Need Advice w/ Mounting Equip decision

Steve APFA Grad_2005

Grumbler in Training
Jan 25, 2006
Williamstown, NJ
Money is a little tight as I start-up my framing biz, although I can afford to splurge where necessary like on a new underpinner, I intend to buy. My dilemma is that I have an opportunity to buy two pieces of mounting equipment - both advertised in excellent condition (and look so in pics). A Seal (now Bienfang) VacuSeal Press 4468H w/metal stand about 5 years old (2nd owner) for $2700... or a Seal Masterpiece 500T-X 26x34 heat press about 8 years old (one owner) for $1200? The VacuSeal goes for $7000 new, and the Heat press retails for about $3000 I think. Any advice? The VacuSeal seems like the better deal, but for starting out - do you think I'm spending too much for a press? I plan on doing home-based custom framing to start. Thanks, Steve.
Hi Steve,
Welcome to the Grumble.
You might want to check the archives on this one. More and more printing technologies are thermally sensative rendering the heat presses less useful (my Seal 4466 is as often a workbench as it is a mounting press). Explore the possibilities of a cold roller press before committing to a heat press.
If you decide on the big vacuum press, check with Bienfang/Hunt/Seal/Elmers/Whoever about technical and replacement parts support.

Welcome to the Grumble.

You’re likely to get several opinions on this. I have had a Masterpiece 500T for 20 years without too many problems. The only repairs I’ve had to make on it is having to replace the thermostat three times, but that is easy and cheap. The Masterpiece 500T is my primary method of mounting photos and posters. It is running almost continuously.

While Wally notes that some modern digital images may have problems with the inks/dyes bleeding under heat, I have experienced this problem on only three occasions – all of them my fault for not thoroughly examining the surface and the substrate medium. For those questionable pieces, I use 3M PMA in rolls – not the roller mounting system – with good results. The cold mount PMA (when compared to the dry mount tissue) is a bit more expensive per square inch to use and a bit messier, but it is an infrequently used back up to the heat press.

Although the VacuSeal system would give you more flexibility (sort of), keep in mind that you’ll need a compressor with the expense and inevitable maintenance problems associated with it. If you use the VacuSeal with spray adhesives, you’ll most likely need a “spraying booth/chamber” to keep the aerosols from getting over everything including that expensive suede mat you just cut.
You don't need a compressor with the Vacuseal. (It comes with an air pump, mine was used and has worked flawlessly)

I have worked in shops that had both and overall it has been my experience that the vacu seal is more flexible with mounting.

You can use heat or just the vacuum. And with heat you don't have to spray adhesives. The masterpice was a decent machine but you can't use the top for worksurface where as the vacuseal you can.

I would spend the extra for it. It was the second piece of equipment I bought when I opened up last year (new underpinner was first) and it has been one of the best buys I have found.

Also new hires at the old shop destroyed more items in the masterpiece. (I don't know why it is a straight forward machine, but it happened)

Either way you can't go wrong, just my experiences with both.
We just purchased a seal roller laminate for $1800 at the Vegas show. They showed it for use as a heat mounter as well as a traditional laminate. It has a very small footprint and would add other services to your shop.

I have not used one of these other than the samples at the show, so I don't feel qualified to comment on the usability of this for different situations. But if it works as advertised, I would strongly consider this option.
Just a heads up but I got a great deal on my press on the Grumble in the for sale area.
I've no idea which is the best buy. I just want to say that I have seen the damage that inexperienced framers have done with presses - vacuum or otherwise, to things that never should have been dry-mounted in the first place. I love to see these 'all the gear and no idea' types open near me and send their customers screaming in this direction. (Not categorising you - maybe you have years of experience but are only now starting out alone)

I think certain pieces of equipment get new framers into bad habits and also allow them to run before they can walk. A press is top of that list.

A good mountcutter should come first, loads of other stuff too before a press.
My 30 year old seal press has been on it's last leg for some time. We had been farming out the large jobs until the close supplier who did it quit. Since that time I have had good luck with perfect mount on foam as well as the board. Prefer the foam board. Follow the directions and it works great.
Hi, I've got a large hot press vacuum press - the number of things I can do in my shop is fantastic, I do a lot of mounting and laminating for other smaller shops who don't have the capabilities or only have a vacuum press. I offer both permanent and removeable drymount options and our business is a wiz at canvas transfers which are a very nice money earner. Don't get me wrong we do hinge a lot of works as well.