The concept of a V-groove is easy enough to comprehend. When you cut two facing bevels they form a V-shaped channel that can be used as an accent to surround the mat’s window. The challenge comes in cutting them. Specifically, in mitering the corners.
Inexpensive tools for free-hand cutting of V-grooves can be demonstrated to great effect. The demonstrator makes a couple of quick scrolls or flares in the mat and the observer oohs and ahs. It’s only after the observer has bought the tool and taken it home that he realizes he has no idea how to make a proper right-angle corner with it.
That’s because most free-hand V-groove cutters don’t easily make proper right-angle corners; they are designed primarily for cutting scrolls and flares which, while interesting, is not how most V-grooves are implemented in the mat. Most professional V-grooves surround the mat’s window. If the window is a rectangle, the V-groove is also a rectangle. That means you must turn the corner.
Logan’s higher quality V-groove cutters Models 703, 705 or 706 will cut proper right angle corners. That’s why they’re worth the extra money you pay for them. But unless you approach them properly you may become frustrated.
The trick is to turn the corner without over-cutting or under-cutting. If you over-cut, your V-groove will show incisions that pass beyond the V-groove into the face of the mat. If you under-cut, the V-shaped strips of paper will not fall out to reveal the V-groove; they will hang up in the corners. Over-cutting and under-cutting is common at first.
This inaccuracy stems from the fact that the Models 703 and 705 V-groove cutters are accessories designed to work on existing mat cutters. The mat cutters are manufactured with scales for measuring. The V-groove cutters also include scales for measuring. All these scales have to work together. However, the two tools were not manufactured together. So when you combine your V-groove cutter with your mat cutter, the scales may not be perfectly calibrated to each other.
Unfortunately, most people dive right in, tackling their first mat before they have attempted to recalibrate their V-groove cutter to make sure it works properly with their mat cutter. The result is almost always a poor result.
If you don’t realize that recalibration is necessary, you may struggle along, mat after mat, and never get a proper right-angle corner.
To achieve satisfying results with a Model 703 or 705 V-groove cutter, you must cut a test mat to discover the degree and location of the recalibration.
First, be sure your mat is square. In other words, make sure the overall mat has been cut at proper right angles. Do this by placing the mat against the mat guide and the squaring arm. The mat should be pressed up firmly against both abutments with no rocking or gapping. V-grooving is very sensitive to squareness. If the mat is out of square, the result will be a V-groove that starts wide and tapers narrow.
Follow the instructions carefully. There is little obvious about how to operate the tool. If you try to operate it without reading the instructions, it’s unlikely you will succeed.
Set the stops in accordance with the instructions. Make a test cut. Turn the mat a quarter turn clockwise and make a second cut. Then stop and inspect the results. What you are looking for are the degree and locations of over-cuts or under-cuts. One of four different scenarios may apply.
If you see an over-cut extending from the corner, running out past the end of the vertical cut, this is an over-cut occurring at the end of the cut and can be remedied by moving the top stop up by the degree of the overcut. In effect, making the mat’s border wider by that amount. If, say, the amount is 1/16” you are said to be recalibrating by 1/16” wider.
If you see the vertical cut stopping short of connecting through the horizontal cut and preventing the V-shaped strip of paper from detaching in the corner, this is occurring at the end of the cut and can be remedied by moving the top stop back by the degree of the overcut. In effect, making the mat’s border narrower by that amount. In this case you would be recalibrating 1/16” narrower.
If you see an over-cut extending from the left end of the horizontal cut, this is an over-cut at the beginning of the cut and can be remedied by moving the bottom stop up by the degree of the over-cut.
If you see the horizontal cut stopping short of connecting through the vertical cut, this is an under-cut at the beginning of the cut and can be remedied by moving the bottom stop back by the degree of the under-cut.
You may see only one of these scenarios or any combination of them. The good news is that once you have figured it out and recalibrated to eliminate the over-cuts and under-cuts, this same adjustment will hold true for any mat you cut regardless of size, thickness or type. You don’t have to figure it out again each time. Just make a note of the necessary recalibrations and keep it with your tool for next time.
The two blades are cleverly offset from each other to cut a perfect miter once you get the calibration right. However, most users never take the time to figure out and note the necessary recalibrations that result from the marriage of their particular V-groove cutter with their particular mat cutter.
Once you have taken the time to do this, cutting excellent V-grooves will come easy and you will get the most out of your V-groove cutter.