Boxcar Plate Orders

I’ve only recently started ordering polymer plates from Boxcar Press.

After my first couple orders I came to realize they have a minimum charge of $30 an order - no matter how small of surface is needed.

After some quick math I realized I should at least be putting in an order of 50 square inches each time I need something. Even if I don’t “need” that much for my design, I can always fill it up will little odds and ends I can use down the road for other print work.

Is this a standard practice for those who order from Boxcar? I guess I’m just curious what other people’s routines are when they order their plates.

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I noticed the same thing. They explained it to me in an email saying:

“the square inches when you hit $30 is at 8” x 5.5” Anything below that is automatically $30 and everything above that is $0.67 / sq inch. Also, Boxcar adds .5” to the height and width of your square inches as this is needed for production of your plates.”

Kinda sucks, but whatcha gonna do?

elum in san diego (i beleive) has no minimum order, but their prices are slightly higher.

I guess Boxcar is running a business :)

Boxcar is indeed running a business, and has to charge what they do in order to maintain profitability. If they don’t, they’ll go out of business. It’s fairly simple.

I fully understand their minimum charges. When you are talking about very small orders, the cost of materials is small compared to the cost of labor, and it takes just as much effort to make 1” square plate as it does to make a 3x5.

The price is not out of line. The material is expensive and the process is labor intensive, even with the proper equipment.

I agree that they have the right to charge what they want. But, the process is surely not labor intensive.

I’ve exposed and brushed out plates by hand on many occasions without the luxury of the machines that Boxcar uses. Whet they do is awesome, and NOT at all labor intensive.

No complaints here about the pricing… I just thought I’d point out that you might as well get your money’s worth and order the full 50 square inches with each order!

mega….. i agree that it’s not a terribly difficult process, with the right equipment….. but if I were running Boxcar, I’d have a similar pricing structure. The platemaking business is not an easy one to make a living at. The key to using a vendor like Boxcar is to maximize your orders, and make sure that you never fall under the minimum.

However….. it was for problems with minimum orders, turn around times, and a general lack of flexibility from the vendors (not Boxcar, by the way… they weren’t in business back then) that led me to start making my own plates and blocks many years ago. Nowadays, I don’t worry about such things. Being independent is GREAT.

winking cat press,

I’m curious as what point does it become advantageous to start making your own plates? My guess is that you have to do quite a bit of business to make it worth purchasing some plate making equipment. Am I wrong there?

Price out an Anderson Vreeland or similar plate maker, a film processor, computers to view digital files, software to edit the files, film, plates, sticky back, etc, the hour + it takes to process a job and knowledge base of the employee to do all this work.

I own my own AV Orbital Vlll and process only my jobs which is a bit of labor. However, processing hundreds of job a day is a lot of work.

Inky Lips Letterpress


Yeah, it looks like elum’s prices are comparable, and only have a $15 minimum order. Perhaps a better choice for a small order.

Does anybody have experience ordering from Elum?

It costs the same amount in material and maintenance (Keeping it running - only a Boat is more expensive) to create a 1 square inch Polymer plate or a 12 x 16 Plate.
I can’t process a small piece of Film to make a 1 inch Plate,
there are standard sizes which have to be met. Developer, once hooked up has a shelf live of 5 DAYS. Maintaining a Processor for Film is like owning a Boat ! Our Platemaker takes 18 Gal. of water to be heated before we make a Plate.
Sure, I can process the Film by hand and wash the Plate by hand so the Printer has his 1 inch Plate - but you can run a Business like that. You think otherwise =you don’t have a Business,

huh. maybe the minimum order is new? either that or my memory is going… both are plausible!
Elum’s plates were fine and their service was good. The shipping was a bit more and took longer, but I’m on the opposite side of the country so that is to be expected. The only thing I wasn’t happy with is that the peel-off backing was not transparent, which made it harder to visualize how it lines up compared to a plate that is still on the base until you take the backing off. That’s obviously just a preference and in no way affects their quality… it just screws up my method.
All in all, if you’re doing lots of small orders or are on that side of the country, Elum is a great choice.

Evancakins- it all depends on how you go about it…. and how much effort you want to invest. If you want to set up automated equipment such as a plate processor, then you need to have quite a bit of work to justify the expense….. and it’s rather costly.

BUT…. if you look around, you can find older equipment and/or alternative methods that can save you a LOT of money. For instance….. you can expose your plates with an old NuArc plate burner, (which can often be found at relatively low prices) and wash them out by hand. Or you can solar expose them, or build your own exposure unit. None of this is rocket science, and we’ve discussed the techniques here at Briar press quite a bit. It all really depends on how much effort you are willing to invest.

For negatives, it’s not hard at all to find used graphic arts cameras, and set up a manual darkroom. I saw a really nice horizontal camera on “” that only went for $200 or so. If you look around, you can assemble a very nice system.

It’s not a free ride, though. Like everything else in life, it’s going to cost you either time, effort, or money…. there’s no way to avoid one or the other.

The best of the “alternative processes” that I’ve found does not involve PP plates at all. I’m using a laser to carve type-high blocks…. and the results have been outstanding. The initial investment for me was a bit steep… the purchase price of the machine….. but after that, the cost is only for the wood that I burn images onto. AND since I have a cheap planer, that expense is minimal.

A lot of the folks here will debate my approach to things, and that’s OK. I think we’ll all agree however, that setting up your own platemaking process…. no matter how you do it….. is not for Newbies. It takes a good bit of knowledge, either from experience, training, or experimentation to be able to do it well. BUT once you reach that level of proficiency, you’ll be able to tackle projects that others only wish they could do well.

Winking Cat Press

winking cat press,

Thanks for the info — very much appreciated!

Perhaps I’ll do some research and keep my eye open for some older gear and slowly go at it. Sounds like it’d be kind of fun to start learning about that stuff.