Cutting Mats for oversize homemade frame


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jun 13, 2002
Fingerlakes Region of NYS
I am not sure where I should go with this.

Prospective customer called the other day: "Can you cut a double mat this afternoon?".

Well, yes I can cut one, but I don't know if I will have the material color you may choose, to cut.

She comes in. Has a large piece. Wants a double mat. We select a double mat. I do have to order materials.

She has a friend making a frame for her. So she asks for the correct dimensions to give her friend for the moulding. I provide the measure + an 1/8" allowance.

She said she is taking care of the glass, fitting, etc. Fine.

The friend making the frame calls for clarification on the measurements for the size and, oh, I also provided the approximate depth of the package that will go into the moulding, and she was questioning that. "It seems like a large amount". Yes. It includes foamcore 3/16", 2 mat boards, approx 1/8" and glass, approx. 1/8".

"Well, how do you put put/keep it in the frame? That's almost as deep as the wood I am working with".

I suggest she stop by and see an actual moulding sample so that I can explain (educate) and she is too busy and has to go to class, yadayadayada.

So, my question - do I call the customer and suggest I postpone the mat cutting part until the frame is made? Or just do it and let her worry about it?

Oh, did I mention this is somewhat oversize? 32 3/4 x 32 3/4. But she said she is handling the "glass".... trouble ahead for them.

What route do I take?

Reluctant Roz
You could go many ways on this.

Don't get involved would be one.

Personally I would call your customer and reinforce the fact that if the person who is assembling the package has problems that is one of the services that a custom shop does every day. Perhaps the potential customer has concerns over the ability of the friend to do the work? Offer to fix any mistakes at your shop rate, if after the friend gives up or whatever, if the damage is repairable If you are not busy 15 minutes would be okay for a quick overview for the friend...Over that I would be quoting an hourly rate. How much time do you want to spend selling a double mat?

Unless there is something else in it for you?
They provide the measurements, and you get paid in advance. That way you're covered.
Once you start giving advice on how to measure, etc. you take on certain liability and it can grow teeth and turn around and bite you.
The folks are learning a lesson at your expense when it should be at their expense.
I did one of these a couple of years ago. After giving the framemaker the size I convinced the customer to wait on cutting the mat until the frame was actually made to make sure we have the "final dimensions" before cutting. that way they wouldn't have to pay me to cut it twice.

I also gave them a quote for final assembly which included fitting and backing, dustcover, hardware etc. In the end they just brought me the frame and had me handle the rest. It was a very nice walnut frame with a hand rubbed finish done by the customer's father (longtime cabinet maker) as a gift for his son and daughter in law. After it was all done, the father came to me and said that he would never make a picture frame again. Too much work getting the rabbet and corners done right.

So I would suggest that you give them a shopping list of sorts for each step and let them decide how much help you will provide. I'm guessing that other than frame and perhaps glass you will end up doing most of it way.

At the very least you should recommend that they bring the frame in for final measurements before you cut the mat. That will be a time/money saver.
Walt, that sounds like a good homemade frame.

I have a customer who makes her own frames from 1by pine or oak. Never square, rabbet is huge and uneven, say 3/8" on one leg, 1/2" on another, typically the top and bottom of the rabbet varies and the height of the rabbet will vary with the pressure they provide when they run it through their table saw. Sometimes the wood grains made the frames look out of whack, sometimes the frames are out of whack.

After charging her 3 times to fix the first one (her measurements) I now have her bring them in after the frame is together, and I cut the mats, and put the whole thing together. Its annoying as you have to take into account the amount of rabbet as well how crooked the rabbet is!

SO if you do the job, have them bring the frames in or they will complain that you can't cut a mat properly when it doesn't fit there (in)accurate measurements! 9 times out of 10 these home frames aren't up to the frames you make in your shop on a bad day! Readymades are usually better, and easier to deal with.
I would do exactly what she asks and cut the mat or mount or whatever, give her your dimensions and let her "friend" worry about the rest.
When it turns out like crap on her end she might come to you next time for a profesional job.
My former brother in law scoffed at what I do as a framer because in his words,"he can do the same thing with moulding from Home Depot" to which I replied go ahead and try btu if you want it to look nice and not post garage sale style then call me.

People are a pain. That's why I like dogs.

The gal making the frame just stopped in. Thankfully. Her interpretation of the measurement was the visual/opening measure!! Not the rabbet measure with an allowance. So she cut the frame much larger than needed. Now, I can cut the mat to that new inner dimension and have it be right for the customer.

This gal's work is pretty cool - doing her own routing and dovetail/butterfly joins!! Might have a source if I ever need a truly custom frame!!

This all could have been a real mess if I had hurried up because the customer wanted it cut THAT AFTERNOON!!

It'll all be fine.