Tongue Depressor Business Cards

Open wide and say aahhh. Great. Now turn your head and letterpress some tongue depressor business cards. We just printed these for MCAD design undergrad Matt Van Ekeren. The cards are for his soon to launch website The simplicity of the idea here is brilliant. The business card object plays off the url perfectly.

For the production, we hand fed them on our Chandler and Price letterpress. We used a small block of deep relief Boxcar base in an unusual way. Instead of using photopolymer plates, we used a 16 gauge copper plate mounted with double stick tape adheisive. We used copper rather than polymer in this case so we could be a little more aggressive with the impression on the wood. To accomodate the thickness of the tongue depressor, we had to back the platen off a few flats. Then, since the artwork is so tight to the edge the big challenge was fitting the guides pins EXTREMELY tight to the print area and not crush them. But it worked! We printed a couple hundred on both sides. A real challenge to hand fed, press was on a pretty low speed setting. Not something we’d like to do everyday, but we are suckers for trying things that are unique. But we did have Matt open all the individually packaged depressors.

Also, take a look at our Chandler and Price hand guard. It is a window-shade-like device that opens up as the press closes and pushes your hand out of harms way. Kind of a nice safety feature.



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  • Those have to be the greatest business cards I’ve ever seen. Fabulous.

  • where is the guard picture? i’d like to see the window shade like device

  • Mouse over the images in the gallery and look at the picture labeled “_0002_Chandler_Price_platen_guard” The canvas roll has a frame on the top that pushes upward as the press closes, effectively moving hands out of the way. Picture labeled “0005_designthattalks_ink_on_press” shows the guard fully extended upwards just before the press closes.The frame drops down and the fabric winds back up as the press opens so the operator can easily reach the printed piece.

  • wow. i have loved reading your blog for a little while… always great ideas… but that one blew me out of my seat. very cool!

  • See this is why you guys just rock.

  • problem solved. btw; they’re “gauge pins”.

  • you might look into getting yourself some lower gauge pins. Megill made many styles that may still available. the “Fleur de lisle” has a low head that wouldn’t be crushed by your platepress base.

    you may not be aware, but the weakest impressional strength of a “Gordon” style platen (all Chandler & Price presses) is at the top of the bed, exactly where you’ve positioned your form.

    the optimal position for forms on a platen are at the center of the bed. beyond that, forms over 1/4 the surface area of a platen (which you haven’t even begun to approach) begin to test the capacity of the press and you run the risk of “wracking” the press. it would be a shame to break a nice old press through improper setup.

    have fun with the “platepress”.

  • @ Interrobang – Gee Mike, really? You really want to have a “platepress” vs. “letterpress” debate in the comments on our blog?

    For those not familiar with Interrobangs position, he would insist that printing with photopolymer/metal plates is not actually letterpress, but is instead “platepress” – which is why his comment here is particularly snarky and erroneous. Our position is that plates are just another tool for achieving letterpress results. For any craft, there are different tools. And different tools make different marks and are used for varying purposes. We have deep admiration for folks that are keeping alive the handset elements of letterpress. But photopolymer and metal plates are just another means to an end which truly make letterpress (yes LETTERPRESS) commercially viable for contemporary design. Saying it is no longer letterpress simply because we employ different tools is grossly mistaken. That’s like saying a carpenters woodwork really isn’t woodwork because they choose to use a power saw instead of a hand saw.

    As to the comments about this particular job setup – setting the tiny form at the top of the platen was in this case very necessary. With the tongue depressors artwork coming within a sixteenth from the edge meant that there was not a surface to grab with the fingers that didn’t contain ink. We solved this by positioning the form toward the top, which enabled us to put a finger on the bottom side of the depressor and “flick” it a short distance from the platen to a pile on the feed board without touching the printed surface. But yes, after a decade of printing we are aware of the strength of the platen being in the center, which of course is the typical way to set up.

    Our lower gauge pins would not work in this case. The thickness of the material combined with art work so close to the edge meant that we could not have a “pin” or tongue in place on the guide to hold the wood stick in place while the press closed. But by using thicker guides/gauges the stick rested in place without falling down into the press.

  • Snarky AND erroneous? perhaps the former, but not the latter. Sorry.

    That said, I deliberately chose not to elaborate on my position in your forum. That would be rather graceless. Suffice to say, you do fine work, and the art and design is all quite interesting, but it is relief printing rather than ‘letterpress’ per se. Yes yes, it’s a matter of degree, and to an extent semantic in nature, but I stand by my position. We can duke it out some time when I’m home for the holidays. We’ll raise a glass to Tim Gartman then get down to brass tacks (which i understand are made of some base metal now days, though still called ‘brass tacks’…)

    As regards inky fingers, have you found that while hand feeding, Swingline rubber finger tips allow a certain amount of contact without smudging, especially if one employes moderate inking. Given the results, it appears you were conservative with the ink.

    In the final analysis, every job to a greater or lesser extent is an exercise in problem solving and this appears to have been successfully solved.

    Remind me some time to tell you about die-cutting 1000 round flexi-discs to take their diameter down by a 1/16″ so they could be glued on top of CDs. Dropping to two gauge pins, no tongues, similar to your run here with a ~1/32″ pin clearance… fun.

  • Wow, I had no idea there was a medieval war going on in the letterpress community. I was fortunate enough to meet a local man who had operated a Windmill most of his life. He seemed perfectly fine with all of the new technology available today.

    As far as the debate goes, the way I see it, letterpress is simply the term used for the relief printing of a type high form on a cylinder or platen press. Now, originally when the term was born, that form consisted of metal movable type that was cast from a mold. So, if you want to stay true to the line your drawing between “letterpress” and “platepress” where your definition of “letterpress” is the authentic letterpress, then you shouldn’t print any wood, zinc, magnesium, or copper cuts either. Which, ironically, I noticed you do print those.

    Although, I think drawing a line in the middle of the term letter/press is a little pretentious. If you were to draw such lines, then several lines would have to be drawn. Which would phrase your considered definition of letterpress as “typepress.” After all–since we’re playing with words–it’s movable type–also known in sets to be a typeface that is typeset which creates an art form known as typography, not letters from a letterface that is letterset to create an art form known as letterography.

    Now, there is something to be said for someone who still produces their forms with handset type, the classical way. I just don’t believe claiming the word letterpress is it. I think all there is to claim is the process of hand-setting type. Once that type is set, it’s a form that is printed with the same process as any other form regardless of it’s material or make-up.

    Innovation is what brings it all together for me. Movable type is a tool set who’s origin can be traced back to Chinese engraved ceramics and wood. Evolving from ceramics and wood to molded metal shows innovation in the materials and methods used for creating movable type. This innovation was meant to create more efficient, consistent, faster, and affordable movable type with better capabilities, and it is within that time of innovation that the term letterpress was created. That same innovation brought on etched zinc and copper. Which would also drive the innovation for photopolymer. Photopolymer is merely the latest step in the same innovation that brought you metal cast type from Chinese engraved ceramics.

    So, to me, it would be erroneous to deny zinc, copper, linoleum, photopolymer, or any other material that a form could be created with in the category of “authentic letterpress.” Because to do so, you would be denying the very innovation on which letterpress was born.

    That being said, I respect both of you, greatly. It’s also cool to see someone keeping it old school. Aside from the debate, I would like to locate some of the low profile gauge pins you speak of. I’ve been hunting for some without any results. Got a link?

  • I come here to be inspired by one of the best printers I know of. I totally appreciate your work, your descriptions of your processes and the community.

    This project technically blows my mind. Thank you for sharing.

  • I am so relieved (relief’d) that my work of reconditioning/rebuilding a new style 1926 C&P 12×18 is possibly not a general affront to the sensibilities of the letterpress community. You see, the only thing I will be printing is relief plates, to bring my art to paper. Had me worried there for a bit thinking I was about to do something illegal, cause I declared my C&P as a “letterpress” at the boarder.
    You do inspiring work! Thanks for sharing!

  • We currently sell about 4300 boxes (500 ct) of 5.5” tongue depressors, could we get a rough price on a single sided, single color printed tongue depressor and what ever cost that would go along.
    Thank you.

  • Can you provide some pricing for printed tongue depressors for me

    Kevin Harmon PA-C 570-478-5537 Call or Text

  • Hi! I am interested in getting some popsicle stick business cards made. Are you able to provide a price or point me in the right direction? I will actually be using plant label stakes but they are essentially popsicle sticks. :)
    Thank you