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Question and Answer

How do I get the most out of my multi-level embossing?

by Staff

May-June, 1995
To obtain a deep, quality emboss, several areas must be addressed. Simply relying on your engraver to create the perfect die is not enough. Because hand engraved brass dies can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to produce, it is certainly worth the extra effort to get all you can out of your engraving.

The Engraving
Of course, obtaining a quality emboss starts with the engraving. Here are several areas that can help make sure you receive the engraving that you and your customer will be satisfied with:

  • Verbal communication is a must. Make sure you send your artwork first to your engraver before discussing the details of how you would like to have your die engraved. Trying to convey this information without the engraver looking at the artwork first will increase the chances of miscommunication and the possibility of producing a faulty die.
  • Send a sample of the paper stock. This is imperative to help your engraver determine the depth of the die. If you are working with a heavy cover stock, your engraver can add much more depth and detail versus a lighter text weight.
  • Send a printed sheet to your engraver if you are registering to print. You will always have a slight variation from film to printed sheet. To ensure perfect registration, the engraving should be sized to the printed sheet, not the film.

The Press
To achieve detailed, deep embossing, utilizing a platen or clam shell press is recommended to get a straight in - straight out motion. This will help ensure your are bottoming out the die. Also, be sure you are utilizing bearer blocks on all four corners of your platen press to even out the impression. The importance of using bearers becomes even more important when the die is placed above center on the platen. Without bearers, the platen tends to rock or flex itself. Bearer blocks will help prevent this and ensure a smooth, even stamp.

Also, press impressional strength is a factor. Having adequate press tonnage for the image area you are embossing will help decrease the overall makeready time. If the press is being maxed out at the upper limits of its strength, the press operator is forced to "chase" the makeready around (i.e. as you build up in one area it will bear off in another). It certainly is possible to have too much die for the press to handle.

The Makeready
The best method of achieving a quality multi-level embossed image with the least amount of makeready time is to utilize a precast counter. Before starting the job, be sure to communicate with your engraver on whether you will be hot or cold embossing. If you are performing hot embossing (which is particularly recommended for multi-level embossing), check with your engraver to make sure the brass engraving is heated (approximately 210 to 220 degrees) before the precast counter is poured. If not, you may experience die cutting around the image because the metal was not expanded to meet the point when the counter was formed.

Another recommendation for setting up a precast or pour counter is to "float" the counter. This is performed by taping a paper or film sheet on the platen and then mount your counter with two sided tape to the sheet. The floating makeready will allow the counter enough movement to achieve a more consistent alighment and to bottom out the die with each impression. If you are having a problem with getting the depth you need from your embossed impression, you can also "cap" your counter with a thin film or board. Ask your makeready supplier what they recommmend based on the specific job you are running.

Although the above suggestions can help, the true test in achieving a quality multi-level embossed image lies within the skills of the press operator. As manufacturing a hand engraved die is an art, mastering the skill of hot stamping is an art as well. Working with the proper tools and communication are the keys. If you follow these two recommendations, you definitely will be heading down the right track.

InsideFinishing would like to thank the following industry professionals who contributed to this article: John Edgar of Brandtjen & Kluge, Mark Schumacher of Astor Universal, and Bob Cordell of Cordell Engraving.