Cheap Platemaker?

I’m starting up a smaller Letterpress printing company in Sweden, and I’m looking for an cheap way to make the plates. I stumbled on the following:

Do you think this will be okay? Will the quality be sufficient to make a high quality product? or is the Boxcar Platemaker or similar machine far better?

I guess there is a risk that the machine doesn’t keep the light out properly because there isn’t any “vacuum thingy” to develop the plates.

Lots of questions! and I would be very grateful if anyone who has experience with something like this could help me. Initially, I would prefer not spend too much money on an expensive plate maker, like Boxcar or Itek, even though it would be better in the long run.

Best regards
Johnnes, Sweden

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Do you have a budget in mind? I would recommend a used JET or Anderson Vreeland orbital. I don’t believe boxcar makes a platemaker but they might sell new models. I personally would avoid that one on eBay. It looks like it would cause more problems than it solves. An all in one unit would be ideal if you can afford it.


Thanks for your reply.
There is no budget and it’s mostly that I do not know if the company will make a profit or not so it may be foolish to put too much money, however, I can invest around $ 3000-4000 if it is really necessary.

But as I said I would be happy to get out of paying that kind money. Sadly, It’s hard to find used machines here in Sweden.

Check out Caslon in the UK, they sell the equipment that you’re looking for, or look at the German representative of Caslon:

These guys seem to be manufacturing units identical to Caslon’s:

Thanks for all the replies.
Is there anyone who can give me a hint on the quality of the plates between the cheaper models without vacuum and the more expensive ones with the vacuum solution? I guess you get what you pay for. But it is still interesting to discuss the differences between the two types of machines and if it is possible to produce high quality products with a plate from a cheaper machine.

If someone is sitting on a used plate maker please contact me.

I love letterpress!

Some people have had good success with use of the large clear vinyl vacuum packing bags for compacting clothing for travel and storage. They are nice and clear and have a fixture on one side that allows pulling a pretty strong vacuum using a good vacuum cleaner. They’re available in a number of sizes. You just have to be careful to smooth out the wrinkles over and behind the copy. They’re available at most general merchandise stores in the US like WalMart etc, and should also be available where you are. If I remember right they work best for this purpose with a piece of fibreglas window screening behind the copy to facilitate air removal.


Interesting, worth a try. As long as the plastic on the vacuum bag is clear enough not to create variations in the exposure. Thanks for the tip!

Another thing I wonder about is whether it is possible to produce good photopolymer plates with an exposure box that you use in screen printing? These usually are able to come across relatively cheap.
Vacuum suction and 1500 watt lamps are common in these machines. It should not be that difficult to re-design the equipment to suit the purpose of letterpress production.

Johannes, re your needs, the threads in general, seem to be hovering around the the Scenario that was quite the normal many years ago.
Vacuum frames, Print Down Frames, U.V. Exposure units, (of the shelf!!) were costing many times the quoted price(s) of now.??
Hence, when the dyed in the wool, L/Press boys were getting into Miraclon, Water soluable, forerunner of P/P etc we made our own.!!!
Simple box cabinet, any size to suit, rubber sheet as used for diaphragm(s) from/for vacuum pumps, hence excellent for the use!! 1/2” return on all 4 edges, to seal!!!. . One spiggot, at centre facing down to pick up vacuum supply, we invariably used, combined Vacuum/Pressure pump from redundant small litho M/C,s i.e. Multilith, Gestelith, Hamada, etc etc, 1/4” Plate glass screen, 4 bevelled edge(s) of course, (protection)?
Any size, number, intensity, etc U.V. lamps from ordinary high street suppliers,
Hood for lamps from small guage hardwood frame covered under with litho plate, preferably New, Clean, Unexposed but not critical.!!
In the absence of wired in time clock, (non availability) common or garden kitchen *type* time clock, accurate down to one second for exposure time(s) ???
Not rocket science then, and probably repeatable NOW unless there is shed loads of money to spend, especially if it may result in an abandoned excercise.
We could usually keep under, £25 sterling, equivalent to approx $42-$44?? Apologies, and/or good luck.

you might be better purchasing this machine as Natalis in Belgium would crate it up and export it, these are old machines though, but often they have more stock eg check out the suitability of these

ads. occaisionally come up in drukwerkindemarge web site too if you can navigate around their new website I can’t vraag & aanbod

you will find better choices here

good luck,

I use a second-hand BASF CW 22x30, photopolymer machine, that combines (stacked from top to bottom) washing-out unit, ultra-violet exposure unit and drying unit. Compact and easy to use. I got my plates through JetEurope in the Netherlands (

Thanks for all the replies. There are many options and so far nothing bought. It’s a bit of jungle out there with all the solutions. I guess it is best to wait for the right second hand machine instead of buying a new one, even though it could take some time. But one fine day, a large packet will wait for me at the post office.