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Emboss Counters

An emboss counter is the male portion of an emboss die. Emboss dies are etched or machined into the metal. We make counters for copper, magnesium, and brass dies. Once the emboss die is etched, we heat the die to 200 degrees to simulate the normal run temperatures while embossing. We use several different resins and hardeners that are poured into the female emboss die and topped with phenolic glass board. We use different thickness of the glass board, depending on the press. The calipers are .015’’ (Cylinder), .030’’(Heidelberg Windmill),and .060’’(Bobst & Kluge). A press then holds the three components with several tons of pressure until the resin is hardened. Once it is hardened, we machine very close to the image for paper relief. We drill the counter and die then add registration pins.

Many experienced craftsman pour their own counters on press. This is a similar process but it is more difficult because it is done inside a press. Those tight quarters make it more difficult to cut away material around the embossed image. Whichever way the counter is produced, it is mandatory to have a male counter.

Standard procedures for using phenolic counters is to cap the counter. Embossing without capping the counters will result in higher chances of die cutting and bruising of paper stock. This will also decrease the emboss depth. There are many materials for capping a counter including embossing film, tuff film and yellow board. The industry standard is yellow board. Yellow board is very inexpensive and very easy to use. Simply cut the board to the size of the die and tape to the counter once it is mounted to the press. Wet the yellow board with a sponge or spray bottle. Close the heated press to impression and hold for approx. 45 seconds. Once the press is opened the multi layered board will be molded around the counter. Trim off excess board with your Xacto knife and you are ready to run. The capped counter will eliminate die cutting and maximizes embossing depth.

We carry a full line of foil stamping and embossing supplies. If you have any questions about yellow board or any on press questions, we can help. We have very experienced pressman on staff available to assist you!


Metal Matrix vs. Plastic Matrix

What is matrix?

Matrix is a product that locates on the creasing rule of steel rule die. It then transfers onto the cutting jacket of a die cutting press. Once on the jacket it will become the female channel for the male scoring rule. It will form the bead on the folded parts such as pocket folders, folding cartons or any finished product with folding creases.

Metal backed matrix was the first and still most widely used creasing matrix. It is great on short runs and is the most cost effective matrix. Most people are familiar with the different sizes. These sizes are referred to as 32,40,50,etc. or as colors as buff, white, yellow, etc. Plastic matrix is a fairly new product. It has a lower profile than metal, which allows for faster press speeds. The biggest benefit of plastic is the ease of trimming. It can easily be cut with scissors. It can also be trimmed to thinner profile to fit between double scores.

We highly recommend shops to carry a supply of both matrix types. For shops that can not change score heights, changing matrix can raise or lower the score heights by .005”. We welcome the opportunity to help our customers develop a matrix plan. We are an authorized supplier of Shreiner Creasing Matrix.


Clear Base Dies

Have you ever seen a steel rule die on a clear base? We create many dies on Lexan/polycarbonate bases. The clear base is needed for die cutting expensive material such as leather or expensive gasket material on hand fed die cutters. Because you can hand place the die on the material, there is very little waste. It can also be used to register to print on small jobs. These dies are more expensive since lexan is 15x more expensive than wood. The lexan must also be hand-jigged with a saw due to its hardness.It is not a material that can be laser cut. If you have an application that may fit, give us a call at A&A Die.


Old fashioned know-how

Many times in the die business we receive art files that are very intricate and have some areas that are just impossible to make happen with steel rule and wood. Most customers understand when we call and tell them that to build the die, some slight adjustments have to be made. But occasionally, we have customers question, “Don’t you have lasers and auto-benders?” This question is asked because it is a misconception that you just push a button and the auto-bender spits out a piece of intricate knife that is completely ready to drive into the wood.

While the auto-benders are wonderful and do help us out tremendously, they can’t do everything, That’s where the skills of the die maker comes into play. On intricate dies with a lot of very tight bends the auto bender can get rule bent very close.Then the die maker can use his bench tools to true up the piece so that it can be driven into the die board. With some dies that are so very intricate, a skilled die maker has to do all the of the bending by hand. These dies here separate the die makers from the the “rule drivers”.

There are very few of these “die builders” left. Young people today are not wanting to learn these type of skills if there is not a computer involved. Working with your hands is not as popular as pushing buttons on a computer. Keep in mind that I am one of these old surviving die makers and learned from some very skilled men a long time ago. You can send your work to a shop with lasers and auto-benders and get some very nice quality dies but for the very intricate dies, send them to a shop with the old guys!

Hug your die maker today!


Copper vs. Magnesium Emboss

Copper dies are the gold standard for foil stamp dies. Copper has the greatest retention of heat of any metal. Heat and pressure are the most significant factors in foil stamping. It holds fine line type very well because the metal is very hard and it etches close to straight up and down. The metal also expands very little when heated to high temperatures. The only real downside to copper is it’s cost.

While magnesium foil dies is an inferior product when compared to copper, the emboss dies may be a better product. The most important factor is that magnesium bevels can be altered in the etch much easier than copper. Remember that copper etches straight up and down. This is great for foiling but not good for embossing. The straight edges tend to die cut when embossing. With magnesium, we can create bevels that are much gentler when embossing paper. This single factor is why I think magnesium dies may be a better choice on emboss dies. The fact that magnesium is softer and does not hold heat as evenly does not matter as much while embossing. We are a now pouring, pre-cast counters for our magnesium dies. If you have never tried a magnesium emboss die, give it a try. I think you will be impressed!


New Bendable Microperf

A new innovative product is now available, bendable microperf. Normal perforated rule is difficult to bend. Because the small teeth are fragile the rule has to be very hard. The trade off is that the hard rule is very brittle and cracks when bent. We are able to make moderate bends with perf but are limited on sharp bends. But the new bendable microperf is a game changer. We can bend the new rule on even small bends. Give it a try on your next perfing project!


Rule Supports

We have several high end tag and label customers. Their die cut products can never show any nicks. Nicks can come from poor rule joints or faulty mitres. Sometimes rule joints click apart because of too much pressure or from the rule being too tight. To avoid these types of nicks we always check to see if the joints are clicking and adjusting rule lengths. To make sure the rules can not click out of alignment on press, we use rule supports. Rule supports are basically plastic wedges to hold rule joints in place. One support on each side of the joint. We burn square cavities in the die board and insert the supports after knifing. We use this technique along with micro-nik.

If you have a project that would benefit from these techniques, contact us at [email protected] or call us at (770) 458-7528.


Getting Started-Die cutting cheaply

Recently we have had a lot of customers who want to die cut but don’t have a press. They want to have the ability to do short run die cutting without spending lots of money on a press. The solution-AccuCut GrandeMark roller die cutter, for around $300-$400 you can be die cutting. My daughter is a school teacher and I purchased an AccuCut for her. I was very impressed with the quality of the press. I built her a complete alphabet and number set with several font styles and lots of other shapes. She loves it an it is very easy to use. It weighs about 40 pounds and is very portable. It is a great press for teachers & crafters but can also be a great tool for small business.

The press is very easy to use for blank stock. Place the paper on top of die and cover with the protective plastic sheet and crank the handle. You can even cut with multiple dies at the same time. But what if you are trying to die cut a printed stock? By using retractable pins or rubber blocks you can register the diecut to print.

These presses are great for letterpress shops and wedding planners. They are also perfect for small print shops–offfset and digital.  They are perfect for scalloped invitations and envelope liners. Check out some videos on our website or call Rod at 770-458-7528



How small?

We are often faced with complex designs on dies. Many times rules are very close to each other. We have to alter art often to make dies possible. How close can 2 rules be to each other? 2 pt center bevel is .028” thick. The cutting edge is in the center. If you placed 2 rules together, the cutting edges would be .028” or about 1/32” apart. The problem is that we could not get any ejection rubber in the void and eventually paper would build up and blow out the rule. We must have a minimum of 3/32” spacing between rules to get sufficient rubber to eject. Many times we can place rules together much closer but the die will not hold up on press.

How small can a slot in a steel rule die be? 3/32” width is the smallest slot that can be out of cutting rule. We can purchase slots as thin as 1/16”.

What is the smallest punch-The smallest punch with a spring is 3/32”. The smallest side out punch is 1/32”.



Micro Nik

We had a customer that came in today with a huge project and a huge problem. They had 104 up of a round cornered label, that had to be cut completely out without nicks. How do you get this out of the press? I see a lot of jobs that customers flare corners and make the final cut on the guillotine. This never looks good. Cutter pull always leaves a nasty edge that is unacceptable. Customers also use round corner machines which is a painfully slow process. So what was our solution?  –Micro Nik.   Micro Nik is pre-nicked rule that has microscopic nicks. If you hold up a single card the nicks are almost invisible. The nicks can be seen in a lift of cards. Even though the nicks are tiny, they are close enough in proximity to hold the individual parts in the press sheet as it travels through the press.  The rule works on cylinder presses, and high speed presses.

We have several high end tag companies who use Micro Nik and have used it many times with great success. Next time you have a project that requires it to be cut all the way around–let us build you a die with Micro Nik.


New Ejection Punches

New to the market-Tube punches with high tolerance brass plunger ejection. The plunger replaces rubber and springs for the same cost. The plunger seems to be much stiffer than springs. It appears it will be great for thicker stocks like chipboard or styrene. It may an  effective replacement for side out punches which may not work in tight areas. Stay tuned for updated info, once we get feedback on these new punches.



Cutting Rules-Long Bevel & Side Bevel

There are many different bevels of cutting rule used in steel rule dies. It is very important to use the appropriate rule for cutting stocks and to achieve the desired end product. We are going to discuss two of the bevels today.

Long bevel is a common rule used in cutting dies. It is also referred to as double bevel and extra sharp. Long bevel has a fine bevel that is about 3/16” long. The results are a super sharp knife, that has a small profile. The negative is that the knife is more expensive and slightly more difficult to work with, especially on mitres. It is also more tender and easier to dull. More care must be taken on make readies. It is also more expensive.

Long bevel rules are ideal for plastic stocks and thick materials. It works great on vinyl for kisscuts. It also works great on styrene, polyethylene and chipboard. The thin profile easily penetrates thick stock without distorting the material.

Another common rule is side bevel rule. It is also available in long bevel, side bevel. One side of the rule is beveled and one side is straight up and down. Side bevel rule is perfect for very thick stocks. May thick plastics, foam boards, gasket material and even corrugation will deform when cut with a beveled rule. By placing the bevel to the scrap, the straight side will be toward the finished product and it will not deform. files must be offset to account for the bevel. This rule us much more difficult to work with and far more expensive than traditional center bevel rule.



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