to change or improve on various models?
I have a Wizard but have checked out the others and what I would love to see them offer is:

Simple CADD maybe even CLIP ART entry or SKETCH s.

Much smaller default sizes on letter mats .(I use them to accent the mat not make the opening.

The ability to cut mach smaller diameter cuts,maybe even .5 in.

I do a lot of hand carving on mats and need all these features to duplicate what i do by hand.
i haven't seen any do this yet although I did see a cutter that used a router cut, cut small holes in Atlanta .Stll I need easy dupliction ability for small intricate cts that can be stored and none that I know of do this.
Haveing just cruised through Fletcher and Wizard sites I am curious as to what make the F-6100 $10,000 better, Wizard has far better support and info on their site and offers downloads etc., very confusing.
Many framers are confused about CMC's. The first thing to understand is that these machines are mat "cutters" not mat "carvers". It's simply not possible to plunge a blade into a piece of mat board which is more than 1/16th inch thick and twist it in a small radius and get a smooth cut. Either the mat will rip or the blade will break. Perhaps in the future framers will demand thinner mat boards to allow tighter cuts. All CMC's have limitations in their cutting. As in all computer operated equipment there is a learning curve and a number of stages to arrive at as you progress with a CMC. The first stage is everyday mat cutting. The regular double rectangle mats we all cut every day can be learned quickly and the main gain is speed of production. Then these simple mats can be expanded with corner designs, reverse bevels, and other enhancements. The next stage is multi openings, something that few framers are good at. Once a concept is worked up these machines make the job of layout and cutting many opening, multi layer mats fairly easy, fast and repeatable. The next level has the steepest learning curve - CAD design. Expect to spend a couple of hundred hours getting proficient at CAD. Then after you are good at CAD and if you are creative is the problem of creating designs that will cut well. In this you win some and you lose some but each time you win you pick up tricks to be used in the future. You can scan and cut shapes but this requires a number of tricks. The final stage of learning is "hybrid" cutting where a mat design is a combination of techniques using a number of parts of the software and perhaps finishing with a bit of hand carving. The CMC is just a tool and you must have creativity on your side. I had a rental machine briefly and then bought a Fletcher. I am very happy with this machine. I knew where I was going before I bought it and the first framing job I did on it was a CAD designed triple suede mat 40 x 46 inches shaped to fit around an Allstar Hockey Jersey worn by Gretsky. I couldn't resist cutting a couple of stars in the corners as well. The Fletcher support is excellent - just a phone call and the techs are great. And a tech comes with the machine for the first few days getting you off to a good start. The Fletcher machine is worth more - it's a heavy duty, precision built machine and will keep up for a long time as CMC software keeps evolving.

[This message has been edited by Scarfinger (edited August 12, 2000).]

The question is mute for you, as the Fletcher 6100 is not available in Australia or New Zealand. Unfortunatly it is sold only in the United States and Canada at this time. It is a great machine, and as Scarfinger mentioned, the support is excellent.

Framers here (U.S.) can purchase, or lease (buy over time) the Fletcher F-6100, Wizard, Eclipse, Mat Maestro, Valiani, Gunnar, Zund, Esterly Spirit or Berlyne machines. Many users Rent the Wizard as well.

Down under, your options are not quite as broad: Wizard, Valiani, Gunnar. (I blieve).

No matter............It's definitely the direction the industry is headed......


The Frame Workshop of Appleton, Inc.
Appleton, Wisconsin
Despite the unavailability (BIG WORD!!!) of the F-6100 in NZ it does not halt my quest! I am now going to ask about CAD design, can these designs be made in any CAD program, or does it need to be specific to the machine?
The CAD program needs to be able to produce a DXF file which is the standard CAD file. Most CAD programs produce their own file format but this can usually be converted to a DXF file when saving your work. I have tried a number of CAD programs with success.
With regards to importing...
the GUNNAR software is the most adaptable and "user-friendly" available on the market for this function. It will allow you to import; Fonts, Outlined Cliparts, Freedrawn Shapes, and even Scanned Images... through the help of other common software like Corel Draw 9 or Micrografx Designer 7.1. These programs are very simple to use compared to having to spend "hours" learning CAD. Basically, it works like a "copy" and "paste" function between the two programs. This Importing function of the GUNNAR software recoginsies "Vector Based" graphics, for those of you that are more "technical". Because the GUNNAR software works off a "Windows 95/98/2000" platform, you are able to run these programs similataneously, unlike the Wizard.

Jared Davis
Hughes Mouldings Pty Ltd
After watching this thread for a while, I notice that there are some very high-quality, detailed answers. The question is really akin to, however, asking someone what is their favorite pickup.

The answer you're going to get is: the one which someone either owns or represents. The first, because someone is either very proud of their system, or possibly because no one wants to admit they've blown a huge wad of money on something with which they're not really that happy now. The second is obvious.

We even have a good lease/buy discussion, and I always pay attention to what an experienced and successful owner such as Scarfinger has to say.

One alternative which hasn't been mentioned yet (unless I missed it) is the one we're doing, which may be the best entry point depending on your own situation.

One of our main distributors bought a CMC and does for mats what is essentially chop service, in that we can order certain mats to be cut, etc., and send in logos and all that.

In thinking back to the excellent chop/length discussion, I'm kind of surprised that framers who do lots of chop haven't taken advantage of this particular service, because it seems a natural extension. We do some chop (but mostly are now what will forevermore be called short length buyers), but will probably, at this point anyway, do much more "mat chops" than moulding chops.

(sound of two cents chinking against the curb)
Re software - I found CAD quicker to learn than Corel Draw. Most software requires many hours of mouse and key to become skilled. I have found masses of clip art in DXF format but most has to be redrawn in a far simpler form to cut on a CMC. I also find that I am in the "Custom" frame business and usually need to create to suit the job. Buying a chop frame is simple - just phone in 2 numbers. Buying a "chop mat" is going to be much more difficult. You will have to complete the creative part first and then try to find a way to communicate this to the CMC operator. Thus you will probably still need to learn the software so you can send the computer file.
By the way, I recently completed a mat in three layers of black core Granite matboard which mimics the lines of a Gothic Cathedral's arches and columns. It's 14 inches wide and 56 inches high and surrounds a gold handled Wilkinson Sword standing upright like a cross. The frame is big, ornate, and deep black. I got the sword at an auction and framed it just for fun. A lot of folks want to buy it.
Why don't you post a picture of that, if you can get it to show off the detail, Scarfinger? I don't know about anybody else but I'd sure like to see it.

Your post reminds me; we are liking the use of blackcore mat nowadays. For a while, it seemed that finding cp blackcore was difficult but the manufacturers have stepped up to the plate on that one.
And you're right about the difficulty of communicating to the CMC operator. The trick is to work with only one, so that you begin to speak mostly the same language. Of course, if they're not available, you're SOL for the moment, so our solution is definitely not an end-all be-all.

What the heck are you doing up so late, anyway?
With regards to "learning software"..... Scarface has a valid point. The question of whether Corel Draw 9 (& GUNNAR) or CAD (& WIZARD) is easier to learn, is an individual one. I guess the difference is in the "users" preference. Being able to use clip art as a resource is great, especially if you can convert them to "cuttable" file in a simple way. Wizard have got a great library of "cuttable" files that framers have converted.

However I feel that there are also some benefits in being able to convert a "scanned" image, because it means that you can do "customised" openings(because we are in the "custom" frame business!). For example.... imagine being able to cut openings around a company logo (ie: the Nike "Swoosh") , or even a local sports club symbol. Sporting Memorabilia seems really popular in Australia at the moment.

I demonstrate converting a "scan" with the GUNNAR RAPIDO using a scanner and COREL DRAW 9. COREL TRACE allows you to convert any "bitmap" into a "vector" fairly simply. My favourite demonstration is scanning and cutting the "Superman Logo" from a comic!

However the is a real limitation to this..... TIME! You would have to be sure that the opening you convert from a "scan" to a "cut" is worthwhile in your time. An advanced user would take up to 30-40 mins to convert a "scan" depending on the complexity, which may.... or may not be.... worthwhile. Especially if "Mrs Smith" wants you to cut a "teddybear" shape in the mat to exactly match the "teddy bear" needlework she has. Maybe if she had 10 of them to do, or if cost was not a concern, it would be justifiable?

With regards to a "Supplier Mat Chop Service"..... I guess that in Australia here, we would not consider that as a supplier. It would mean that we would not be supporting the customers who purchased equipment from us... but actually competing with them? I don't think any of our customers would continue to support us if we were perceived to be in competition? Does this happen in the United States a lot?

In summary, Computerised Matcutters in general, add a whole new dimension to a Custom Framer's business. Regardless of the "brand" of machine you have.. any good CMC gives you a competitive edge to distance your business from the average Picture Framer. It also broadens the gap between a professional framer, and a hobbiest framer.
The most common feedback I get from our customers that own them is that the time savings are remarkable!... even for just cutting single and double mats with rectangular openings.


Jared Davis

PS... whats the going price on that "framed sword!" Would love to see a picture of it
The software of the Fletcher F-6100 CMC gives amazing abilities to cut custom shapes. Framers using these machines have barely scratched the surface of what mats can be cut. I am really looking forward to the next few years as the creative side of mat cutting gets going on CMC's. I am referring to mats for specific custom framing projects not such things as cutting animal heads that have nothing to do with actually framing something. In the F-6100 multi opening program is the ability to cut overlapping shapes and this alone allows us to easily cut mat shapes for projects such as needlework framing. A simple one yesterday was a horizontal oval cut overlapping the bottom of a circle to allow the heron's feathers to flow. The design took the framer about 2 minutes and cutting it in a triple mat took another minute or 2. And the design is saved so that when the customer comes back next month having done the needlework again for her friend we'll be heroes again in another 2 minutes. I have no trouble scanning an item to be framed (any size) and creating a mat to fit around the object. But I did put in those hundreds of hours learning CAD so that I could have this skill. The CMC is a tool. The framer must learn the skills of using the tool just like an apprentice in the old days. And the framer must have creativity. Too many TV shows and movies have given people the fantasy that all you have to do is click a few keys and magic will happen - not so!
It happens more than people care to admit, and frankly, computerized mat cutters are one of the reasons the market is being flooded with pre-cut mats in the aisles of Wal-Mart and the like.

I'm not being a Luddite about CMC's or anything, but I am told that there is a company in St. Louis (and I forget if they're a mat company or a framing distributor) who has several CMC's working around the clock cutting mats. You can see the product in any bigbox retail store in the country for $1.00.

That's certainly a legitimate use, but it doesn't make life any less challenging. I think that a valid point is the marriage of CMC and creativity with skilled framers. There will be the outstanding work.
Po'Framer, you made an interesting observation. But the niche market those people cater to isn't my framing market. The factories offer computer generated ready made mats made with inferior materials in frames that look like sh-t. In my opinion, I can't and don't want to cater to that market. But I will use technology to offer my customers a superior product. CMC's offer that to our customers.
Now we have to be aware there are many industries that said the same thing. The shoe business, garmet industry, automobles, etc. And as technology improves so will the mass-market ready made frame industry. Our saving grace will be the ability to offer a unique one-of-a-kind framed object. As long as people buy unframed art, collect things needing to be properly displayed, and have walls in their homes we have a niche to fill.
As long as we continue to use superior materials, maintain the highest standards for quality, offer the highest standards of customer service, remember people's name and say "thank you we appreciate your business" we will have a niche to fill. Incidently, the same principles used by Nordstroms, Ferrrari, and the old Nieman Marcus company.
If Custom Framers are to keep their place in the market they need more than quality of materials, high work standards, and good customer service. They also need creativity and ingenuity. Framers must continue to grow. They must invent new ways to frame and new things to frame. They must stay ahead of the mass merchants in this way. Creative use of CMC's is one direction to take and I think there are others. For example, I think the time will come soon when we will need to add multi sided - multi angled shaped frames to our every day framing service.
Okay, the boundaries are seemingly endless with this technology, however I note that the vast majority of CMC users are also hanging on to their old bench cutters, why?
Also would like to ask about how close various models can get to the edges (all), and if this can be an annoying limit.
We had 3 mat cutting tables, 2 - 40 inch and 1 - 60 inch. We also had 2 oval cutters, a big old Carithers and a new Fletcher. These are now gone. One 40 inch cutter is used mostly as a paper cutter. The big oval is gone and the small oval is in a storage room and used to cut glass. All mats are cut on the Fletcher F-6100.
It cuts to 1/2 inch from the edges and I think that's as close as I will ever need. This is one advantage of this machine.