Making your own Aluminum Base

I have a showcard press (like this one that prints 30x45” and I would like to explore the world of polymer plates.

Boxcar seems to be the place to go, but I am not ready to pay out for one of their bases. Luckily I found this link:

I have access to all I’d need to make a base, but I wonder about the possibility of using a base that’s surface is aluminum (lets say 1/2″ thick) and then below that is some high density wood (aprx 3/8″) like that used on linoblocks.

For now, I think I’ll be trying out some magnesium dies that come type high. I wonder if that will ultimately be the best choice for my type of press.. thoughts?

Thanks for the input!

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i buy 1/4” mag dies unmounted (lots cheaper to buy and ship) then i mount them with double sided tape on regular furniture, add two pieces of chipboard under furniture and its type high, i even use them with type with no problems, when done remove from furniture. good luck dick g.


I don’t know how confident I’d feel about using furniture with double stick tape. Sounds like the impression might be a little sketchy. Plus, furniture comes in all different sizes, what size would you use?

I have a new thought on a homemade base. I am thinking of putting this ( on top of this (

The honeycomb sheet is 1/2 inch thick with 1/2 inch diameter holes, so I imagine it would be plenty stiff enough with 3/8ths thick solid aluminum on top. (especially since, as I understand it, aluminum doesn’t flex much if at all).

The items I have linked here make a 24x24” base for just over $200 (compared to boxcar’s $1150). My proposed set up would need to be milled, but I have access to the engineering dept at my local university.

Why am I looking for this low-cost method? I am a student. Money is tight these days!

Over the years, I have used about everything as base under different medium. Scan -a graver photos at the newspaper were printed week after week on maple or birch blocks with double face carpet tape type of adhesive. Some of the blocks were planed down to type high minus the thickness of the material to be mounted and the tape. If slightly low after repeated pounding by the old letterpress web, masking tape was standard procedure to build up the back of the block. Usually in a cross hatch pattern or spot patch by itself. Of course that was in the 70’s, so it may not be stylish to do that now. But it works.
That also was for a newspaper quality product on a Letterpress web (model B, Goss duplex, flatbed, web, cylinder press)
Once in the 1980’s a man (artist) did 2 posters. His name was Jimmy Grashaw. These were several years apart. One for the city of New York and one for Morgan Stanley Co. Using a pearwood block approx. 26 inches by 40 inches and approx. type high. He spent 6 months carving the wood block and along with some color linoleum, mounted on premium plywood. We threw those on a Miller SY 27 x 41 Book press and with lots of makeready produced 2 - 5 color (4 or 5 colors) posters on Japanese Rice paper. Actually the second time around he utilized the back side of the original wood he cut for the first poster, so before printing we had to fill in the back (the original printing side of the block. It was a bear of a job to bring it up to type high, but it can be done and was done. Lots of work. The main difficulty was with the premium plywood used as base for the linoleum spot colors. The inner layers had two spots that were weak when we did the initial registering and proofing. Very disappointed that it was going to fail the project we put our thinking caps on and took a break. Needing something ridgid and sound for a filler in the lower layer of the plywood. As bizarre as it sounds it finally came to me. (illustrating that most anything can be used) We took the shop broom that was in the corner of the pressroom and cut a waffer from the handle of the broom, close to the thickness of the layer needing replacement in the plywood. Sanded it smooth after the cut on the lead saw. Peeled back the linoleum and cut the top layer of the plywood and saved it and dug out the faulty filler of the second layer. Trimmed the waffer of the broom handle to fit and applied Elmers glue to all wood and reassembled the base. We put a weight on it with a piece of makeready tissue under the weight so it wouldn’t stick to the weight (lead chunk). After lunch we resumed makeready and printing. You can use most anything, just be aware, there are obviously hazzards to be aware of. Those multiple color runs were being hand fed on the press and at a moderate speed. Usually the companies that supplied the zinc or magnesium line cuts could get wood that worked well. Give them a call.

evanmade, furniture is even cheaper, i use different pieces, whatever it takes tomake the size of the die, you must make sure the furniture is the same height, some older furniture can be shrunken pretty badly. i’ve been doing this for about 20 years. dick g. ps i use masking tape around the edge of the die, it helps keep the die from slipping.


So it sounds to me like it doesn’t matter how you achieve it, so long as you make it all type high.

as for your comment “Of course that was in the 70’s, so it may not be stylish to do that now. But it works.” style in the form on the press is no concern to me.. what matters is how the print looks. Aluminum is probably a great way to set up, but that is not the only choice!

Thanks for the tips!

dickg: that makes sense. Cheers!

You know, the real cost saver here would be to explore the would of polymer plates in a smaller format. 2’ by 2’ is a huge plate! Cut down the size and the cost of the base and plates is significantly reduced.


I think I’ll start smaller, but my press area is 30” x 45” and I would like to do some poster stuff.

I will be going up to try and actually make my own base this morning. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’ll be making a smaller base, I think.. depends on how far my aluminum will go.