What it takes to get a combination foil stamp/sculpted embossing job done right
This 4-up business card master job illustrates how valuable it is to work with a top-notch pro…especially when the project requires extreme precision and detail.
In the photos below, our die-maker and embossing craftsman, Al Michaels takes us through the set-up, the precision adjustments, and finally running the combination foil-emboss business cards on his press. We turn to Al for projects when our clients’ require custom die-cutting, foil stamping, and embossing.
Production note: This project had an additional challenge – The customer supplied a sample of their existing business card which had the logo foil stamped flat onto the sheet (in other words, no embossing). Therefore, what follows is Al accomplishing the extremely difficult task of replicating their existing ‘flat foil stamp’ logo but using newly created combination ‘foil stamp/multi-level embossing’ die which will give the foil stamped logo a dimensional, sculpted appearance.
Original sample supplied by the customer. The gold foil logo is stamped flat onto the sheet.
The first step is getting an exact color match of the gold foil on the sample card supplied by the customer with one of the gold foil rolls that are inventoried at the shop. There are dozens of color shades, so the pressman has to be spot on.
Just a few of the gold foil options which are available.
Multi-level, 4-Up business card, combination Foil/Emboss die made of brass.
Multi-level, 4-Up business card, combination Foil/Emboss die made of brass
Positioning the brass die and the fiberglass counter-die.
The ‘4-up’ brass die is mounted to the “honeycomb plate” inside the press (the upper plate with the circular holes) and remains in place for the duration of the press run. Below and positioned closer to our camera is the fiberglass “counter-die” which also gets mounted in place for the duration of the press run. Each sheet of card stock is fed mechanically, one-by-one and placed directly onto the “counter-die”. The press then closes shut. When the press closes shut, our sheet of 100# cover stock is pressed up against a roll of foil and the brass foil/embossing die with intense pressure. The press opens up again immediately completing our first “4-up, foil stamp, sculpted emboss business card master”. This feeding of cover stock, followed by closing and opening of the press will continue 1,250 more times until we have our total count of 5,000 masters requested by the customer (4-up sheets x 1,250).
Note: the roll of foil is not seen in this photo. Once the job is running the foil is unrolled down the center of the honey comb, directly in front of the brass foil/embossing die. Therefore, each time the press closes shut, the “counter-die” presses up against a fresh swath of foil and then tight up against the brass die mounted on the honeycomb plate producing our stamped logo image.
Close-up of our foil/embossing brass die.
The text and image are tooled into the brass foil/embossing die backwards. Therefore, when the counter-die presses a sheet of paper up against the roll of foil and onto the foil/embossing die, the image left on the sheet reads correctly instead of backwards.
A ‘sculpted embossing die’ means that the image stamped into the sheet will have a rounded, sculpted appearance. Notice how the heads of the pitch and shovel are recessed in the center. This will give them a raised, beveled appearance when stamped onto the sheet of paper.
Al’s KLUGE foil/embossing press
Having matched the sample provided by the customer with one of his gold foils, Al spools the foil onto the press.
Setting up the job
First press sheet…it needs a lot more work to get it looking right.
Foil not hitting evenly
Here is the first sheet that was foil-embossed. The foil is not yet filling in completely especially on the two right side business card positions. Notice the foil in the heads of the shovel on the two right side logos is not filling in solid and the image of the Golden Gate Bridge is faint. Again, this 4-up business card master was placed mechanically directly on top of our ‘fiberglass counter-die’. Then the press closed shut and pressed our sheet up against the brass foil-embossing die positioned above on the “honeycomb plate”. The press then immediately opens with our logo foil-embossed onto our business card master. However, the pressure is just not right yet to get a clean, solid foil stamp.
Now the real work begins. For the next three hours Al will micro-adjust and build up the pressure beneath the counter-die so that all four logo positions of our business card master fill in perfectly. It is this step in the project is where 30 plus years of experience make all the difference.
The brass foil-emboss die is positioned on the honeycomb plate and the fiberglass counter-die positioned on the steel plate before the job has begun.
The fiberglass counter-die is positioned securely on a flat steel surface called a platen. The platen is on a hinge and can be lifted up and down allowing placement of a ‘spot-sheet’ which increases pressure against the brass die. It is this art of ‘spot-sheeting’ that separates the hacks from the true master pressmen.
The spot-sheet Al is making for the foil-emboss business card masters.
The spot-sheet is slipped below the steel platen and positioned exactly below the fiberglass counter-die. Notice the arrow drawn in blue pen at the right side edge of the sheet. This is so that Al knows exactly where to replace the spot-sheet below the platen each time he removes it to build up and adjust the pressure points.
The four spots of red and brown tape on the left are meticulously constructed. If you look closely you see that the tape is actually on top of that first press-sheet we saw in which the two right side logo positions were not filling in completely. They look like haphazard mounds of tape but each one is built precisely in order to build up pressure according to where the foil is not completely filling in.
By making many micro adjustments by building up the tape, Al creates the exact pressure needed to perfectly foil-emboss all four logo positions of the business card master.
Many foil jobs do not require this step. However, this project has two characteristics which require these extra precision adjustments:
1. The letters of the text circling around the logo are very small and need to fill in solid with foil (but without plugging).
2. It is also a sculpted emboss. This detail requires micro adjustments and exact pressure in order to come out right.
Using a razor blade to slightly shave the tape mounts on the foil logos.
Building up specific pressure points on his spot sheet.
Examines his progress under a magnifying loop.
Once satisfied with his work, Al will put the spot sheet back under the steel platen and run another sheet to see how close he is to having it just right. Once he has it to his satisfaction he stacks all of the 1,250 ‘four-up business masters’ on the press and runs the entire job.
Close-up of sculpted-embossed foil
The foil-embossing is looking good after several adjustments to the spot-sheet. Above you see the sculpted, raised appearance of the pitch and spade. It is a delicate balance to get the sculpted embossing while at the same time keeping the small text sharp and solid.
Above is the lower-left quadrant of a business card master. The contact information is now imprinted and spaced correctly from the foil-embossed logo. The masters are now ready to trimmed down to final size of 2” x 3 ½ “ business cards and shipped to the customer.