Having some ideas here…

Have you guys ever toyed with the idea of making shapes and such out of wood? I would like to letterpress on more of a hobby basis, maybe sell posters, but I can’t afford to make plates for every design I come up with. But I can afford to laser cut wood shapes for letterpress. Has anyone done this? I would love to know! I would probably have some way of raising the shapes from the surface of the piece they were cut from, maybe by cutting 2 of every shape, out of 2 differen’t thicknesses of wood (1/4 and 1/8 for ex.) then putting the 1/8th inch piece under the 1/4 inch piece to raise it. Just ideas!


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There’s a guy on kickstarter trying to start something along the lines of what you are talking about:


Oh man…. I gotta be a little cynical: For the price of a lasercutter, one could buy a set of tools for hand carving and pay themselves by the hour to create the kind of rudimentary illustrations he seems to be interested in producing, and learn a lot more about the craft, get their hands dirtier, and be less of an “armchair wizard”.

I’m all for laser cutters, robotic enhancements, and all kinds of wonderful technological feats- when the endgame calls for it- but that sorta seems silly.

(I meant the fella on kickstarter).

Also you can do a HELL of a lot with a bandsaw, a router, a dremel, and a set of gouges guys. Cmon. Just cause LASERS are involved………… doesn’t make it good.

The important thing to justify if you’re going to go to the trouble and expense of getting a laser system probably involves the kind of work you’ll be producing with it.

Bryan Baker has done some interesting work with type high cut wooden shapes. Here’s a nice example he printed while working at Yee Haw.

In this print the blocks were printed twice, but were rotated 180 degrees for the second lockup. It resulted in a very nice overlap and a midtone.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

I haven’t done this (yet) but I have used an number of die cut 1/8” or so thick wooden letters and shapes sold at craft stores. They work quite well, but the grain of the wood is very evident in the prints unless you seal the wood thoroughly. I used polyurethane, but shellac may work better.

Great responses, there’s really a treasure trove of information from you guys that you can’t find from google. The only thing making me shy away from carving my characters, is that type high wood isn’t cheap at all, and I know a local laser cutter that charges pretty cheap. I really want to make some really organic fonts, hand drawn, script looking. About 2” tall. I just want to find the best method. I would really like to hand draw, hand cut, all that. Anyone can make fonts on the computer.

So carve on thinner wood, laminate it the same way you were describing. Cheap Shina plywood or whatever you can find, laminated with contact cement, sanded edges, properly sealed with shellac.

The traditional ways to carve and print your own stuff is to make either wood cuts or wood engravings. Despite the name, people often use synthetic materials, linoleum for wood cuts and Resingrave for wood engravings. Resingrave costs money, but linoleum is almost free.

Google ‘em up! Both are very practical and have long and interesting histories.


Also there is Sintra- a sign printing material that is a white plastic and carves pretty easily with hand-tools, cuts even more easily on a bandsaw/powertools.

That sounds pretty interesting, is it like foamcore? I’m interested.

Sintra is foamed PVC plastic, pretty rigid, with a smooth (though maybe not completely ripple-free) surface two sides, available in many thicknesses. It’s used a lot by sign shops and you might be able to get a few scraps from such a shop to experiment on. There are a couple of other brands of the same material also. It’s available in many colors — white might be the best for woodcut work since you could blacken the surface and then the white cuts would show clearly.


Cool thanks, i’ll have to look into that!


Burtis….. I’d recommend that you do a search here at Briar Press…. since we’ve discussed this topic at length.

A year or two ago, I posted a lengthy artlcle about laser cutting wood blocks, and it generated a lot of good ideas.

In my shop, we use wood almost exclusively… for both hand-cut and laser cut blocks…. and it works like a charm. We’ve got a 40w machine, and have no difficulty cutting to the correct depth with it.

We don’t fool around with plastics at all. We tried it early on in our experiments, but found that hardwoods produce cleaner, longer lasting blocks…. and they don’t stick when lasered. PLUS we were already making our own woodblocks for hand-carving, so it was an easy transition.

there was also this previous thread here http://www.briarpress.org/15868 (which I sent to the guy behind the Kickstarter project Dan mentioned)

Ag Bullet….. that is a brilliant topic you’ve mentioned. It’s the one that set the standard for cuting wood blocks. ;)