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A dry-mount press is a luxury for a home darkroom. Due to its inherent size, weight and space requirements, a dedicated work area is recommended. Some presses require high amperage; most dry-mount presses, especially the larger, more heavy-duty units, require their own dedicated power line. If these considerations can be dealt with, a dry-mount press can make print finishing a smooth experience. Dry mounting is the most sure and reliable way to secure a print to a piece of mat board.
However, the adhesive in dry-mount tissue can leech acids into the print and over time can cause color shift and yellowing. There are other methods for mounting, such as cold mounting, using spray adhesives. For archival permanence, acid-free corners attached to the mounting board, with a beveled mat overlay, are preferable for permanence. But for quick, secure mounting when permanence is not an issue, dry mounting is a very convenient way to mount prints for display.
A dry-mount press is a large metal sandwich into which the print and board are placed. The platen contains a heating element that seals the print to the board with a sheet of dry-mount tissue that melts between the print and board when the platen is closed and gross pressure/heat is applied. To some people, a dry-mount press resembles something akin to what you see a dry cleaner use, only it provides dry heat rather than steam. Dry-mount presses are a great way to flatten curled prints, between two like-sized pieces of mat board; they are not only used for mounting but for pre-flattening mat board as well as the prints themselves. They are also used for laminating, which is a process by which a thin sheet of clear plastic is sealed over an image for preservation purposes.
Mat Cutters and Trimmers
There are times when a good pair of scissors is just not good enough. If you are printing and run out of small-sized paper, a good trimmer will allow you to cut larger paper precisely into the smaller size required. Trimmers are also useful in print finishing, trimming excess borders and fine-tuning prints. Remember that print finishing is an art in itself. Galleries and framers charge a pretty penny for mat cutting and turning your print into a completed work of art, ready for wall mounting.
Rotary trimmers are the best way to go. Buy one that is larger than you think you'll need. If you buy a small one and suddenly need to cut something larger, you don't want to be in the position of having to buy a second trimmer. Just like a good light meter, a trimmer is something you want to buy once and forget about. A rotary trimmer, quite simply, is a cutting blade mounted on a rail. You place your print under the guide rail and drag the blade along its path. Every cut will be clean, crisp and neat. There are small, inexpensive trimmers and then there are higher-end professional ones.
Pay attention to the durability, construction and size of the baseboard. Like easels, chances are that a trimmer is going to get pushed around, stored somewhere, dragged out, thrown back under a shelf or the like. Make sure to get an extra supply of blades. A dull blade, just like a man's razor, will cut unevenly or snag.
“Guillotine” cutters are the kind of cutters that we all used in school. They consist of a blade mounted on a pivoting arm that goes up and down with a stroke of your arm. Guillotine cutters, although cheaper, are not as reliable as rotary cutters. They are good for blunt cuts but not fine trimming. Rotary trimmers maintain sharpness and alignment much more efficiently.
If you are doing the print finishing yourself, a mat cutter is indispensable. Mat cutters assure straight lines and smooth, even bevels. Like trimmers, mat cutters come in many different styles. Simple ones fit comfortably in your hand and need to be carefully guided along a straight-edged ruler. Fancier ones are much larger—table models that come with horizontal and vertical guide rails, measuring guides and bevel guides. They are literally one-pass cutters, as opposed to hand cutters that require slower, more deliberate attention and multiple passes.