Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Questions on Custom Plates for Letterpress

I've had these two questions on my blog recently about custom letterpress dies:

Why did you decide to use plates instead of handsetting the type? I was given some type when I bought my Pilot press but I am thinking of trying out the plates. It definitely seems like the easier way to get more font choices. Plus no dropped trays. (my biggest nightmare/fear)

What kind of die cuts are those? They don't look photopolymer. Do you have good success with them?

To answer these questions, first, let me address handsetting type. I don't generally handset type because, first and foremost, I don't have a lot of room to keep a wide variety of type in different sizes and fonts. Secondly, it costs a lot of money to amass the collection of type that I would want to do the things I do right now. Third, it would take forever to set and reset type on the whim of my clients. Fourth, it's a lot easier to have a custom plate made. Fifth, there are some designs that I use and that I create that are not available, so I need to make custom plates for those. Sixth, setting type is a labor of love, and while I like to do it, I would do it only for personal projects because of the time and effort it takes to handset type.

Platemaking is fairly inexpensive, although in the long run you do pay for the convenience. With type, it's a one time charge per font face and size. But I get exactly the layout and type I want, I can send electronic proofs for clients to look at and revise before I get started, and once it's done, I have the option of giving the plates to my clients for safekeeping in case I run out of room.

I don't use photopolymer plates. When I first looked into them, I didn't quite understand them (still don't, really, although I hear they are easy) and the base and photopolymer plates seemed more expensive than what I was already using. Although photopolymer plates are easier to store and you can cut them up and reset them in any number of combinations, I have heard that the impressions aren't as good as with metal plates and they degrade much faster than their metal counterparts.

I use 16 gauge magnesium plates mounted type-high on wood from Owosso Graphic Arts (see their link in the sidebar on the right). They have a same day turnaround, and through Priority Mail, I usually get the plates 3 or 4 days after I send them the digital file. I've been very happy with Owosso's service and pricing, and, as the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

1 comment:

kristin said...

ohhh ! i can't wait to try using owosso. when i tried to use them before, they were revamping some stuff so i decided to use a photopolymer place and haven't been super pleased with the results. they are fine, but sort of stinky with the details (at least they have been for me).

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