Fabricating Durable Counters - Materials - Bakelite and Others

Hi, I am looking for anyone who has made, makes, etc. durable counters. I am specifically looking to make them for heidelberg windmill and cronite engraving presses.

I recently found bakelite which is also referred to as phenolic board, micarta, bakelita, tooling plate, and riser plate.

Unfortunately I don’t know what material to use (grade, vendor) but I do know that anything thicker than about .200 inches is unlikely to work for our operations.

I also do not know if this is the best material for the job. I made one on a standalone press at around 200F and 4,500 psi and it turned out pretty well (visually - I haven’t run it yet)

Does anyone have experience with durable counters and if so can you provide me your insight and thoughts on this?

Thank you


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I used to use a material called “Counter Cast” which was a plastic resin powder which was mixed with a strong solvent to make a paste, which was applied to a counter board adhered to the platen. You covered it was a thin poly sheet and closed the platen on it, After a short time, you could open the platen and cut away the excess. It made a very good and hard counter die. I don’t see that material advertised on the internet, but there are a couple others, Prago and P.A.R liquid and powder.

I have also used standard epoxy auto body putty, but it takes a bit longer to set up hard. If you can leave the press idle for a half-hour, that works well, too.

John Henry

I have used acrylic nail powder with pretty good success, I was told about this from Metal Magic when I had a combo foil/emboss job to get out for a customer right away. It worked very well.
After finding position for die, I stick gray board to the platen (Windmill) scuff it up with sandpaper then mix up the acrylic powder with the liquid hardener, I smear it on the gray board, cover the “goop” with a piece of foil (backwards) to keep acrylic from sticking to die. Then I close up the press on impression and let is sit until it hardens. You now have a counter die. I am going to get some thin epoxy board and try making one on that so I might be able to reuse it. My wife gets the powder and hardener from the Beauty Supply store. costs about less than $20 for both parts. Give it a try.

It may not be at a price point you want but UEI (Universal Engraving) in Kansas sells backing material in several standard thicknesses and 2-part epoxy specifically for counters and also a number of helpful things you might like to try for registering and I’m sure if you bought it from them they would give explicit instructions for using their products which might come in handy if you later decide to make them from other materials. One thing you’ll want to have is a can of paste wax which you apply and wipe clean from the die. This will prvent epoxy from sticking to the die.
Best of luck

This may have what you’re looking for, or also you might try giving them a call:

you are asking about a complete process, so here it is.(read through, details are at the end)
i use a “PAR” countercast powder and liquid. this is the “real deal”. acrylic nail product can be used, but it does not harden like the product i advise. it can be used in a pinch, but for the money, what i advise will take you much further down the road. the liquid does have a shelf life once opened so complete sealing of cap is imperative.
acquire .020-.030 phenolic board or glass board. i prefer glass board, the stuff sticks to it better, and it is more rigid. Fiber “Grey board” can be used
1) lock up die and heat to 140F-160F. make sure die is clean of any foreign matter, acetone and a fine brass brush cleans well. use tooth brush if die is magnesium.(cleaning should be done before lockup into press)
2) cut your Counter board,(this can be done before mounting die) IE: Glass, phenolic, Grey to a size that is smaller than the die(but bigger than image) on both X & Y axis.
3) adhere counter board to platen with double sided tape,(centered on die) “Duplofol” works best, but there other options for double sided tape.(if you tape down blank embossing film, or foil(film side up) to platen first,adhering the counter to the film, lifting the counter, when done, is very easy)
4) set your pressure to where you are hitting die to counter board firmly. .
5) scuff the board with 80-120 grit sandpaper.(brush or blow away residue, make sure none has gone onto die) If you can define the image area, use a lead pencil, on it’s side to “Color in” around the image area, this will allow excess hardened countercast to peel up easily. do not color into the image area.
6) prepare a piece of Embossing film 3 inches bigger than die. again both X&Y. for extremely fine images, i use a silicone based, “Mold Release spray” mold release is important as it deals with the temp and pressure involved.
7) pour liquid into cup first. I use a small, plastic “Lab type” mixing cup. “Dixie” will work. DO NOT use a “foam insulated” cup. use less liquid than you think. pour in powder and mix, add powder,as needed, to reach a consistency of “cold maple syrup”.mix gently trying to infuse(mix in) as little air as possible, as few bubbles as possible. you want to kinda hurry a little here.
8) pour onto counter board, most dies require a very thin layer. 1/8” is usually good.LEAVE SOME IN THE CUP. this can be scooped out and rolled into a ball to play with. lay your piece of embossing film, centered over the liquid mix, or spray the die if using the spray, don’t spray a ton of it on there.
9) close the press, by hand if possible, to directly full closure on impression.
10) when the remnant in the cup(or your hand), gets hot,165F minimum, and cures,(if it does not, you have either mixed wrong ratio, or liquid is shot) your product in the press is done. it should get hot enough to where it may be uncomfortable to hold it in your hand. this is good.
your counter is done, cutting away the excess around the image will benefit your final product by reducing shadow around it. many dies may have “Alignment holes” in them. here in the USA, these are 3/16”(a smaller size,1/8” i believe, is sometimes used) and with the counter locked into position in the die, can be transferred to the new counter.
11) now the details:
powder and liquid can be acquired from “Lang dental” call “Kate”tel:847-215-6622 ext.0 email;[email protected]; you want; 6730B 1lb powder-$28.00; 6705B 1 pt liquid- $18.00 +shipping
(if you dropped my name: eric @ southeast press service, that would be cool.) ;)
the board product (Glas, Phenolic, Grey) can be ordered from UEI (Universal Engraving) as stated above. the embossing film can be ordered from their sister company, “Infinity foils”
KNIFE; i use an “Exacto” style blade; this blade has a severe weakness at the very tip. it is made of 2 edges, the cutting edge, and the back or spine. i use a knife “sharpening stone” to file a “drop” from the back spine to the cutting edge (just at the very tip). the blade then does not come to such a severe point. it lasts incredibly longer. the “drop edge” is very slight, 15 degree making that small side at the point about 1/32”-1/16”. scuff the sides of the blade on the stone to rid of any rough edge along the sides of new point..you don’t have to, but if you say, “holy cow! this really works”, i understand. it just means you got it correct.
I have included as complete a description as i can recall, without going through the process. if there is confusion, let me know. i can send or post pics if needed.

if someone wants to tell me how to get rid of second posting, i will. k. got it.