Creating plates with a laser

Hello Everyone,

I am brand new to letterpress printing and I wanted to get your thoughts on creating plates with a laser engraver. It is not an issue of cost but rather of being able to print what I want when I want instead of waiting for plates to be shipped to me. Thanks in advance for any input you may have!

Gratefully Yours,


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Most of the plate and die services are so fast now, i don’t know that you would see a huge benefit time wise.

I hear ya Eric but there is something about being able to do it myself that truly intrigues me. I appreciate your response but I’m not really asking if I should but rather how I can (unless its not possible which I can’t see why that would be the case). Thanks again for the input!

While I have your attention I should ask for recommendations on the plate and die services since until I get a laser and learn how to use it, I definitely need a source for them. I am familiar with boxcar press but they are the only ones I know of and they only seem to do photopolymer and not metals or dies. Thanks in advance!

I had looked into this about a year ago. The closest I came. to a price and quality mix was a unit called Glowforge.
Never really figured out what the right material would be.
I had focused on Corian or something like it.

Keep us all posted if you find a useful solution.

Thanks Steve! Will do.

One of the few things I know thus far is that I want to go with a Fiber laser rather than a CO2 laser (which is what the glow forge is) because the CO2 can’t cut or engrave copper due to its reflective properties but the fiber laser is capable of doing so.

I get metal dies from Owosso Graphic Arts; mounted or not, fast service. Great website for re-ordering.

Thank you bppayne! I’ve got a few different things I want to print so I’m going to try ordering from as many places as I can find to figure out what’ll work best for me long term thus I really appreciate the info!

Hey Mike,

I’m not well versed on laser engravers, so let me start there. I can see that you’ll likely run into two issues—one being that metal may not be the material you want to be using.

Part of this depends on what press you’re using. If you have a nice flat-bed press, a Vandercook or challenge, printing from large plates is much easier. Dafi Kuhne uses a laser cutter to cut into linoleum, to great success. you can see a video of this at the link below.

When printing letterpress, you’re printing relief. You need a the printing surface to be raised from the plate enough so that there is no chance the roller will be inking the plate. Type is raised something like .03–.05 off the body. So you’ll have to be able to cut down that far. With laser, you’re not sloping that cut—it’s going straight down, so the artwork may be really fragile. Since you need that relief to print on something like a platen, this may become a really frustrating thing to deal with.

In any case, good luck, and I hope you are able to make some interesting work using this technique.

Owasso sells a variety of products. Universal Engraving is good.


passing along this link as well to Moore wood type’s site. They talk about using a pantograph to get the depth needed for most of the illustration, and then a CO2 laser to finish the fine details.

Another note is that you need end grain stock, which is not cheap. I’m starting to stock up some in my shop, by waiting for the local lumber yard to have pieces large enough for carving. But—this is really tough, because getting them to .918 is not so easy.

Anyway, wish you the best of luck.

Thank you all so much for your information and advice!

Might I ask a question of the folk that know about laser engraving. If one thinks about, say a full stop, under a magnifying glass will it look somewhat a pyramid, with sloping sides, or will it be straight vertical sided.??

Congrats, and you will have so much fun with this! We have an Epilog Mini 50, which is a CO2 laser. We have been using it to make type height wood type to replace missing letters from our wood type sets. We started making ornaments and manacles too. I also use it to make art. We use wood and also print on the Lino blocks. The versatility is insane. I have a book my Great, Great Aunt published in 1918 that is out of circulation now. I am working on scanning and creating my on blocks, then will reprint the book for all of my grand children. I have a few kinks to work out but it is coming a long really well. I love making my own blocks with my own designs. We now have multiple people who get things from us. We actually just got a CNC machine to help create the type height wood on end grain. Then just found a vintage wood trimmer. You’er going to love doing this! Good luck

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To answer your question, if you are laser engraving it will be mostly straight. There might be a very slight slope. However, you can program in a wider slope which can help with stability. If you are laser cutting, then there is more of a slope, and again, you can program in larger slopes if wanted.