Boxcar/Photopolymer base in Europe

I am in need of a photopolymer base for my Asbern AD-1 proof press to use with the Boxcar standard plates (94FL). I am currently using a make-shift base using some metal furniture but need a better long term solution.

The problem is that I am located in the Netherlands and also that Boxcar is all out of stock for the majority of their bases anyway. I’ve gotten some advise through a Dutch printing community here and most people are suggesting that I get a piece of hard wood at the thickness and size I need. However, I have done some tests with wood and feel like the surface is not as smooth as metal and that there can be some warping (I had quite a few inking problems with the wood).

Does anyone know where I might be able to get something the equivalent to a Boxcar or Elum base in Europe? I also don’t want to order from Boxcar as I would surely be slapped with some customs fees.

Many thanks for any advice!

Log in to reply   6 replies so far

I’m only just starting in letterpress printing myself but I’ve been around woodworking all my life so I may be able to give you some useful information. Wood could work well for a base, I’d think, as long as you use the right kind and have it milled to the right shape. You’ll want something heavy, dense and very tight-grained. Lignum vitae, Hickory or similar would probably be best. These are very dimensionally stable through different temperatures and humidities and very durable. Other dense, straight, heavy hardwoods such as Black Walnut, Cherry or Hard Maple would also probably work. Generally speaking, these are not going to be cheap, but probably still far less expensive than the Boxcar base. Get a 1” to 1.25” thick board large enough to make the base you need and take it to someone who can mill it to the extremely fine tolerances necessary and you should have a base that will work very well. Oil it with something like boiled linseed oil or tung oil to protect the surface without adding thickness. I don’t honestly know how easy it is to find fine hardwoods or custom mill-work companies in the Netherlands, so I don’t know whether this will be much help to you, but I hope it gives you a starting place.

Oh, one thing I forgot to mention. If possible, try to find air-dried wood rather than kiln-dried. Air-dried means it was left out in the open air for several years to slowly dry and stabilize. This is the traditional method of curing cut wood until it’s ready to become lumber. It’s slow, boring and expensive, but it yields material that is the most dimensionally stable. Kiln-drying means they take the wood and bake it for days in giant ovens to dry it much more quickly. This works fine for most uses but does leave the wood somewhat more prone to shrinking, swelling and warping. Normally, this isn’t a great issue, but with something as precise as type height, it could make a difference.

Thanks for the suggestions! I was actually hoping NOT to have to make my own base, but it seems like no one sells any ready-made bases here in Europe so will perhaps have to go that route. I was a bit hesitant to make my own base as they don’t have the same kinds of goods here and no clue where to find someone who can mill the material to the exact precision that I need. But perhaps I have to do more research since no one makes or sells them here.

Thanks again for the tips!

In a pinch you could find a scrap of 19mm Baltic birch cabinet-grade plywood and shim it to the correct height with high-density mounting board. That could also be a good solution if you decide to switch to the deep-relief photopolymer, since you could just remove some shim.


I might have a spare base, and I live in the UK. Would quite happily swap it for your Asbern. Should we use the postal system to accomplish this? ;)

Seriously - message me off board and I’ll see what I can do.