Skip to Content

Blog Archives

Kiss Cut Dies

Kiss cutting is very common in the printing industry especially for labels. It is achieved by reducing pressure on the press to only cut partially through the sheet. On label stock, the die would cut through the label sheet but not through the liner. A quality make-ready with a spot sheet is essential for kiss-cutting without cutting through the liner. Kiss cutting is more difficult, but not impossible on cylinder presses due to the unequal forces in the horizontal and vertical directions.

Steel rule kiss cut dies and standard cutting dies are virtually the same with only minor variations. It is very important to have high quality flat wood and that the laser is checked to burn perpendicular to the wood. Any variance in this burn angle could cause havoc in the make ready and probably cause cut through. Rule joints and mitres must be perfect and all rule must be seated flush in the die. Some customers prefer to lower their rule heights, instead of reducing the cutting pressure on the press. Although this works, this could add cost to the die. Odd rule heights are expensive and the die maker’s tooling is usually set up for .937 cut or .918 cut. More intricate and complex designs add additional make ready time and may cause cut-through. This is due to the many bends in the rule made by the die maker’s tooling. Every bend affects the angle of the rule. Excess or uneven adhesive on label stock may cause uneven cutting.

The rubber on the die plays a large role in kiss cutting. Rubber is another inconsistency added to the die. We have many customers who prefer no rubber at all. This works because the stock is not pushed pass the bevel on the knife and does not have to be ejected off the rule. We have been successful in using water jet rubber. Water jet rubber is much more consistent than blocks of rubber. We also have had great success by using lower height rubber that sits lower than standard rubber. This allows the cut to happen without having to push through the rubber.

We also manufacture thermal kiss cut dies. These dies only work on vinyl and cut with heat. They are etched magnesium plates and works a lot like foil stamp dies. The dies are very level and can achieve intricate or simple cuts with no cut through. Heat is a great tool to use. We have many customers who even heat traditional wood steel rule dies to 200 degrees to aid in cutting vinyls and other plastic materials. Make sure your die is very secure and hopefully bolted to the press if you try heat.



Scoring on a Cylinder Press

A lot of printers utilize equipment for die cutting on machines that were converted from letterpress printing presses. The most popular of these are Heidelberg but there are others such as Millers.  Recently we have seen more customers cutting on Vander Cook proofing presses. All of these presses are work horses and do a great job on die cutting registered work. One of the particularities of a cylinder is score heights. A cylinder press exerts different forces along the vertical and horizontal directions. Forces on scores that run parallel to the cylinder are less than scores that run perpendicular to the cylinder. We typically offset the score height by .005’’.

Score height is computed by taking the cut height (.918 virtually all letterpress equipment) and subtracting the caliper (in inches) of your paper. If you are using matrix you will need to subtract an additional .003’’ for plastic or fiberboard matrix and .009’’ for steel backed matrix

.918’’ cut height (type high)

-.010’’ paper caliper

-.003’’ plastic matrix

.905’’ crease Ht.  horizontal               .900’’ crease Ht.  vertical


We actually made a pocket folder die for an Accu-cut table press last week. We had to offset the vertical scores by 0.015’’ because the vertical scores were die-cutting the stock. You may have to experiment with your die maker to get the perfect combination on your press.

Using matrix or some sort of female channel is imperative for achieving a true letterpress crease. Crushing the paper without a channel will give you a folding line but your paper will definitely tend to crack. This may be fine on white stocks but probably not acceptable on colored or printed papers.

The unequal forces may also be a problem when cutting or kiss cutting a grid pattern. Many times operators may damage the horizontal knives by increasing pressure because the vertical knives are not cutting. It may be possible with a very long make ready but we usually suggest running it on a platen style press like a Kluge or Bobst. Another solution may be to run the vertical knives in one pass and the horizontal knives in another pass.


Give us a call with any of your die cutting challenges or visit us at our website, 



Why order a phenolic counter?

Counter plates offer significant advantages over creasing matrix and traditional cut press board.

Each counter plate is positioned over its corresponding die cavity using industry-standard nylon locating pins. Peel the release paper off the transfer adhesive, slide the die chase into position and cycle the press. The counter plates have been transferred to your cutting plate in perfect register with the die. As you press the counter plates down you will notice that the edges are smoothly unlike the straight edges of matrix which can catch on your sheets. Also, you only had to place a single counter plate on each die cavity instead of a piece of matrix for each piece of creasing rule.

Unlike a press board make-ready, you should never have to skive the edge of a counter plate channel to fix a “sharp” score. Sharp or cracking scores are an indication that the creasing rule in the die is not lining up properly with the scoring channel. Our close tolerance computer controlled counter plate router ensures a perfect match with our cutting die. Creases are accurately located and well-defined, which means an easier set-up on your folder-gluers too.