Letterpress as a die-cutter

Hi Friends,

I’m looking for advice what kind of letter press would suite me well for die cutting. I won’t print on the press at all, only die cut & crease, 16pt cover stock, 13”x19” sheet size, very very short runs (10-25 copies). Looking for something as small as it gets (to fit my size), very low-tech, very low speed, not too dangerous and intimidating, hopefully - not even powered. And to be able to produce very accurate registration since the die cut stuff will be pre-printed first.

Thanks a ton all!

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There will be nothing small simple or quick to solve your issues—leastwise in the traditional equipment categories. If the creasing and die-cutting involves just the front panel (say as report covers) you might get by with a 10 x 15, but if full flat sheet conversion is necessary, you’re looking at a 14 x 22 platen or a small cylinder press (Miehle Vertical or Heidelberg K series cylinder letterpress).

If the die-cut work is always the same form, a 14 x 22 would be easier set up and left set up for the occasional run. If the form is continually changing, you will need to develop greater die-cutting skills or find a vendor who can do the work for you.

There are presses designed just for die-cutting on the market. But since it is still a very important and competitive aspect of the industry the equipment is in demand. I suggest that you might wish to contact companies that specialize in die-cutting, and search for your equipment within that market. C&P presses were not really designed for only die-cuts, and sheet-fed cylinders take some training and knowledge to operate well. A hand-fed Thompson sounds like a good machine for your needs, but as for availability you should not be talking to a group of mostly hobby printers.

Something like this might be excellent for your short-run needs: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Tippmann-Clicker-CL-Air-Powered-Die-Cut-Machine-15-ton-/111435759839?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item19f216c0df

thanks. that’s what I was afraid of

I’ve had my hands on a clicker (trade show demo), it seems a good machine.

Yep, look for a used Tipman Clicker. http://tippmannclicker.com/
What you want is short run enough that it seems you could devise a register system from scratch, compatible with whatever you’re already printing to the sheet.
You can get all kinds of material to usurp makeready that would be compatible with one of these but couldn’t easily be used on a traditional platen or cylinder press with rigid bed vs platen/cylinder on both sides, like really thin urethane or even just a few sheets of pressboard. If you’re doing a small run of 12-25 pieces it’s more of a hand-load, hand-unload thing so you won’t even have to nick the die- you can weed the stock as it goes.

As far as creasing goes, you could set it up with posts at the corners to keep the platen from closing all the way no matter what and use creasing matrice in a similar fashion to a letterpress. Just devise a method.

You’d need a compressor for some units to power them, but it’s really simple to have one work for you and a cheap compressor will even do the job at the rate you’d be working (though a little loud).

Ah, the larger size they make actually looks to be too small for your sheet size.

What are you making? How are you printing it?

the plan is to make custom printed on-demand packaging. Print on 13x19, die cut / crease and make small custom printed boxes.

what about something like this? http://vimeo.com/14498902

It will probably not be economical to set up a die cutting press for just a few pieces on-demand.

It would make more sense to standardize your packaging shapes and work with a die cutting shop to create pre-cut blanks with sufficient nicks that will allow the piece to stay intact through the printing process. This way you can order your blanks by the thousand to reduce the per-piece cost.

The fun part is actually doing it

Oh! Of course. “On-demand” to me implied some kind of a business purpose. I thought you were trying to make money at it.

The image size, and in turn the die size you propose will be too big for a Heidelberg Windmill. If you wish to use a letterpress, then you will be looking for a larger cylinder press. If your stock is thick, you will be looking for a rather large cylinder, as smaller cylinders can easily handle cover stock, but box board might be too much for it. That is why I recommended a platen-style die-cutting machine, which takes a variety of stock, and a sizable sheet.

image: MrNatural.JPG


Thank you guys for advice

Ryan, your suggestion makes lot of sense actually, thanks. Ordering a bunch of precut sheets and print makes most sense. And you are right the goal is to make money at it but I don’t want to give away the hands on fun part. But it seems like the best solution for there I’m now. Thanks.