polymer plates in the uk

hi all
I’m currently refurbishing an sp-15 with a view to printing from polymer plates. Does anyone know of any bureaux in the uk? I assume I will also need some kind of back plate to raise the polmer to type high - any suppliers of these over here?

john christopher

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Yes, there are a number of UK sources for photopolymer plates as well as magnetic bases. We have some of them listed in the resources section of PPLetterpress


but, they are getting a bit old and haven’t been updated so I’d suggest a Google search. Search for “polymer” and you will not get what you need. The correct term is photopolymer and best searched as “photopolymer plates”. And it would not be a back plate it would be a flatbase. Combine photopolymer and base or photopolymer and “magnetic base.” Add UK and that should get you the available sources.


Thank you gerald - it looks like I’ll have to trawl through google for information, it’s seems like the US is way ahead of the UK regarding letterpress and polymer.
Whilst I’m on the subject, is there a standard thickness for polymer plates and similarly a standard thickness for the magnetic bases; for example are the boxcar bases and the Bunting bases the same height?

thanks again

Hehe gerald - I think I need to read “Printing Digital Type on the Flatbed Cylinder Press” don’t you - I guess you’re the guy to buy it off - can I order it on your website?


I did check and both Bruder Neumeister and Koch + Beck (German manufacturers, I think) make a magnetic base and have distributors in the UK. I don’t know the configuration of their bases though. Another manufacturer is T. D. Wright but I think they might not have an outlet in the UK. Neither does Bunting as far as I know (but they do ship to the UK).

Bunting grinds to your specifications. Type height minus the thickness of your specified plate. The Patmag is made to accept a plate at .060 but thinner plates are often used with underlay. The Boxcar base is made in two thicknesses, one to accept a plate at .037-.038 and another for .059-.060 inch plates (?).

Yes, PDT is available direct. It is also distributed by Boxcar Press and Arundel Books (Amazon).


Thanks again for your assistance Gerald - unless i’m very much mistaken it seems over here photopolymer plates are categorised under flexography rather than letterpress - I think I have found some suppliers….



A short while back I came across some industry documents regarding the campaign to use photopolymer for letterpress. This was, interestingly enough, an attempt to save it against the wholesale transition to offset printing. It was termed dry offset at the time (and it is sometimes still called that). Photopolymer has been around for quite some long time (near half a century). That failed but photopolymer found its use in flexography.

It is only relatively recently that water washout sheet photopolymer of a high quality has been available. The spectrum of use for letterpress is quite narrow. I really don’t have a good idea of activity in the UK but look for plates that range in thickness from about .037 to .060 and have fairly high hardness ratings (D60 to D85). And look for quality brands as they are money well spent.



From England


I regularly get my ‘nylons’ from a Mr Sparrow in Portsmouth. I mount them with double sided adhesive onto wood and underpack to it dead to type high .018” (I have a guage for that.)
He’s remarkably cheap and very patient with poor and unsuitable artwork. You need to have
some understanding about artwork, uneven blackness and fuzzy edges dont help, and dont correct with any old white paint, theres a thing called process white. If you must write instructions on the face of your artworks, then use pale blue ‘Derwent’ brand pencil referenec 735 (its wont reproduce in the block.) Mr Sparrow needs to know its for letterpress, so as to reverse the image to suit ( he makes blocks for other purposes, not reversed) He can NOT
change the proportions “make it narrower”, but can enlarge or reduce. Best by far to give him
artwork a little oversize and let him reduce a little, say 5 to 10 percent., It sharpens edges.
contact me for more detail of him, and two other outfits.

Wow, this reminds me of the old pre-digital days. Mr Sparrow is processing from camera negs?


Harrildplaten - thanks for taking the trouble to post, to be honest I’m looking for a digital solution - I left the world of pmt’s and process white years ago - i would need someone who could handle a disc, but again thanks for your input.

Updated. Mr Sparrow does sound rather intriguingly dickensian though - if i have no joy I’ll try him out!

Hi John,

I am also looking for a photopolymer plate supplier in the UK, for printing on an Adana 8x5. If you have found any suppliers you’re satisfied with would you mind sharing the details?

Many thanks!

Thank you for your message - to be honest I’ve found it very difficult to find people in the UK offering a supplier service for photopolymer plates - I suspect there are a few small-scale letterpress printers out there who use photopolymer water washout plate making units ‘in-house’ for short runs but they don’t seem to be offering a bureau service (which is understandable as for most commercial printers letterpress is dead as a Dodo - a Vanderwhat?…..).

I am slightly confused by the UK position - there also seem to be people out there offering ‘flexo’ photopolymer but I believe these are softer plates for printing on to bottles etc.

The three leads I have are:

www.flexoshop.co.uk - sounds promising and they’ve heard of letterpress! - I talked to them recently about the type of plate they use and they seem to have a plate with a decent density for use with the boxcar base for example.

www.rankingraphics.co.uk - they say they can do water wash plates from disc artwork - £48 for an A3 from a high res pdf (i’m on a Mac - PC pdfs should be OK). They weren’t very forthcoming about the actual plates they use so I am non-the-wiser about whether I’ll use them.

www.ppp-digital.co.uk/platemaking.html - sounds too good to be true - computer to plate but I have yet to chase them up…

Photopolymer is new to me too - I have plenty of lead and wood type but can see the infinite flexibilities of polymer given my 15 years experience of using professional design software - I have just got myself a base and I’ll let you know how I get on.

I know I’m about six months late on this thread but I need to update some information. Ted Sparrow does still produce photopolymer plates and will mount them type high. He does work from digital files. He now lives in Devon, not in Portsmouth. If you want his contact details please contact me.

Just to continue the thread on this for all UK boxcar users, i have a boxcar base which I have been using with the BASF WF95 HD plate recommended by boxcar. I have these plates made by www.lazertype.co.uk in Essex - the contact there is Russell Mowle. My last order was for an A4 plate with two colour seperations from a high res pdf - £62 inc vat and delivery.

The plate worked fine - I think they probably added a fine stroke on my artwork to make sure some delicate linework held up in the platemaking process (ie they thickened it up slightly).

The plate doesn’t come with an adhesive backing - the first time I ran one i used double sided tape to fix it to the plate but since then I have obtained some of boxcar’s adhesive sheet which worked like a dream. If there are any people out there who want to go down this route maybe we could club together and buy a long roll of adhesive - it would work out cheaper in the long term.

happy printing everyone

Ted Sparrow is in Plymouth and NOT Portsmouth - which is no where near Plymouth.

Does anyone have Ted Sparrow’s contact details- have tried looking him up but no luck! Thanks


Just adding to posts on briar press about this subject as we know guys over here have been looking for this a long time including ourselves.

Our press is now manufacturing the complete system for the UK, as well as the KF152 polymer plates we also have a base system of our called the ‘Chase Base’.


We make every effort to keep prices - rock bottom - for the letterpress community. Call us if you need help.

Best wishes,


image: BasePlate_5.jpg


polydiam in uk-plate makers, you should look at letterpress in the uk, nice lady has links, info etc.Good you found a press-interested from where, not too many around. Rochat have a sp20 I think awaiting restoration, also is one on ebay last few days very nice condition, 1 day left no bids starts £3500.

Polydiam don’t have the KF152 - Lyme Bay Press is the only distributor in the UK.



also try theblockshop.co.uk

Hi John,
We’ve had excellent service from Centurion Graphics up in Preston. http://www.centuriongraphics.co.uk they have lots of options on plates available, will mount type high if necessary, have a very clear website where you can upload a .pdf, there is also a cost calculator too. If all else fails, you can ring them with questions - they are very approachable and have been very good with our students!

Good luck and I look forward to seeing what you’re going to do! H.I.

Also see (for foil and letterpress blocks): http://www.metallicelephant.co.uk/Letterpress(2126342).htm