Wood base for printer cuts

I purchased some zinc goudy initials that have no wood bases. Does anybody know what kind of wood is best for a base. Do I need to find cured or seasoned wood for bases? What is the best wood to use for the wood bases? Thanks, Larry

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Back in the 70’s we used to mount 16 gauge zinc engravings on cherry or plywood made for this giving .918” high. You might be able to send then to Owosso Graphics and have the mounted.

I would check with Scott Moore at More Wood Type.
His precision planer will accurately produce any base thickness you specify.
Moore Wood Type, Gahanna (Columbus) Ohio

Hey iwillcreate, your best bet is probably plywood base. Your can purchase from Universal Level 1 800 236-6446 but is pretty pricey. They sell it coated or un-coated with a heat sensitive glue so unless you have a blocking press to mount your cuts I would get uncoated and spray the backs of your zinc with super 77 adhesive, from home depot, and just stick them on there.
I mount my 16g magnesium and polymer cuts on MDF, again from home depot. It is super cheap but the resulting cut will not be type high so I stick a few sheets of manila folder behind the die to bring it up to height. So it takes a few extra minutes to set up on press but the material is so inexpensive it’s worth it to me. MDF can be damaged easily but if you don’t drop it or smash it will hold up. Every year I print a job of 70,000 impressions with a polymer cut mounted on MDF and I’ve never had it fail and the first one looks the same as the last. We’ve been doing that job for ten years.

I realize that what I just wrote above would seem very unorthodox to someone who has spent decades in the trade using traditional methods but I have a daughter who just graduated high school and I need to be able to pay her college tuition so please pardon me. MDF is cheap, it works well for my applications and allows me to earn more on each job so that’s what I’m doing. No offence intended.

MDF came about in the 80’s, well after the ‘death’ of commercial letterpress. No harm in using new materials to accomplish old things. Have you thought about gluing the makeready to the back of the MDF so that your cuts are ready to go?

I have approximately enough packing stuck on the bed so when I set the chase in the press the cut pushes forward enough to be inked. It usually requires a small adjustment in packing each time but it’s very simple and quick

Hi I-Will,

Bruce is right…. a good grade of plywood is what you need for mounting cuts. I use a LOT of wood-mounted cuts, PP plates, and copper etchings in my work…. and have done so for 40+ years.

the trick is to use the good stuff…. like HDO, or Baltic Birch. I get mine at Woodcrafters, but many hobby stores carry good wood, too. Modern, high-quality ply wood is amazingly consistent in it’s thickness, and doesn’t tend to warp like solid wood does.

For most work, you can use 3/4” wood, and then shim the finished block to type high using cardboard. It’s actually quite simple. Don’t let others overcomplicate things for you.

I have been using my hacker block leveler to make boxcar type bases for several printers out of end grain hard maple at .851” and .875”. I have also produced face grain hard maple blocks for Miami University to mount their laser cut and etched 1/8” plexiglass fonts onto planed down to .793”.
They use 3M brand #77 spray adhesive to get the acrylic to .918”. You could use 3/4” MDF and spray glue as suggested and then just pad the plates up to type high. I don’t know how thick the metal plates are but give me an e-mail at [email protected] and we can talk.

For my information in case this comes up from other printers, “How thick, in thousandths, are 16 gauge magnesium plates?” As an retired Industrial Arts teacher I know 16 gauge in steel is 0.0598”, in galvanized steel it’s 0.0635”, and in nonferrous metals like aluminum and copper 16 gauge is 0.0508”. I could always call Rick, he is a great source for anything printing, but I figure someone out there must know the answer.

I currently buy 16g magnesium that mics at .064. Over the years I have bought mag & zinc that has been .065 and .063 so it may be that the folks who do the manufacturing except a bit of variation.

For original 16-gauge plates the base material was usually .854”. That’s for high-base height from the Elrod, or the blocking wood I used to buy from AWT, and all the printed references I’ve seen agree. In the Boxcar era people are used to plate plus base equalling type height. Pressman approached this differently in the century before Boxcar. Is the plate mounted with sticky-back tape, or glue, or thermal adhesive, or nailed? All these combinations have a different interlay or underlay situation working toward type-height, and even type height could vary very slightly for different form conditions.
MDF is probably better with the surface sealed before using spray glue for mounting: too much dust and loose fibers for a really secure bond to the raw surface. On the plus side, it is very easy to nail.

Hi parallel and all,

I recently had my Boxcar base ground to 0.850” since I find myself using 16-gauge copper plates instead of polymer. I use the Boxcar adhesive, which is 0.004”, so with the 0.064” plate the total is 0.918”. It works great!

Boxcar doesn’t make custom height bases, but their “deep relief” base is 0.853” so you only need to grind off 0.003”. By the way, Boxcar says their bases are “guaranteed to within 0.001″ in thickness, parallel, and flatness,” and my machinist verified that this is true. He measured it before grinding and it was actually within 0.0008”.