Mat Cutting


In my cash-desparate youth I took a second part-time job cutting mats for an historical print collection. Over a year's worth of weekends and lunch breaks I managed to cut something like 5000 mats. All of it was done with a Dexter Mat Cutter and a T-square.

There really is no magic to cutting a good windowe mat with the Dexter Cutter. All it takes is some forethought and the use of a really first-rate mat board. The all-rag boards are best. They seem to cut like butter. The less resistance to the cut, the less strain, the more accurate the cut, and the longer the blade life.



1) wash hands 2) Procedure Tape the oversized cutting board to the table. The board should be perhaps 1/16" in from the edge of the table.

Start with smallest in a group, that way if you mess it up, you can cut a larger opening.

Decide on the front and back face first-look for flaws

Measure consistently. I like to work from the center-not all boards are the same. Since I've gotten into the habit of printing everything full-frame and the same size, I've cut some templates to make layout simpler.

3) The rhythm of mat cutting. Largely, good mat cutting depends on consistent work habits. Once you develop a rhythm, you'll make fewer and fewer mistakes. I developed a routine where I shift my weight from one side to the other at each step. This seems to make it easy to avoid accidentally moving the mat board between layout and cutting.

1) Place the t-square firmly against the edge of the table. Hold it down with your left hand. (shift your weight to left side)

2) Move mat board against edge of t-suare. Place right hand in center of board, shift weight to right side. Place left hand on mat board, outside the cutting area, and shift weight to left side.

3) Use right hand to insert mat cutter blade on line. (see photo and drawing)

4) Shift weight to right hand with mat cutter.

5) Slide t-square over to mat cutter, and hold squarely against table edge.

6) Shift weight to t-square.

7) Advance mat cutter with right hand while holding t-square in place.

A Mat-Cutting Bench Hook

Rather than taping the cutting surface down to a table, you might wish to build this "bench hook". The hook is particularly useful if the edge of your table isn't square enough to keep the t-square in place. It will also prevent damage to a varnished table caused by tape removal. The size shown suits my purposes. You may need something larger or smaller. To use the hook, tape a large sheet of mat board to the top. Then place it at the edge of the table with the 1X2 tight against the tabletop. From there proceed as before.


Dale Austin

All images and text copyright 1999 Dale Austin-All Rights Reserved


Dale Austin
All images and text copyright 1977-2003 Dale Austin

PhotographyNudes Portraits Manipulated/ExperimentalLandscape Photo NotesStudios: Past and PresentThings to Make
Travel Backpacking Sailing Other Places
Cabinetmaking and Woodwork Shop Notes Some Examples Photographic Projects Building a Dinghy Building a 28' Sharpie
James McAllaster House About the House Plan and Elevations (PDF) Trim Details (PDF) Foyer Living Room Kitchen Master Bedroom The Library Studio Wine Cellar References and Articles
Tecumseh, Michigan Tecumseh, Michigan The Chocolate Vault Pentamere Winery, Tecumseh
Food and Wine Recipes Cookbooks Food in Movies and Fiction Pentamere Winery, Tecumseh MI The Chocolate Vault, Tecumseh MI Raftshol Vineyards, Sutton's Bay MI L. Mawby, Sutton's Bay MI
Family Richard D. Austin, Jeweler, 1936-1990 Tex Austin Bauss Family Photo Archive Other FamilyA Cat Named Dumpster
Theater Brainstormers! The Sanity of Actors The Costumer's Manifesto
Essays and Rants 20 Bucks a Month and an Attitude Desktop Publishing is Neither A Software List is Not a Job Description Web Design 1 Web Design 2 Shovel-Ware The Tyranny of the Spreadsheet Websex How to Become a Webmaster Copyright and the Web The Ultimate Laptop Why a Lab Notebook? Thoughts on Backpacking
Graphics Freeware Printer's Marks Graphics Projects
Resume Resume Geological Sciences Major Projects Graphics Projects Theater
Links Photo Manufacturers/Retailers Alternative Photo Processes Other Photographers Fetish Photography Computers html and the Web Boats and Sailing Woodworking Bookbinding Inspired Lunacy

Testing the Waters