Letterpress Beverage Coasters

Today’s blog shows some of the considerations and techniques used to print beautiful and versatile beverage coasters on Neenah Cotton Letterpress Finish 220 lb cover stock available in Ecru, Pearl White and Fluorescent White from CutCardStock.com.

Beverage coasters, made from extra thick stock, present a great opportunity for letterpress printers to apply their industrial age technology and create functional art that simply cannot be made on a laser printer…and you don’t need a huge corporate client to make them for. In fact, your neighbor or relative might really enjoy some of these.

Coasters are a great accessory that complements the highly personalized decor of today’s man caves and she sheds. Having a supply of coasters on hand gives man cave and she shed owners the opportunity to express themselves, and to allow guests to bring home a little part of their special place, and with a few basic tools (paper cutter, die-cutter/corner rounder, metal types and ornaments, ink and of course, a printing press), you can supply beautiful coasters or make them for your own man cave or she shed.

Selecting stock for your coasters is the first step. Effective coasters need to be thick enough to withstand repeated use and absorbent enough to soak up any liquid that a beverage glass might produce. Cotton paper that is at least 220 lb/398 GSM performs well as coaster stock. This is approximately three times as thick as a standard business card, so cutting can be a challenge. I am going to use the Ideal 1038 Trimmer, which provides quality cutting ability for hobby and short run printers at a reasonable cost and with minimal space, to trim one sheet of 8.5″ x 11″ 220 lb Ecru Neenah Cotton paper to the standard size of 3.5″ square, which will yield six coasters. If you don’t have a cutter, the good folks at CutCardStock.com can trim any stock to your specifications, and they are experts at it.

Trimming the 8.5″ x 11″ heavy cotton card stock to 3.5″ square, one sheet at a time.

After you have the stock cut to size, you will need to round-corner or die cut the coasters to get rid of the sharp corners. I am using my 1950s vintage Lassco Corner Rounder, but more modern technologies like Cricut Cutting Machines can also handle this heavy stock.

Old school corner rounding of the square coaster stock.

Choosing a theme for the coaster design requires a good understanding of the man cave or she shed’s unique character. For today’s project, I have chosen to create a fictional establishment based on a matriarch of my wife’s family who lived nearly three centuries ago. Family history is one of our hobbies, and our den (call it a combined man cave/she shed) features numerous photographs and items from our ancestors. For this coaster, I am using typography to capture the late 1700s for what we are calling Susanna McDermitt’s Public House. The types are primarily antique metal types and a cool modern casting of an old font called Motto from Skyline Type Foundry.

Setting hand types. In the left photo, the largest piece of spacing (in this case an em quad) at the far right (outside) of the line, with an en quad and then a 3/em space next to that (closest to the type characters). Keeping the largest spacing on the outside edges of your hand composed lines keeps the types more stable. Note also that the nick (the groove along the body of the type) is reversed to make it easier to separate spacing material from types. On the right, the scrolling effect of Skyline Type Foundry’s Motto font is shown.

A design challenge to consider when working with a coaster is that you are essentially creating a square. To break up the square, I have incorporated a finial ornament from Moore Wood Type at the top.

Hand-set metal types with an ornament from Moore Wood Type to break up the square dimensions of the coaster.

Presswork for coasters, or for any time when you are using stock that is significantly thicker than normal, requires some additional attention to detail. Since thick stock can be more expensive than other papers, you will want to cut some inexpensive bond or light card stock to the same measurements as your coaster for obtaining position on press. After you set your gauge pins, don’t forget to remove packing and/or lower your impression screws to account for the extra thickness of the coaster stock before you begin printing the coasters. Failing to do this can damage metal and wood types and will cause unnecessary wear. It may also damage your press.

After using bond or thin card stock to get position, ensure that you remove packing and/or adjust impression screws to account for the additional thickness of coaster stock.

The photo below shows some of the other coasters I have printed at The Norlu Press for different occasions. Thank you for reading this post, and please keep following cutcardstock.blog to learn about more creative ways of using paper from some of the most creative folks I know.

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