Is it too hot? Foil Stamping.

I have two hot stamping machines, a Kingsley and a Robotemp. I found my Kingsley in an antique store and it was like finding treasure! I purchased the Robotemp from a man who used to print with it. Both machines still work, but I am having trouble with the foil release. It is as if I am getting the machines either too hot or not hot enough for it to release the way it should. And I can get it to the right point occasionally, but it won’t stay there consecutively. It ends up leaving an impression with foil dabbled around the edges of it. I feel it is definitely something I am doing incorrectly and haven’t got the slighted clue how to fix! It has caused a lot of waste and I am looking to print on linen books in the future and do not want to mess them up.

Any help is greatly appreciated!!

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We have a small desktop foil unit very similar to a Kingsley that we have been running some experiments with. Here is some advice that I have received from the vendors we send real foil work out too.

Foil differs from letterpress in a lot of ways, but the two additional variables of heat and time add to the complexity of the printing process. Do your best to track down the temperature range of your foil. Different foils activate at different temperature ranges, and from roll to roll, and from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some have large tolerances, and some are within the 15 or 20 degree (F) ranges. I’ve had good luck with foil from, which sells very small quantities of foil, perfect for little desktop machines, and have good documentation of temperature ranges.

The second thing is getting your impression setting correct. This is a combination of pressure, time, and a little bit of heat. If you can get a consistent heat, then you need to find a way to limit the pressure of the machine. Our unit has a dead stop, in that I can only pull the lever so far before it stops, This way I can limit myself to a maximum pressure, essentially setting a standard pressure when printing.

Time is the hardest to control on a manual unit, and in my experience, the limiting factor in making an edition of uniform impressions. Your are driving hot metal into a metallic foil, and that heat with diffuse outward from the form, and cause “flashing” those little bits of foil that climb up the walls of an impression. If you can set a consistent impression strength, then only time is left up to muscle memory. Our unit seems to do well if we mimic the time a typical platen press stays closed, about 3/4 of a second. Its a lot of experimentation, and muscle memory, but we have had success running a few hundred through it with minimal loss.

The last thing, which is something that is harder to get access to, is type and dies that have either “deep etch” or extreme draft angles. We recently picked up from zinc type with a really severe angle from the printing face to the body which has been printing better than some of the copper type and dies we have in the shop. I think the idea here is that there is less of a surface to transfer heat to where it shouldn’t go.

A great reply from Bowne. I would suggest getting something for measuring the temperature and then compare to the temp requirements from your foil manufacturer. I would guess you are setting too high and as the machine heats up it goes past the appropriate threshold for the your foil.

We have one of these simple handheld infrared surface temperature thermometers that lives beside our foil stamp press and have found it to be useful. Once you know where the dial should be set so that it stabilizes at a useful temperature you won’t find yourself fiddling around with it as much.


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To add to Bowne’s comments, i agree, the 3 most important issues are heat, pressure, and time.(die image, stock, ambient conditions,foil type, etc, are all secondary, albethey important)
you most likely will want a die face temp of between 175F-245F. the biggest variable here with these hand operated presses is your “dwell” time. the time you have the press closed on the piece.
Most foils now days do not required a very long time on impression. it will seem rather quick when doing it by hand. timing this can be done with a “quick count” in your head is easiest. but a simple timer on a cell fone can help with consistency.more elaborate would be a switch activated timer on the press itself. the time required is in the realm of a half second. so as you can see, to go to a full second, you have doubled the time. this may not seem like much but in the world of foil, it is forever.
If you don’t know what foil you are using, it may be best to throw it out. it may not be made for your application, thus won’t work no matter what you do, thus you wasting a BUNCH of time on it.
General Roll Leaf specializes in small qty’s of foil. they represent all of the major manufacturers. they also offer a nice variety of colors, and workabilities. Brenda there is very nice and helpful. foil, is not that expensive, wasting your time on stuff that won’t work, is.
Just remember, foil is foil. it is not comes in the colors it comes in. it is imperative that your customer understand, “This is what is available, NO, they don’t have it a little more…..redder, golder, bluer, darker, ETC,”. The major manufacturers are all going to minimums this last year or 2 so, General is a good option.they will offer sample rolls with free shipping.. 6inches wide x 50-100ft long is normal. just make sure to BUY something from them once in awhile.

Thank you all SO very much for your advice and for sharing your wisdom with me. I look forward to putting all of this into practice! I appreciate you all so much.