magnesium plates


I’ve been printing with photo-poly, but decided to try magnesium to see if I could get crisp prints, deeply debossed, easier. To my surprise, the mag seems to be WAY more fussy with the make ready than photo poly, and didn’t, in the end, give me a better print. I’m not sure why this would be, unless there is that much difference between height of letters, or maybe the mounting, of the mag. (I’ve printed mag, photo poly and type on the same press). Has anyone else had this experience???


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How did you mount the magnesium plate?

mag is my choice over poly. i buy my mag 1/4” thick and have them shipped unmounted then i mount them on my regular wood furniture with double sided tape, then tape 2 pieces of chipboard under the furniture and you are type high. i find that the wood used today for mounting dies is not very good and had problems getting good prints. most of my work is done with ludlow type, i can mount mag dies and print them with the type easily. I find it the other way around, that the poly dies are way more fussy than the mag. I have printed mag, poly and type in the same chase not easily but it can be done.

This question (about poly vs. mag) has come up several times. (Search in past discussion). It seems to be a sensitive topic. People have strong opinions about it.

I have printed using both (poly on boxcar). Now I just use mag because it can produce very fine lines (far better than poly). I agree with dickg, poly is fussier and does not last long. But this is my personal experience.

But, I have had mag plates that came out so bad, that I had to send it back to the shop.

Hi lesbois,

If you’ve mounted them on wood, then that could be the problem. You should look into investing in a honeycomb base. They show up occasionally on eBay. However, the problem with both poly and honeycomb is that it’s hard to mix them with handset type. Honeycomb’s a little easier since it comes in L-shaped pieces.


To answer typenut’s question, I got the mag from a place called Owosso Graphics, and they mounted it on wood for me. It was 16 g mag. I’m guessing that the mounting was the problem. I will try the 1/4” thick on furniture method and see how that goes. However, in the meantime, I have a boxcar base, could I just mount it on that instead of the honeycomb? What do you use to adhere that, Barabara?

Thank you,


MDF Board has less warp than real wood,Freeman supply has a true pine for mould making (cast stuff), pricey, but straight and soft wood !

Magplate can require some make ready, polyplate requires perfect roller setup.

Hello Jennifer,

Here are some prior Briar Press discussions that touch on the subject at hand:

As long as your base, adhesive, and plate add up to a firm, even 0.918”, you will have a surface that prints properly.

The honeycomb bases come in several heights, depending on the thickness of the plate to be used on them. The plates are attached to the base with toggle pins, which come in various sizes. NA Graphics carries these:

You can also have a look at the Sterling site:

The honeycomb bases that I have are cut into small L-shaped sections that you can gang together to make various sizes and shapes. I got them on eBay and haven’t seen them elsewhere. Perhaps someone else knows where to get them.


Jennifer, the thinner mag dies i mount on regular slugs, you have to make the slugs a little bigger than the die, then i use double sided tape and tape a 6 point slug flat on top of the other slugs, then tape the mag die on that and you have type high. i buy all my dies from Owosso and have never had a problem with them, it doesn’t hurt that the service is great and the price is good also.

Just thought I should mention that some honeycomb base has shown up on eBay:

Edit: Sometimes you can find the toggle pins very cheap at printers’ fairs or wayzgooses.


Honeycomb base is an integral part of foiling kit so i would think to talk to a hot foiler as to where you may aquire these days !

Thank you for all your help!

Just as a side note to this subject…we usually store our mag dies coated with petroleum jelly. It protects them from pitting.

dickg, what tape do you use to mount your dies?


I have 11 point magnesium plates on my Hohner Hobo press right now. Four L-shaped pieces of patent honeycomb base (0.760 inch), just as Barb described, are locked up in the chase. The plates (the Black plate shown here) are attached with #2 and #1 toggle hooks and precisely positioned by the choice of hook. The toggles hook with the beveled edges of the plate. There is a mylar interlay between the plate and the base to bring the plate up to type-high. Using this method makes it possible to easily finetune the registration of three colours for this job. Not visible in the photo are the modified gauge pins attached to the platen with two-sided tape. I reshaped the gauge pins to remove .045 inch so they fit in the gap without being crushed by the base. The plates are by Matrimax of Laval, Quebec.
- Pierre Ranger, Atelier Locomotive Letterpress

image: Patent Base in press bed_IMG_5618.jpg

Patent Base in press bed_IMG_5618.jpg

Kim, someone gave me a bunch of tape, it is like a thin layer of rubber cement, i cut my dies to fit the furniture then use slugs around the furniture which are higher than the furniture and help keep the die from moving at all, then i use masking tape around the edge and this keeps it in place very well. almost any thin double sided tape should work, you need to use clean furniture, if its too inky the tape don’t want to stick to it and it must be the same height if using multiple pieces. This works for the 1/4” mag dies, i have even used this in the same lock up with type.


Some more honeycomb has appeared on eBay:

The same seller sold the last lot for $31.25, a very good price.