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Which mat cutter to buy?

Tommy P

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
I started framing about three years ago...and I love it. Been using a Logan Simplex Plus with very good results. I think I am ready for a new, "snazier" model. I am not ready for a CMC for various reasons. Although I can't wait for that time to arrive. (That means I'm really rollin' in the dough!)
So my question is....what do my fellow framers recommend? Have heard about the Fletcher 2100 etc. but I can't go down to the local dealer and test drive any make or model. Also not in the cards to attend an immediate future trade show.
Any advice would be appreciated.
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PFG, Picture Framing God
Framerboy: I think the best advise I can give you comes from a source near and dear to my Cajun heratiage but seemingly unrelated to farming. It comes from Justin Wilson. When ever he was doing one of his shows he would inevitably speak about WINE . He would often ,if not always ,say "What wine do I drink with what food?""The one I (Justin Wilson and the other chossers of the wine)Like".
So to it can be said about mat cutters . "Use the One YOU like" they all have their own good and bad points,but what do YOU want it to do?What I or anyone else likes may not be waht YOU want at all but both may be perfectly suited for each of us.I am sure you will get or find a multitude of personal opinions but they aren't what you like,so try them and make up your own mind . That is what TRADE SHOWS are for.

Pat Murphey

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

When I started framing, I went to a Larson-Juhl Framing training school. They were set up to use C&H mat cutters, which I tried but was disappointed in how well the used cutters worked. They had a school sized Fletcher 2100 that they let me try. I was sold on it. If you are near one of their locations that does training, I'll bet that they will allow you to make a hands on trial with their training cutters.

I also see that on another thread that there is an almost new 60" 2100 for sale in Nashville for less than a 48" would cost.

Pat :D

The King

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Most of us who make a living at it love whatever we're using. If we don't love our matcutter, we get rid of it and get one we DO love.

I've had a C&H, a Logan and a Fletcher 2100. The first two weren't bad - I just wore them out. I LOVE the Fletcher and it has already outlasted the other two combined.

I'm not sure I'd want a 60" for my day-to-day cutting, however, unless I frequently needed that size.

Jim Miller

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
It's too bad you can't make it to a trade show. It's a good experience for any framer.

There are two basis types of straight-line matcutters:

1. Fletcher, which uses a cutting head on rollers, with easy-change blade cartridges. Good.

2. All the rest, which have a cutting head that slides with friction.
2A. Steel bar/rod, with brass head. Good.
2B. Similar, but with aluminum parts. Bad.

I suggest you contact a number of frame shops in the nearest major city. Identify at least one shop that uses each brand you're considering, and ask to visit them for a try-out. Most framers would welcome your visit and would give you an honest opinion about their matcutters. You could probably do it in one day, and it might be a great learning experience.


MGF, Master Grumble Framer
I'm hodling on to my 2100 even though I have a CMC. I still use it for a few things. Great piece of equipment. Mine is a 48 inch. Adequate size for 98 percent of the jobs.

Frank Larson

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
I have a Fletcher 2000 (older than the 2100) for about 16 years now and it's still going strong. I've used C&H and LJ's Carithers cutters and was not all that impressed, they tend to get ratty after a few years. I'd recommend the 48" 2100, as Katman said it's good for 98% of the jobs.


PFG, Picture Framing God
Don't be afraid to ad to your fixed expenses. A few hundred dollars a month will put you into a Wizard CMC. Having a CMC will more than pay for itself every month. You may be a great manual mat cutter operator, but I swear, you will make more money with a CMC. Whatever you spend on a new manual cutter will be a lot more than getting a Wizard set up in your shop. Give it some thought.


Tommy P

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Thanks to all for your advice on my mat cutter quandry......it will help in my decision....I love "the grumble"!


Jean McLean

CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Hasn't anyone ever heard of the Esterly? I owned one for at least 15 years before I bought my CMC. I have gone through 2 C & H cutters and only use one in my frame shop to cut straight lines (sizing mats or foam board) Yes, I have a nice Fletcher wall mount, glass, plexi and mat cutter but there are times when the C & H is easier...so use both. I have used the Fletcher 2100 also and unless you bite the bullet and buy a CMC, the Esterly is the way to go. The Esterly is a wall mount one so you stand perfectly straight and it won't hurt your back. Once you set your mat width, you can mass produce the cuttings as you set all four sides and just slide the cutter in four different directions. It is easy, accurate, shows no overcuts, quiet, etc. I loved mine. For extra money you can also buy the attachment that will cut ovals and circles up to a 32 x 40. Actually, they even make a larger machine that will cut a 40 x 60. You can cut 50 - 100 mats in an hour. Sure, I have a "Fletcher-Terry CMC" now but my Esterly still hangs on the wall in case somethings goes wrong with the CMC. Of course nothing will as the Fletcher-Terry is a perfect machine! But, since we have had 36" of snow in the last two weeks...one never knows when the power will fail. I can still use the Esterly. Anyway, they can be purchased in Wiscasset, Maine...Esterly Co. If you need more information, let me know. They are 1/4th the cost of a CMC and you will be happy with it for years.

Jean McLean

Mike Labbe

Member, Former moderator team volunteer
We bought Esterly's best product (40x60, circle/oval, glass, 4 ply head, 8 ply head, etc) with every attachment 21 months ago for about $4k, and it served us well. Andy worked with their 32x40 product for about 10 years at another shop, and this was the only thing he INSISTED on buying new when we opened the shop.

Two weeks ago we took delivery of a Wizard 8000, and the Esterly hasn't been used since. (in fact, we're selling it!) Once you try a CMC, it's unlikely you'll want to use a manual cutter again. Our POS system automatically generates the cutting instructions for each workorder, and passes them to the Wizard. For most jobs, we just click LOAD, point to the workorder #, insert a mat, and click CUT. It saves a lot of time, puts you ahead of competitors, and provides an excellent opportunity to up-sell.

I'm hoping it will buy some time before we need to take the plunge to hire our first employee.


[ 12-17-2003, 08:34 PM: Message edited by: Mike-L@GTP ]


At my school, The American Picture Framing Academy (www.pictureframingschool.com) I have the Logan 650, Fletcher 2100 and the new Chronomat available for students to tryout.

All are professional-style cutters and all have their features:

The Logan is a great value, selling for less than half the price of either the Fletcher or Chronomat, however it's understandably not equal in quality to its higher-priced brethren.

The Fletcher is a quality cutter that for years has set a high standard, but the Chronomat is in my opinion, the new champion. It's as if someone took a Fletcher and said, "What can we do to make it better?" Then, they did it and gave it a 5-year warranty too. One of my customers called it, "The Lexus of mat cutters."

You can find a comparison of professional quality mat cutters at framingequipment.com. We offer all three cutters, but the Chronamat is now our best seller.


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
For whatever it's worth, if you are left handed, the Fletcher is not a great choice. I found that the shape of the Fletcher cutting head makes a deep and painful dent in my thumb.

C+H has a different shape and is much more comfortable for us "leftys" who have to push the head rather than pull it down the length of the board.

It is a right handed world ya know!!!


Tommy P

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
After all the advice, I have come to the conclusion that I should just stick with my trusty Logan cutter and work towards attaining a CMC. Sounds like the logical thing to do.....just have to get our numbers of frames up to justify the cost per month. IT will happen....just will take some time. Thanks everyone!



CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
I do agree with Paul. We purchased the Chronomat after seeing it in NY last year. It is a nice machine. Totally different experience than Logan, or our old LJ cutter. Would love to go with CMC, and will, when I can afford it. Already up to my neck with other work on building for now.

Cath BPF

Grumbler in Training
If only I could accuratley describe to every picture framer out there the difference a CMC has made to our business. I bought one on a whim, I has a windfall of money and decided to fulfill my dream and purchase one. I honestly wish I done it a long time ago. Our business have more than doubled in 12 months and although we have done twice the work this christmas it has taken half the time. I am NOT kidding. Our takings are way up and so many people are impressed with what we can now do for them it's unreal. The TIME factor saving though is very hard to define but honestly, everyone should take the plunge and Just Do It. Don't be scared.



PFG, Picture Framing God
Claiming that a CMC will make you lose your edge as a skilled craftsman is ridicules. Think about this, a CMC is like a manual straight cutter is to using a utility knife and a straight edge. The shops that claim they are skilled crafts people by NOT having a CMC are just deluding themselves.

If they truly admire the old ways of running their shops, they would be using a utility knife for mat cutting. A drill and hammer with a three inch bench vise for joining frames. They would only purchase raw stock mouldings so they could only sell "their" finishes. I Imagen there probably are such shops still in existence here and there, but not many.

I started out that way, I learned that way, I was very good at doing it that way. If you think I would give up my CMC, my 'V" nailer, pre-finished mouldings, my Hoffmann joiner, and go back using hand tools, you would have to be just a little bit crazy.

If you truly think making frames and cutting mats with obsolete equipment makes you a better framer, you may even be right. I somehow don't think it makes you a smarter framer though. I personally think that the shops using manual mat cutters, if they do not make the change to a CMC, will soon find their shops and themselves "obsolete".

It can't be a money issue, Wizard has solved that problem. ( it's to bad Fletcher couldn't ). The only other thing I can think of is, it's a space problem. I find that hard to believe though, these things don't take up much more space than a wall cutter.

If your waiting for your volume to justify having a CMC, your going to have a long wait. The CMC is what is going to give you the volume.


[ 12-22-2003, 12:42 AM: Message edited by: JRB ]

Tommy P

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Thanks John and Cathy.....and everyone else....I will work dilligently towards the goal of a CMC!!!
Have no idea on the cost (I have walked by a few at Decor Expo a year ago) of these wonderful machines. Does Wizard have a "lease to own" plan?

thanks again Merry Christmas to all!!

Mike Labbe

Member, Former moderator team volunteer
Hi Frameboy,

A few months ago, I put together a list that shows all the CMCs, what they cost, how to contact the companies, and a side by side basic feature comparison. it's up at THIS LINK , if interested.

Wizard offers three options: www.wizardint.com
1) JR Rental: $500/software fee(plus $150 for optional CADD program), $245/month, 1000 corners/mo included. corners 1001+ @ $0.10 each
2) FULL Rental: $500/software fee(CADD program included), $390/month, 4000 corners/mo included. corners 4001+ @ $0.055 each
3) Purchase OR lease: ~$15225, or $15995 for someone to fly out to set up and teach you how to use the program. Shipping for us was $245. Cadd included, 500 blades, unlimited corners.

My advice is to give serious consideration to option 3, if you go with this brand. It sounds like a lot, but if you do the math... It costs ~$300 per month, with some creative financing and you can do whatever you want with it. We have had ours exactly 3 weeks, and have used 7000-8000 corners already. (and we have a very small 2 person/22 month old shop) I suspect our first month's corner usage will be close to 10,000. If we were on the JR program, that would have cost $1145 w/extra corners. (or $885 for std rental program) Granted, we did a lot of playing around and learning the first month - but the corners would add up fast otherwise. One mat we did had over 700 corners.

Eclipse is another excellent machine. Eclipse users rave about the reliability of their machines. Their plan is for purchase and not rental (unlimited corners). www.eclipse-cmc.com
1) Eclipse LT: $11900 (lease ~$233/mo)
2) Eclipse XL: $18900 (lease ~$369/mo)
3) Eclipse PRO: $24000 (lease ~449/mo)

Trucut makes a great high end machine too: www.trucut.co.uk
1) Elan: $25500 w/freight single blade
2) Excel $33900 w/freight double blade
3) Alpha $44000 w/freight double blade

I wrote to 6 other CMC manufacturers, asking for information about their products, but they didn't even answer the emails.

If you opt for a lease, understand that the leasing companies are usually outside banks, and the agents are commissioned salespeople. Get everything in writing and check their math. I have found some of them to be slightly less than honest :(

[ 12-22-2003, 07:52 PM: Message edited by: Mike-L@GTP ]

Tommy P

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Wow!!! Mike, you have my brain " a spinnin'"! Thanks for the in depth numbers on the CMC equipment. My partner ( a.k.a. "my wife") is going nuts with my positive talk on a CMC! It's kinda like that new car fever thing......you keep telling yourself you don't need it but before you know it........
But there are other issues in our lives right know that have to be dealt with before the CMC can be considered. But I realize it IS the way to go.
Thanks alot again..........Frameboy (she named me that....kinda like it...)
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