PMC Die Cutting

What is PMC die cutting (aka High Die Cutting)?

First off, PMC stands for “Printing Machine Corporation” which is the leading manufacturer of the machine. It is simple a 2 to 3-inch steel die that pre-cut paper is pushed through. Paper on a pad or perfect bound book on multiple panel folders is squeezed through the die. Basically, it’s like a monster sized cookie cutter for paper. As for what it actually is, a picture is worth a thousand words! The image below shows what the actual die looks like.




If you want a perfect bound book shaped like an oval, then only a PMC machine can do it. If you want a pad with three concaved sides only a PMC machine will do it. We frequently do scores of jobs that are business size cards with four round corners.



As for alternatives to PMC/High Die Cutting, you can die-cut full individual sheets (called steel rule die-cutting), but you end up with rough nicks on each side. You can also cut cards to finished size and round corner the four corners on a round cornering machine (which EVERY bindery has), but then you end up with uneven corners. The best choice is PMC!




  • The dies are expensive and can run from $600.00 up to $3,200.00 each!
  • The dies take from one to two weeks to order
  • Smallest size the die can be is 3/4”
  • Largest size is 9” x 11” (and we have the largest size in Canada!)
  • PMC/High Die cutting coated stock doesn’t work very well. Uncoated stocks work better.

Top Feature: The edges of the finished product are even and extremely smooth!



  • Sometimes cheaper than steel rule die cutting
  • Adds a lot of value to product
  • Unique process that no other style of machine can replicate

Casewrapped Sample Presentation Boxes

Ever seen casewrapped sample presentation boxes?


Success Story

Our client came to us with the need for us to make a sample presentation box (shown above), which had to meet three requirements.

  1. Sample package had to be unique, stand out and catch attention
  2. The unit was to be multi-function and easy to use
  3. 500 units had to be produced within a certain financial budget


Once we knew the requirements, we set to work producing four prototypes, each with only slight variations. The chosen prototype used recycled components like 52” tubes of compressed board, which we cut to the required length. We cut the tubes in half to produce to half circles. After sheeting, diecutting and hand applying the wrap, we added the following components:

  • Hand formed and sewn straps made from the same wrap material and were riveted
  • Dome pieces were attached
  • Dividers were hand glued to hold different samples of fabric



Not only was our customer highly satisfied with what we produced, this highly customized project was finished on time and within budget!



Whenever we produce unique products like this, people always seem to say the same thing, “I’ve never seen anything like it!” If you’re looking for that complete “wow” effect, give us a call to see what we can do for you.


The benefits of doing a project like this is that we were able to use many recycled materials. These recycled tubes have proven to be highly durable and after a lot of use, show minimal signs of wear.

For a sample of this product please email me at with your phone number, as we need to discuss the best way to get the sample to you.

Step Cutting, Corner Cutting and Face Cutting

What are step cutting, corner cutting and face cutting?

Step Cutting
The three different operations start with a bound book—perfect bound or saddle stitched, for example. We have rare machines that “cuts” away portion of paper from the face or corner of the bound book. The following diagrams illustrate the numerous styles we can do for you.


  • Diagram 4 above shows a step cut, which is by far the most common type
  • Diagram 5 shows a double step cut
  • Diagram 3 shows a corner cut
  • Diagram 6 shows a face cut
  • Diagrams 1, 2 & 7 have combinations step cuts, corner cuts and face cuts



  • All indexing (step cutting) is page-specific
  • All indexing is done with products that are already bound and trimmed
  • Indexing can also be done with spiral wire, Wire-O or loose leaf products




  • Fast and easy location of information within the book
  • Increased book usage
  • Increased perception of overall brand, value and quality
  • Greater visual impact
  • No die cutting or fold0out tab needed, which drastically reduces the cost

Exposed Smyth Sewn Books

What are “exposed Smyth sewn” books?

I saw the first exposed Smyth sewn books only four years ago. The photo below is the first exposed Smyth Sewn book we bound.


What is the difference between this binding style and a regular Smyth sewn hard cover book? The difference is that there is no material covering the sewing on the spine and the spine is generously covered with cold glue.


As with a regular Smyth sewn book, several different colours of threads can be used. Exposed Smyth binding really shows off the different thread colours

Is this binding method a fad or a trend? I’m not sure BUT we are certainly seeing a lot of them.



  • Hard cover on front and back of book
  • Cover thickness up to 120pt
  • Flush 3-side trimmed; cover does not overhang on three sides like a regular case bound book
  • Thread exposed in spine
  • No title/printing on spine




  • When the book is open, it lies as flat as a case bound book
  • It’s eye catching!
  • Looks handmade, natural …
  • Can be cheaper than a case bound book



Factors to consider

  • Think about what will be printed, foil stamped, embossed, debossed, screen printed or mounted on the front and back covers. We’ve seen all 5 processes used, sometimes in combinations
  • Let us specify the board to be used. This benefits you in two ways. The board we choose is warp resistant and will work with whatever ‘print’ method you choose



Gilding of cards or books (never saddle-stitched ones) involves the heated application of coloured foil to the sanded edges of a book or single cards. Think of a book, like a Bible, which often has gilded edges.


Success story

A printer wanted us to gild perfect bound books with black foil. All foil gilding requires the sanding off of 1/32” of the surfaces (face, head and foot) to be gilded. We communicated with the client to make allowances for the sand when trimming the books. This job was a learning curve for us because I thought “black” was black! Apparently, there are several different blacks. Because of this, we then had to establish whether the printer (and ultimate customer) wanted a matte or shiny black. In the end, they chose shiny. The job was delivered on time and with the full count … absolutely no rejects!



  • From a functional standpoint, the foil protects the printed piece from environmental issues such as acidity, dampness and the natural oils of the human hand



  • Foil gilding dresses up a book or card set, in a classical and timeless way
  • Gilt edges on a book or card speak of prestige, trust and quality
  • In recent times, we’ve seen foil edge gilding make a major comeback and it’s no longer a finish reserved for leather case bound books.
  • Designers are now combining or adding this unique finishing process with other design elements.
  • Even though foil gilding is still unusual and differentiates a product, we produce gilded jobs on a regular basis.




  • Until recently, gold was basically the only colour that could be used … NOT NOW!
  • We can now foil gild scores of colours. About 75% of the colours that can be foil stamped on a flat sheet we can now foil gild. Keep this in mind when designing with corporate colours (think IBM blue, Scotiabank red, CN Rail orange, etc.).


Factors to consider

  • Time! These jobs don’t happen over night, so plan ahead.
  • We have to source your preferred colour of foil from any one of six suppliers
  • We may have to test a variety of foils for the best result … sometimes as many as four times for a job
  • Count on about a 4-5% spoilage rate
  • Gilding might be relatively expensive but this cost for the right project can be more than worthwhile!



Board Book?

A board book is printed on thick paper or paper board (think of children’s’ books). Sheets are printed on only one side and the same stock weight is used for both the cover and interior pages. Each page panel is a minimum of two thicknesses of the one-side printed sheets. Press sheets are cut to the open size of the book (plus trim) and then scored and folded in half with the print side in. The 4-page folded sections are full-surface glued together; the cover is wrapped around and glued. The finished books are then trimmed on three sides.

Why design a board book?
To grab and retain attention! Outside of children’s books, this type of book is rarely considered for marketing purposes. One of the best features of board books is that there is a guaranteed line-up of images on crossovers and that the style of book spine allows board books to lie flat when open (see image below).

Success story


The images above show a board book we made for a condo developer. This customer required the graphic designer and printer (our client) to design and produce 7,000 books that allowed the product to:

  • Display photos more effectively
  • Lie flat, when opened, on a coffee table
  • Differentiate the product advertised from others in the marketplace


  • Pages are …VERY thick … up to 60pt!!!
  • Square spine allows for superb shelf display


  • Board books are great for panoramas & landscapes because they achieve what no other binding method can: layflat pages with uninterrupted images through the spine!
  • Board books are the most indestructible of all book/binding styles—that’s why they’re used 99% of the time for children’s’ books.
  • Board books are the easiest binding style to PMC shape into ovals, circles etc. (see image below)

Factors to Consider

  • All sheets are printed only one side
  • Page counts can be misleading as we handle it as 4 pagers until they are glued to one another to become 2 pagers.
  • Board book thicknesses range from 3/8” to 3” thick
  • Board book sizes range from 2” square to 14” square
  • Board books can be edge-stained or gilded

Marketing Collateral

If you check definitions of marketing collateral, you’ll probably find five or six. Marketing collateral is often though to be things like business cards, brochures, price lists, catalogues and so on. What about presentation boxes as marketing collateral? We make presentation boxes in hundreds of all sizes, shapes, colours, textures and styles.

The following is a case study of 5,200 presentation boxes both we designed and produced for a major bank.

Case study:

What the client was looking for:

The recipients or end-users of the box are individuals of high net worth who expect only the best. How best to attract and retain their business?

The purpose of the boxes were to house one or two credit cards along with two important books containing the “small print” that the client would retain for later reference, to avoid misunderstanding and mistakes.

The End Product


This image shows the box lined with red velvet, which lends an understated elegance; a centre “well” was formed to house two books.


The presentation box shown above is wrapped in a man-made (synthetic) material that looks like leather. This material was then foil stamped and we added a unique closure method we developed.

IMG_5033 IMG_5020

These images show the ribbon used as “lifter” to help remove the boxes from the well.


  • Opening the box is easy; no instructions are needed.
  • The plush velvet interior usually ‘awes’ the client!
  • The box is attractive and sturdy: highly unlikely to be thrown out.


The box we designed met the crucial make-or-break requirements of our client:

  • Box neatly displayed and held one or two credit cards and two books
  • Visual attraction, usefulness of box would lead the end user to keep the books and refer to them, reducing phone calls, emails, misunderstanding and mistakes
  • Box easily couriered to clients without any damage

Success story:

  • The 5,200 units were produced at a cost that stayed within a pre-established budget (there were no nasty, last-minute surprises!)
  • All 5,200 units were delivered on time!
  • All the boxes were of superb quality, with absolutely zero “rejects”

Z-Fold/ Zeddie Pak/ Z-Card

A Z-fold card (also known as a Z-CARD) is a multi-panel brochure with two larger cover cards glued on the opposite sides of the piece.

 Fly Smart

But, a photo doesn’t do a Z-fold card justice. You really have to touch, open and close one to see the genius of it. We will gladly send you samples at no cost. We really think you need to see one!

Success story!

Over 2 billion Z-fold cards have been produced worldwide in the last 20 years!
City maps have been Z-fold card folded to fit in a pocket…
Instructions sheets have been Z-fold card folded…

Features of Z-fold cards

The diagram below shows one of the many folding sequences that can be utilized. Two opposite corner panels are blank on one side, where the cover cards are glued. By pulling the two cards apart, the entire sheet magically unfolds and with another motion, refolds into the original configuration.


The folded piece is centered on two larger cover cards.

Benefits … why bother with Z-fold cards?

Our Z-fold card grabs attention because the unique folder is irresistible-you just have to open and close it. The end user will read it, use it, remember it and keep it!

Factors to consider:

  • Popular misconceptions:
    1. There is still a patent on Z-fold cards.  The patent expired in 2010. Therefore, no royalty or user fees are required to produce Z-fold cards.
    2. There is a limited number of templates, layouts, sizes. Not true—we do have custom configurations or standard “Z-fold card” sizes.
  • We deal with ONLY graphic designers and printers—we DO NOT approach your clients directly.
  • We and only one other company produce this product in Canada.

What you might not know:

  • We have produced quantities from 100-150,000
  • Our average run length is 2,450
  • 92% of the Z-fold cards we have produced have rounded corners
  • 78% of our Z-fold cards were run on 50-pound offset; lighter stock works better because the product lies flatter and is more compact.


The Z-fold card pictured above has an additional feature: a slit in the front card allows for the insertion of a business card or loyalty card.

This second, Z-fold card is similar to the one above with one difference: the front card is a glued pocket, into which a business card or loyalty card can be inserted–instead of a slit.

Laser diecutting?

In the simplest terms, a laser diecutting machine uses a laser to completely cut through paper. Since no physical cutting tools make contact with the paper, the level of detail possible in the laser cut design is primarily limited by the durability required of the finished product. Designs are created when the moving laser cuts intricate designs into the paper.

Success Story: In the picture above, you can see delicate hairline thin pieces of the design.  In the planning stage of this job, we tried three different coloured blue cover weight stocks. While a member of the graphic arts industry might note the difference, the different stock would appear identical to a lay person. The first stock we tested had a light blue burn line a quarter an inch wide around the image, which was unacceptable. The next stock we tested, the hairline connector pieces disintegrated. The third stock was successful and we produced 7,000 laser diecut portfolios. 

The Future of Laser Diecutting
Laser diecutting, as a graphic arts medium, is still relatively in its infancy. Though it has been used successfully by most greeting card companies for over 20 years, it is just now beginning to find a much wider use in the graphic arts industry.

Features of Laser Diecutting 
•    Unbelievably, intricate fine detail
•    Wide range of applications
•    Great for short runs
•    Creates a lot of opportunities for a designer’s imagination

Benefits of Laser Diecutting

•    Can produce more intricate and finer designs that cannot be done by other methods like steel rule die cutting
•    No dies are needed, which can shorten the production time because the time to create a die is eliminated
•    The process is chemical-free and there is little to no waste

Factor to Consider

Many companies provide laser diecutting services for trophies, signs and plaques made out of glass, wood and steel. Laser diecutting on paper, however, requires a different skill set since the heat of the laser can sometimes create some discolouration or laser burn around the design on one side of the sheet of paper. This can be worked around by printing a neutral colour on the target side, designing the piece so that the target side is not seen or using the discolouration as part of the design, such as an ‘antique’ look to a lace pattern. The best way, however, to avoid laser burn is to choose a paper stock that cuts cleanly in the early design stages.

Having the stock you plan to use tested is the best way to avoid quality surprises later on. Testing should ordinarily be a free service, and I encourage customers to supply various stocks for testing. In the quoting stage, we often recommend two or three different stocks.

Saddle Sewing

I goofed in last weeks’ blog.  I forgot to mention that I also own Specialties Graphic Finishers.  Both Anstey and Specialties do the unusual jobs.  Specialties works with the customers printed paper and produces larger jobs on automated machines.  Anstey jobs are of a low quantity, Anstey supplies most of the material and the jobs are very labour intensive.

Saddle Sewing

Why sew anything when there’s good old-fashioned staples (or saddle stitching), paperback book style (or perfect binding) or … all those other options? In a word, sewn books, pamphlets and so on have ‘CHARACTER’. They will stand out, won’t be forgotten or tossed into the round bin on the floor.

Today’s terminology is saddle sewing, once known as either “Singer sewing” or centre sewing decades ago. These earlier terms are not used as much any more, in part because Singer is a largely forgotten sewing machine brand and second, centre sewing is something of a misnomer or mistaken description.

So, pretty much every graphic designer, estimator or marketer knows what saddle stitching is:  metal staples—sometimes in various colours.

(maximum of 20 colours that I know of)—along the spine or binding edge of a booklet.

What does a saddle sewn book or tag look like?

IMG_4396 IMG_4389 IMG_4354 ANSTEY-299-1030x686 IMG_7652

Factors to consider:

Colour tests to ensure that colour of thread on the book is what you have in mind

Decision on saddle sewing must be made BEFORE layout:

  • A large run will need a lip on high folio
  • Similar technical, physical requirements to saddle stitching
  • ‘Push-out’ or ‘shingling’ (as does saddle stitching) requires particular care at the layout stage to ensure correct line-up of graphics in the finished product

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