Mounts for photos and pictures - Buy online
Mounts with straight cut outsides are best - Computerized mount cutters now come in two sorts, those that will cut square outsides, and those that can't. If you are reselling mounted items we recommend you ask for straight cut outsides for better presentation. If you are framing the mounts, it does not normally make any difference whether they have a bevel cut or straight cut outside edge.
Types of board:
Baffled by sellers terms like white core, acid free, conservation, neutral ph...?
As far as mount suppliers and their customers are concerned there are two types of mount board (or mat board, as our american friends like to call it). Budget and Conservation.
Budget boards- cheap and cheerful, use this if the item you are mounting or framing is of no great value and can be easliy replaced. It is not suitable for valuable or irreplacable items, full stop. This type of board is favoured by some eBay sellers and buyers for economy, and has its place in the scheme of things. Minimum standard should be neutral ph. If you are buying mounts in bulk, or smaller quantities for reselling, this is an economical choice if your mount cutter or mounts supplier does not cut ciorners by always trying to lay his hands on the cheapest available. (I frequently do buy the cheapest available, but just use it as a cutting mat on my mount cutting machine). We call a good quality budget board from a reputable maker which is neutral ph "Standard", although 90 percent of our customers request white core.
The problem with buying bulk lots of standard boards (or economy or budget boards) is that many brands are clearly junk, whilst some are actually very good quality. And the inexperienced framer or mount cutter has saddled himself with 500 or 1000 jumbo sheets of board before he finds out that its really only fit for hamster bedding. Then he's got to get rid of it -enter eBay stage left ;)
Its like russian roulette. Without inflicting upon you a lecture about acidity, blue wool scales and light fastness, fior the moment just take it as read that you need to tread carefully with "standard" or economy boards -specially if you are a mount buyer. Even more so if you are reselling to your customers
Conservation- As the name implies, a high quality board, but does not have to mean expensive mounts - usually this is also a white core board (be careful, as there are white core economy boards). This will be acid free, and comply with the fine art trade guild standards for conservation mounts for photos, prints and other items. You can safely mount almost anything in conservation standard board. Genarally speaking, if its from a good manufacturer (Arquadia or Slaters) it will be of reasonable quality anyway, and if it conforms to Conservation standards, you will be guaranteed no come backs from your customers.
The tell tale signs (or otherwise) of a framer with quality board:
Some picture framers won't use standard mounts at all, preferring only to stock one brand or another of acid free white core board or conservation mount board.
This is great for keeping their costs down, and their stock management easy, sometimes it helps them keep prices keen if a competitor is playing the "price cutting monkey" game. Cutting prices often means cutting corners, and it may limit your choice. After all, its good to have a choice, and not get the feeling that they are saying "this is all we have got".
We offer both standard and conservation quality in our online picture mount shop. For bespoke work, we use and recommend acid free white core, preferably a conservation standard. There is no difference in price at the shop counter, because we do not want our customers to sacrifice quality for price. So when we mount pictures for framing at its conservation quality, but standard board prices - Online we have discounted the standard boards so that realistic savings can be made, specially if you are putting a few pictures into DIY or ready made frames -you make the informed choice which is the right board for your picture.
Some picture framers (like us) prefer to keep a variety of types in stock, not merely a choice of colours, so that they always have the right board for your picture mounts. That way you get an equal choice regardless of your budget. We stock Slater Harrison's Colourmount in standard, Acid Free and Conservation quality. As a rule the darker colours just slip out of the official "conservation" category only because of the colour pigment in the face papers. In practice these face papers are not in contact with your mounted art.
Our own "Key Colours" are not tied to any one supplier or make of board. They have been selected carefully, and they are based upon what our customers order, both nationwide, and at the shop counter. Arquadia boards are in stocked in the standard for Acid-Free/Conservation mounts.
Look for a framer who stocks quality brands, rather than generic ones. Many of the "generics" are actually manufactured by top quality manufacturers, but usually sold in bulk packs. This is fine if the framer has a brisk business and turns over the stock quickly, because the customer will always be getting fresh board. . Sometimes generics are bulk packed in wrapping that is designed to get them only from the warehouse to the bulk user, where they are opened immediately and used up quickly. Problems start for the customer when framers start trying to cut quality picture mounts from board that has been lying around in opened packs that have been in the racks for months, or even years. If its a busy place, no worries, the board will probably be factory fresh, specially the fast moving popular colours (whites, creams blacks, bottle green, midnight blue etc).
If it is a small framers, a home business or a one man band, the chance is that he or she orders the board in as they need it, not in bulk. So you can be fairly sure that its come in a smaller sealed "retail" pack straight from the wholesaler. In our workshops we seldom have a bulk pack of a popular colour more than a week old.
Modern mount boards are designed to last for years, in fact the art-bak backing we use and supply is supposed to be guaranteed for 300 years! But bear in mind that mount colours may vary batch by batch. This is rare, but does happen. And your old mounts (particularly standard board) may have faded slightly over time too.
With a bit of luck, that's armed you with the knowledge you need to make the right choice when choosing your framer, and you picture or frame mounts.
The price you should pay- whilst budget boards can cost less than a quarter of the price of conservation quality boards when bought in bulk (trust me, I know, I buy in bulk) you should not be paying much more for a conservation standard mount, which looks better, and will be appreciated by your customers if you are buying in non-bulk quantities This is because the framer or mount supplier should be charging you for the time, computer time and machine time of cutting the mounts, and not trying to squeeze a few more pennies out on marking up a cheap product. The cost of the materials is insignificant compared to the time and running costs of the machines. Every hour my shop and workshop is open bleeds away £60 or £70 in overheads -business rates, heating and lighting, insurance, wages ... the usual list.... so my wizard machine works hard to earn a crust, and a lot of time is spent on maintenance, calibration and keeping it in shape to produce top quality mounts. Dont be afraid to ask your mounts supplier which machine they use.
A professional mount cutter or framer who may have spent £14,000 or £15,000 installing at leat one state of the art CMC mount cutting machine like the Ameican Wizard, may be tempted to recoup some of this investment by buying in cheap boards, certainly some ill-informed bank managers take this line of least resistance. Look for a Fine Art Trade Guild member, who will almost certainly be knowledgeable in the board specifications and standards required, and does not fall for this gag. Beware boards passed of merely as "white core", this does not mean they are high quality. Look out for good brand names such as Arquadia or Slater Harrison. If buying on eBay or online or over the phone, look out for full refund guarantees. If the product is any good, the seller should have no issues at all with offering a no quibble refund. I do, and it hasn't harmed my business, and I can count on one hand the number of people who I have refunded or replaced an order for -usually because they ordered the wrong size or the post office have made a "mistake" with delivery!
Board Thickness - What on earth is 1400 microns? Thats an easy one to get straight. 1.4 millimetres 1000 microns is a millimetre. Most boards are 1250, 1300 or 1400 microns. There are also thicker boards up to 4000 microns, but the 1250 to 1400 micron range is the most suited to artists photographers and resellers, as it is not too heavy to post.
What does the mount do? Generally speaking the thicker the board, the more effective it is as a mount. This is because the mounts primary job is to space the art from the glass when it is framed later on, and protect it chemically from acid. This acid comes from lignin in the woodpulp of the board and the paper of the artwork, and UV light encourages a reaction to form acid. A good board (Acid free conservation) acts as a barrier, and also absorbs much of this harmful acid without releasing it back into the paper. This is why unprotected paper goes brown, its known as Acid Burn. Put a newspaper on a windowsill for a few days, and you'll soon see its effect!
Conservation mounts are often made from cotton rag board, not woodpulp.
So your mount protects and enhances the artwork. A bonus whether you are the buyer or the reseller!
Popular Colours if you are reselling Our most popular colours, both over the shop counter, all over the UK on our website, and from our eBay shop are
1. Textured white (antique white) and Smooth white
2. Black (used by a lot of photographers)
3. Cream/textured cream
Bottle green, textured nightshade blue and plain white are also regularly chosen. There are 100s of custom colours, but 80% of our business is in the top 3 colours, so this is worth bearing in mind if you are reselling mounted items. Cigarette, tea and trading cards are favoured in cream, bottle green or sepia. Music memorabilia, film cells and a lot of photographs go into black mounts.
Board Sizes: to help your mount cutter give you the best value, its handy to know how many mounts they can get from a board. Common full sheet sizes vary, but the three most popular for trade buyers are: 815x1125mm 815x1200mm and 815x1015mm. So, for example in any of these sizes, your mount cutter is going to get NINE 12x10 inch mounts per sheet.
The difference between hand cut and computer cut mounts. You will be surprise by the answer to this- there is no difference in quality between a computer cut mount and a good hand cut mount - providing the mount cutter who cuts your hand cut mount is good at his job. The hand/eye co-ordination required to cut a lot of mounts by hand is hard to keep up for a long period.
The computerised mount cutter will also have more waste, most computerised equipment requires clamps or a vacuum bed or some other sort of holding device to keep the board in place whilst it is cut. On most machines you will "lose" between 20 and 50mm per side of each full board. Most mount cutters with computerised equipment simply compensate for this by buying in the larger size boards in the first place, but it is a business overhead, and someone is going to pay for it, either the customer, or (hopefully) the board makers when prices are negotiated with the framers.
The end result is that you should be paying about the same for computer or hand cut mounts.
What can a computerized mount cutter do that a "manual" machine can't? Many things, for example: Debossing (embossing lettering, logos, etc) -easily and quickly cut large "arrays" (eg cigarette cards, trade cards, film cell mounts), plus lots of ennhancements to the mount such as cut-art, accents etc. Except for cigarette card and film cell mounts for most mount cutters and framers in the UK these are not a big part of the overall work.
Buying Mount Cutting Equipment to do it yourself: Aiming this mainly at the home user, photographer artist or reseller:
There are only two makes of machine worth considering in the UK (imho)- Logan or Keencut. As a professional framers we always used Keencut machines, for almost fifteen years now, because of the after sales service (we never paid for a worn out part! free replacement parts and lifetime guarantee are a good reason to stick with a manufacturer) and they will factory refurbish your used and battered bargain on eBay mount cutting machine for you for around £90 at time of writing, and arrance to collect and re-deliver it by carrier in about three days. So don't be afraid of buying one on eBay. Every framer, whether they have a computerised mount cutter or not, has a manual machine in the workshop as well.
If you want to cut circles or ovals, and are not thinking about a computerised set up, again the choice is between Keencut and Logan, or maybe Rondo. Logan do a fantastic device, more of a hand tool, the three-step mount cutter, which is ideal for occasional mounts and can be picked up new for around £35 new, although the RRP is around £80 at some outlets. Keencut's approach is a dedicated bench machine, which is quite large, £200 to £500 second hand, frequently available on eBay, which can also have a glass cutting head. Many framers will secretly admit that for the very small amount of ovals they are asked for, the logan is the best bet, as it lives in a drawer and doesn't eat up your valuable workshop space. So for the home mount cutter the choice is clear!
Hobby mount cutters can produce very good results, although you need a lot more practice and skill to produce anything near professional mount cutting quality. Overcut corners are the biggest problem, and difficult to get right on cheap machinery. But perfect if you are simply cutting mounts for a few of your own photographs or pictures. Watch out for the blade prices, if using a hobby/amateur which can be very expensive. Professionals buy them 100, 5000, 1000 or ten thousand at a time, and get anywhere from 10 to 50 mounts per blade, depending on the hardness of the board.
Slater harrison board is extremely high quality and soft to cut, we get almost double the blade life on this board compared to Arquadia or Daler board (All three boards are good quality british made, although all are slightly different).
Always use a fresh sharp blade, it goes without saying that a blunt blade will cut a poor mount. You wont notice it gradually getting worse until its so obvious that you are throwing away valuable mounts. Our computerised machines tell the operator when its time to change the blade, but this isn't a luxury the home mount cutter will have, so err on the side of caution until experience and "feel" let you know that its time for a new blade.
I started in this business 15 years ago with a second hand keencut mount cutter on my dining room table, cutting (bad) mounts for pictures from Punch magazine and reselling them! We still supply this market, and its a popular line of vintage/antique prints. Since then we have moved onwards and upwards, from dining room to market stall to retail shop, and from hand cut to fully computerised online sales (selling holes in cyberspace, as one supplier put it) but cutting mounts has always been a mainstay of our business, and by now we have probably cut literally millions of mounts. Im all up for taking it a bit easier, so Im glad to pass on any helpful hints or tips in these guides to other people starting in the business - I dont see other mount cutters as competitors or the opposition any more, there's plenty of work out there for all of us. The best tip I can give is keep your prices fair, and work out your own prices, dont base your business plan on simply undercutting "the opposition" because the chances are they are playing the same game, any monkey can make the offer "We will match or beat any price, we will undercut anyone else" and these end up being the people getting one job, making low profit on it, and not even getting a repeat order because their customer (who only came to them because they were cheap) has gone on to the latest merchant offering the cheapest price..... and someone at the bottom of the chain ends up doing the job at a loss, the likelyhood is that someone will be you, if you dont know how much you should be making in the first place.
Where to buy mount board or blank mounts to cut yourself:
In the high street: Art shops frequently sell "half sheets" of mountboard, more often than not Daler who cater for this retail market. But you should try your local picture framer first- chances are you'll get something useful for free- as far from seeing the home mount cutter as the opposition or competition, you may well be doing them a favour by taking away their offcuts. (look at it this way, I spent two thousand pounds one year disposing of mountboard offcuts, and despite paying extra to take away board for "recycling", I wouln't put money on some if not all it not ending up in landfill) I couldn't GIVE it away -oh yes, plenty of people and organisations and schools said they'd have all we could give them, but only if we could deliver it! Yeah, right. So I sell offcut mount board in £1 and £2 bundles, and people take it away, use it to cut mounts from, and everyone gets a good deal. Your local picture framing wholesaler: everyone has to start somewhere, I started ordering one or two sheets of board at a time from a wholeesaler, and he delivered them on a van, a 150 mile round trip. I still use that whoesaler today, and most years I give him 50,000 great british pounds of business. If your wholesaler wont deal with the small guy, then find one who will, google, thompsons pages etc. Do NOT rummage in your local picture framers bin when you think they have gone home. You'd be surprised at the antics we have seen on our CCTV. Best bet is just to ask, politely, if they have and waste they would like you to help them out with. They can only, politely, say no. The likelyhood is they'll say yes, and ask you want some frame moulding and glass offcuts as well. ;) And of course, look on eBay.
Suppliers for mount board sheets :
South west: Try Venton-Enterprises (Arquadia, Colourmount, Daler, Bainbridge) or Wessex Picures (Arquadia, Crescent, Bainbridge etc). Both of these suppliers are always highly recommended by all their customers, and deliver to you with a weekly van delivery service. (no delivery charges to pay)
North of England and national delivery try Lion Picture Framing.
Notes For Resellers- Selling mounts and mounted items online:
The secret of selling mounts: The most reliable customers want the most reliable suppliers- Customers mostly want reliability and prompt delivery- not always the cheapest price. We learnt this a long time ago when we found ourselves selling single mounts by post to a large insurance company in london. Turns out the buyer simply found it far more convenient to "click and buy" than go down 15 floors, trudge half a mile through london to a picture framers, place his order, trudge back, then repeat the whole process next week to pick up the mounts. Of course if your customer does want the cheapest possible price, and you can accommodate and still make a living, then go for it. But you have to know where to draw the line, there is no profit or future in working at a loss.
(Guide Copyright Moonshine Framing (tm) , Penzance 2006-13)