Think twice about a CMC purchase!

Jean McLean

CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Feb 25, 2001
Millinocket, ME, USA
Well now that I stirred up some reactions about the "big guys" cutting mats for framers, etc. I think it is time to say something else to make you think twice about owning a CMC.......why buy one? Why should you spend anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 getting your own CMC when you can just order the mats from Larson or whoever? The machine takes a lot of money, a lot of space and the learning process is time consuming. If I had it to do all over again I would probably reconsider my purchase. Yes, it makes my life easier but if I cannot sell the mats I am no further ahead. When I purchased my CMC no "big guys" were using them. If they were, I would not have bought one and just ordered from my supplier and tacked on a little extra to my customer and put that original investment into the market. I would be further ahead. So, all you framers out there who are thinking of buying a CMC....think long and hard. They are expensive and getting to be a dime a dozen. In a few more years you will see the market flooded with second hand CMC's for sale. You might be smart to wait and in the meantime....order from (I would like to add my telephone number again but won't. I got my point across and know when enough is enough). In the meantime, my phone isn't ringing off the hook with CMCless framers wanting mats so guess most of us have one now eh? See,it won't be long. I have to add another is one thing to call a supplier and order ten 16 x 20 double mats but having someone's artwork in front of me lets me be much more creative in designing a masterpiece for them. It would be this way for any framer who orders mats from someone else. There is no personal touch. Owning your own CMC gives you this advantage. I had to say this as I don't want you to all think I am totally negative. I'm not. I just say think twice about spending big bucks. If you can get mats easily from your supplier you may be further ahead.

Jean in Maine.
Jean, For the life of me I can't figure out what has you so peeved about LJ getting CMC's. For the record the Big Boys in retail framing(Michael's,Aaron Brothers, Hobby Lobby) have always used CMC's. In fact HL has them in all their stores. I don't see where LJ offering to cut mats for their customers is going to kill your business. Unless you purchased the machine in the hopes of offering to cut mats for surrounding frameshops.

When I am ready to get a CMC I have decided to rent one so purchasing won't be a concern for me. But when I do get one it will be to increase production and speed me up. I look at it as a tool just like any other tool in my shop. I do think eventually all shops will have to have them if they want to compete in the marketplace.

But in the meant time I think LJ offering the service is a good thing. I would only use them for the intricate stuff I can't cut, I would imagine most people would continue to cut their basic mats on a manual cutter. It is no different than if you decide to order your frames chopped as opposed to ordering length and cutting yourself. What a great advantage it will be to be in a big rush and working alone and being able to order your precut mats from LJ.

I just don't see where this is going to impact the average frameshop in a negative way. I see it as another thing to help me do my job and it gives us all options. LJ cutting mats for shops won't hinder my decision to get a CMC when I am ready no more than them offering to cut chops has kept me from getting a saw.

I hope it all works out for you!
Jean, I don't mean any unkindness. But did you buy your CMC with the goal of selling mats to other framers? I think most of us bought them to sell mats to our framing customers - the end-users. If you're able to wholesale a few in your spare time, so much the better.

You're probably right. In a few short years, everyone will have a CMC. It will be hard to be competitive without one.

Yes, you can farm out the mat-cutting. Four years ago, Gemini Moulding was cutting oversize ovals for me before I bought a CMC.

But I'd sure hate to have to specify the mats I'm cutting now so someone else could cut them.

(Let's see. 150 windows, various shapes and sizes. Oh, wait, let's move this one over 1/4" to the left.)
New machines in a business don't always live up to our initial expectations, usually after time, you get used to having them around and discover that they have made your life a whole lot better. Much like the people we bring into our lives.

the learning process is time consuming
I would have to disagree with that statement. I found it less time consuming than learning to cut mats the old fashioned way.

If you are keeping your business going by cutting mats for other framers then you are running a wholesale operation and should advertise accordingly.
I have cut oval mats for another framer when she needs them. It amounts to pocket change.

A computerized mat cutter is a valuable tool to have in a shop. It replaces the need for an employee and allows even an inexperienced person to cut beautiful intricate mats.

Since I'm trying to sell mine I probably shouldn't be so honest...but yes, it does make more sense for the small shop owner to rent one.
must be the cold in Jean's part of Maine that's getting to her. (son lives in Kennebunkport so I get report from his wife on the cold and snow there) My Wiard takes up wallspace but not sq. ft. space in the store. I can also charge nicely for 10 openings in a 16 X 2o mat that takes about 2 minutes to cut and the customer loves it. Or V grooves that are always perfect and less than one minute to do. Rental is way cheaper than an hourly employee.

We received ours December 2nd and wouldn't go back. It only took minutes to master, versus a lot of trial and error (and time) to learn multi openings on our Speed-Mat manual cutter. We started using it for production the day after it arrived, and haven't cut a manual mat since. The POS system (LS) exports the cutting instructions right to the Wizard, to be called up later.

I think renting makes a lot of sense for short term use, but if you plan to keep it for 5 years or more it costs less per month to buy - and then there are no limits/corner counts/overrage fees. We used over 6000 corners the first month, while learning.

We bought time/deferred payment for 12 months by putting it on a 0% credit card :eek: but it'll be about $250/mo plus 4% interest after that. There was a tax advantage last year to get 150% write off credit. Im not sure if that is still available for 2004.

Renting is $245/mo including 1000 corners and 10¢ per extra corner, or $390/month including 4000 corners and 5.5¢ per extra corner. An advantage for renting is that they warrantee it for the life of the rental period. Disadvantages are that you pay a lot more in the long run, and might go over the monthly limits - which can easily double or triple the monthly payment.

I guess it really depends on the volume and long term financial goals.

We purchased ours with the intent of selling at retail. If a local competitor needs something cut for a few cents above cost, we'll be glad to do so - but I don't see that as a meaningful income stream. We have only been approached by one shop so far. Am I wrong in this assumption?

Our closest vendor (Don Mar) has a cmc and has offered a custom cutting service program to its customers for years, which hasn't been a threat to anyone. We never took advantage of it, simply because of the delay factor.


[ 02-14-2004, 08:05 AM: Message edited by: Mike-L@GTP ]
First of all I am not the one who targeted Larson. I did not mention any names, someone else did. Second of all, I was the one that said there was enough business for all of us and that we should be trying to help each other especially those who do not have a CMC. At that point I did not even know Larson bought some CMC's. When I bought my CMC I never gave other framers a thought. They found me. It was then that I realized they need help and I was willing. It wasn't until I read all the posts about the "big boxes" getting it all that I thought of announcing that we should help each other and it escalated from there so lay off. I even went to far as to announce my prices. I was trying to make small framers have another resource for getting their mats and not sweat the big guys. We need to help each other. Read my original post of February 5th!

After all that I found out that a sales rep went after one of my accounts and yes, it bothered me. I am sure it would bother you too. I mentioned no names. It wasn't until then that I realized how I depend on those extra sales to help me pay my bills as business here is dead right now. It made me think how this could hurt small shops who depend on those accounts (I do) and without those accounts, be forced to go out of business and in turn the suppliers will lose in the long run.

Once I discovered that some of the big guys are offering their services I posted this message. Yes, it is great to own your own CMC. But, for the framers who don't, I want them to realize they don't have to run out and buy one. They should think long and hard about spending that money when the mat cutting service is so available. So, don't twist and turn my posts into a direct attack on Larson. I again say there is room for us all but we should be pooling our resources to help each other.

We should stop argueing with each other about owning a CMC or not, Larson, big boxes...etc. That is a waste of time. Help each other and do something constructive. Come'on FRAMER from me out here. You seem to understand me more.
We've had our Wizard just a few weeks and are still learning all its capabilities. I don't know how we could grow our business without it. I'd never re-think the decision to get one.

We're faster, better, and more creative than before. The creative avenues opened by using a CMC are endless.

We never thought to offer our CMC services to other framers; we certainly didn't get it to wholesale our services to other shops. But we were contacted by one shop who heard we were getting one BEFORE we even got it! We've also cut a mat for another Grumbler nearby and will be happy to cut for anyone that needs it.

Would I BUY one? Not likely at $18-$20K. But in renting it at $250/month we can't go wrong. We'll probably change to a lease later in the year if things keep going well and we're SELLING Wizard work, rather than just using it to automate our operation.

Whether LJ or anyone else I work with uses and sells mat cutting services doesn't really bother me either way. I'm in the framing business, not the mat cutting business. Until 3 weeks ago I'd have probably been one of their customers and welcomed the service.


[ 02-14-2004, 08:25 AM: Message edited by: AWG ]
There is "no way" any off site CMC can compete with the "service" we give our clients.

We will cut one mat (one or more openings) most of the time while the customer waits! That is assuming we have the stock and we are not behind the 8 ball with work. That is service for our customers!

For the past 5 months we have also offically offered "ONE DAY SERVICE" for basic framing. The in house CMC comes in handy for that service.

We also cut our fall outs into standard size blanks (5x7 through 16x20). At slack times we will knock our ready made mats. They can be single openings multi openings, collages, etc. Our charges range from $.90 for a 5x7 to $12.00 for a rag 16x20 collage mat with about 12 openings. Can a off site machine do that? No.

I don't quite know what to say about this. Your original post started off so cleanly with the offer to help other framers and such. Now you are taking a totally defensive tact that I don't understand. It is almost like 2 entirely different people have posted threads about similar things.

I guess others are feeling this change in attitude also by the expression of their posts on this thread. Why are you trying to justify your statements and feelings about wanting to help others?

I re-read your post on "helping other framers" and you DID mention LJ right up front. And, when you posted that offer to help, you DID already know about LJ's buying CMC's and offering mat cutting to their customers. So why try to change those statements around??

I don't own a CMC and cannot afford to rent one until my business gets off the starting blocks down here. I have only had one occasion where I had to have another framer cut a very complicated mat for me. I think that some of you will remember the Deer Pin framing that I did a couple of years ago. It had 44 very small round mat openings to be cut around the border of the mat and I didn't have anything that would cut that small a circle. I farmed it out to Marc Bluestone in St. Louis and he did a great job for me. But I think that most of the mat cutting that we encounter on a daily basis is done in house and there is no real need to farm this kind of work out to someone who has a CMC, be it you or LJ.

I am a craftsman and take pride in being able to cut complex mats for my customers. To farm it out to you or LJ or anyone else is simply reinforcing the point you made in this thread about the "personal touch" that we all try to maintain with each design we create.

I don't mean you any disrespect and still agree with your premise that we should ALL help each other out when we can. That is the basis for the existance of the Grumble and many other framing forums throughout the world. But, I am puzzled with your defensive start to this thread and your replies to other Grumbler's posts about buying a CMC. We are all smart enough to be able to weigh the cost factor of a CMC against the potential impact it would have on our businesses both positive and negative.

Framerguy (the Framer from Florida!)
I think Jean is upset because one of the "big guys" is trying to muscle in on a part of her business that helps her pay her bills. I can understand her frustration, but, isn't that the way things are now-a-days? She says she was "helping" the other framer by cutting their mats. She was not doing them for free, and she was obviously making a profit on them or she wouldn't be upset by someone elses offer to do them. Actually both parties benefitted. When I offer to help another framer, I expect nothing in return except a "thank you". That is my idea of helping someone. I think the term Jean should have used would be "support", as in financially support. She is supporting their business by making something available to them they otherwise couldn't offer, and they were supporting her business in return by paying her. For a time, the arrangement was mutually beneficial.

It boils down to customer loyalty. I do as much as I can to make my customers loyal to me, and I do think I have some very loyal customers. But, in the bigger scheme of things, many people look and the dollars and cents rather than the service, ability, and whatever else we offer when they are buying something. Why else do people flock to stores like Lowes and Costco in such large numbers? Jean and Larson (or whomever) are offering identical services. Why wouldn't "her" customer compare prices? I think when any of us are comparing apples to apples, we'll buy the one who offers us the best price, if all other things are equal. I am as loyal as I can be to distributers who give me great service, have a great line and I rep I get along with. But sometimes being loyal might not be what makes good business sense.
Originally posted by B. Newman:
</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by Jean McLean:
Here I am up in Maine wishing for someone to walk through my door needing a few mats.
Create a brochure to that effect, visit art shows and other smaller framing shops.

Call every framer listed in the phone book and surrounding phone books.

Be on the lookout and keep your ears open (while you're out in the "world") for people who do their own needlework framing, and for people who know "part-time" framers.

It's not "if you build it they will come." It's "seek and ye shall find..."

</font>[/QUOTE]This is what I wrote when you brought this up, and I still feel this way. I have created a brochure for artists, too. I go to art and craft shows and look for artists and craftspeople that need mats. And I don't even have a CMC!

Don't think that other framers are your only source of customers. There's lots of opportunity to cut mats for all kinds of customers.

Word gets around.

Within the past three weeks we've sold three multi-opening mats to schools, totaling more than $500. That's just for the mats.

One of them had 74 openings for wallet-size photos, plus caption openings, plus the school's name in cut text at the top. Add 'em up. We were the only one of six framers that would even quote the job.

Yes, they bought the rest of the framing, too. And they'll be back again.

Our CMC has done everything for our business that we expected it to do, and then some.

I respectfully submit that if the CMC doesn't meet expectations, then maybe the expectations were inadequately developed.
Oh, crap Jim, ya telling me I have to shell out the dough?

Originally posted by Jim Miller:
Our CMC has done everything for our business that we expected it to do, and then some.

Ours, too, has met expectations. Aside from making life easier and a bit more interesting, not only is it generating some extra income but, more importantly, it has pre-empted the need to hire an extra employee!

Having said that, going back to Jean's original posting, I think she is absolutely right...

For every shop, to purchase/rent a CMC is not necessarily a foregone conclusion...

I suspect there are many CMC renters and purchasers who have found that this wonderful bit of technology is simply not generating the income necessary to have justified the $$$ outlay - especially considering Jean's point - there is an ever-increasing number of suppliers at which to outsource the occasional "difficult" mat.
When I decided to open my shop a CMC rental was my first phone call. Because there is a wait for them I ordered mine before I found a store. All my equipment is paid for and I figured that it is an expense that I could absorb. I think that the benefits that it gives me way out weighs the liability in not having one. As a one-person shop I would out price myself on multi-opening and ovals. Plus, there is only one frame shop here that has one and it’s a B.B. I think it’s the edge I needed. However, I would wait a while if I had access to one. I would let somebody else cut mine while I got started if that were an option. But I would never do it over the phone from a distributor. Not for custom jobs anyway. That seems like a pain in the patella.
Just a note to put some things into perspective... Jean lives in Millinocket, which is WAY up in the interior of Maine where the population base is quite small. The area has been on an economic downslide for quite a while now. There just aren't very many people up there nor are there any other frame shops close enough to her that would be in a position to use her for cutting mats. Personally, I can see why she is sounding a warning about buying a CMC. It seem (purely speculation on my part, of course) as tho she made a mistake when she figured she could make extra money cutting mats for other frame shops and then figured an overly optimistic amount of matting income into her budget. The market just isn't there for it nor is the market even in my area for me to be actively offering to cut mats for the other framers and figuring them into my budget and I'm in a much busier area of Maine being down to the coast in a highly touristed area and an area where alot of rich folks have their summer "cottage". If one of my competitors came to me and asked, I definitely would cut a mat for them on my CMC but I'm not going to figure that into my operating budget nor expect it to pay anything more than my lunch for that day.
This seems to recall the topic on the HH of finding your target market. Or as some say... look before you leap.
Originally posted by lessafinger:
Oh, crap Jim, ya telling me I have to shell out the dough?

No, Less, you don't have to shell out the dough, but that might be the best way to go.

Or, if you don't want to shell out the dough, you can buy whatever mats you need from me. Satisfaction guaranteed, and reasonably priced...but not free. :D
Less, You don't even have to shell out 18K. Deb Derbonne is selling hers for 8K. Gently used. I hear this baby takes corners like she's on rails. Nows your chance to own your very own at a much reduced cost!

Deb's Wizard for sale

Act Now, before you miss out.
ah - oh, now what do I do?

Is the 5000 a good machine?

Is it warranteed?

Is that a good price?

Is there a better machine?

8K delivered?

Does that include a puter?

Less doesn't have air. (watch it framerguy)

[ 02-17-2004, 03:24 PM: Message edited by: lessafinger ]
Send me the money! :D
It's a great deal!

Um, Less, it won't work without the computer. Without the computer it's just a big table with a lot of stuff hanging off of it.

Maybe you should try breathing a little fresh air. You've been acting a little odd lately.

8k is a great deal, and it's probably upgradeable to a new model for less than the $15295 asking price.
Originally posted by D. Derbonne:
Send me the money! :D
It's a great deal!


I would send you the money in a heartbeat if I had it!! That is a super deal and I know that you have taken good care of the machine.

Heck, I could even drive down and pick it up!!

(Would there be a discount for not having to crate it up and ship it??)


P.S. If you could get it down to, oh, maybe, .......... um, about $600 I could write you a check for it this evening!! ;)