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Hands On, Vol. 5: Printfresh & Paper Box Studios

This is the fifth installment of Hands On, a series of informal posts dedicated to honoring the people, machines, and processes involved in making and manufacturing.



Introducing Paper Box Studios

Our favorite thing about Philadelphia is the incredible community of artists, makers, tinkerers, manufacturers, and creative entrepreneurs. Thanks to the city's rich manufacturing past, the dearth of vacant property has left us ample space for meetups, studios, workshops, and offices, but rarely are these locations as beautiful and unique as the ones you'll find at Paper Box Studios.

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Paper Box Studios, at 1639 North Hancock Street, is a 32,000 square ft. warehouse that is a space for artists and creative professionals to practice their trades. The 25 spaces available for rent range from 200 to 2300 square ft. What was originally a 1880s snuff, trunk, and paper box factory is now a fantastic blend of old and new-- A/C and heating, wifi, kitchenettes, exposed brick, restored hardwood and beams, and decorative tin elements.

Currently, the building filled to capacity, but interested tenants can sign up for the waitlist here. In addition to the rental spaces, co-working at Paper Box Studios is due to launch on September 1st, and will feature small private offices, open working areas, and access to a conference room.

 

Printfresh

Founded by local entrepreneurs Amy and Leo Voloshin, Paper Box Studios is also home to their successful textile design studio, Printfresh, which we had the pleasure of visiting.

Printfresh creates on-trend artwork for fabric that strives to be at the forefront of the fashion industry. With a client list that includes Urban Outfitters, GAP Inc., Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Mango, Roxy, Billabong, Element, American Eagle, Aeropostale, J.Crew, Justice, Pottery Barn, H&M, and Zara, it's safe to say that you've seen their work before, whether you know it or not.

Since starting in 2006, the company now employs over 20 people and deals primarily in the intellectual property business. This means Printfresh works business-to-business and does not produce finished products. They design and sells fabric prints, which are then sold to fashion designers for million and billion dollar brands to use for whatever they like-- dresses, bikinis, shawls, etc.

By forecasting up-coming trends between 12 - 24 months into the future,the  design team churns out up to 115 patterns a week that are then shown and sold to leading fashion designers from all over the world and in turn, influencing the styles you see on the street. 

How does someone predict what's going to be in style in, say Summer 2016? Owner Leo describes their process as "speculative design," meaning Printfresh mostly doesn't take specific direction on the characteristics of their designs. Rather, they produce what they expect to be popular in their clients' store by paying careful attention to cutting-edge fashion trends, as well as art exhibitions, and other pop culture indicators. Broadly, Leo says, "it really it comes down to whatever is influencing people." He recognizes the need to keep looking ahead: "Today's innovation is tomorrow's commodity."

Not all of Printfresh's work is speculative, but much of it is. Commission work is also welcome.  For example, a client might say "We liked this piece from the Marc Jacob's runway show... can you make it in blue with butterflies instead of birds?"

 

Process

Using these trends as a guide, the design team gets to work. A bunch of images pinned to a tack board gives an idea of their creative process -- patterns and photos paired with words like "folkloric," "tesselations," "inky," "magic carpet," "wanderlust," or "animal instincts."

A large number of the company's designs start as hand-drawn, in order to avoid the distinctly unnatural look that comes from vector graphics. Then they're scanned and edited, and finally printed on special paper-backed fabric. This allows them to use standard large-format printers with only minimal modifications. Next, the paper backing is peeled of, and the patterns are labeled, and they're essentially ready to go!

While it might seem simple, Leo cautions that it requires a nuanced approach. All his designers are talented artists many from the top art schools on the East Coast, but it takes an extra keen eye to be effective when working with textiles. Designers need to ensure their work answers the most basic question of all: "Can you wear it?" The challenge, he says, comes from creating artwork that is not only beautiful, but is practical for fashion, evokes an emotional response, and would appeal to the client's customers, who may be very different demographically from the designers themselves. But to the bright and highly trained artists who work here, it's a welcomed challenge.

Like the design process, the sales process is streamlined-- the printed physical samples get tossed in a suitcase and presented to clients from LA to London, who are then able to purchase them on the spot. The goods are are delivered as digital files that have been prepped and are ready to be printed.

Clients then may hand off the prints to their fashion designers, or they have the option of working further with Printfresh's CAD & Customs team. They can change colors, play with repetition and rotary characteristics, create custom designs for specific garments, digitize vintage patterns, or do whatever is necessary to satisfy client's needs and make the patterns factory-ready.

 

PF Vintage

Printfresh also boasts an enormous (30,000+) library of vintage fabrics and garments ranging from the 1800s to the 1980s, which includes printed swatches, yarn dyes, antique scarves, garment swatches, full garments, unique lace and jacquards sources from all over the world. They are neatly hung and categorized by every characteristic imaginable. Need something scenic? Something geometric? Something nautical? It's all there, along with a slew of samples that exemplify special techniques like beading or embroidering. 

Printfresh makes this collection available to clients locally and abroad who want to browse, get inspired, and interpret trends. Fashion is cyclical after all, and so a collection like this is simultaneously a window into the past and the future.


Our intention with Hands On is to provide a resource for small businesses, artists, and budding entrepreneurs. Printfresh is somewhat of a departure from our usual feature, because their clients are typically million dollar brands. We chose to feature them because even if your business is not this large, our hope is that you found this instructive. Perhaps it helps you to realize the diverse possibilities that exist at the intersection of art and business. Or maybe one day your business actually will be doing millions in sales, and you can work with Printfresh. Who knows? Maybe this will simply inspire you to approach the business world with an open mind, and seeing the success that Amy and Leo have enjoyed, you will be moved to start your own business, and as Steve Jobs was fond of saying, "make a dent in the universe."

To learn more, visit PrintFreshStudio.com. Special thanks to Karen Randal and the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce for facilitating this trip.

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ARTIST TO WATCH: BEN MEDANSKY


Ceramics artist Ben Medansky is breathing new life into the world of pottery. While his pieces vary from simple to complex, each vessel has a clear design intention and unique style. Whether through geometric shapes added to the walls and lips or the unique glazing patterns, the pieces present both a minimal beauty and sometimes-complex form that is truly distinctive. His work has a real modern "Memphis" feel to it. Check out his website if you’d like to purchase some of his wares or his instagram where you can get a behind the scenes look at the studio.


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Things We Love - July 2014

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Valet Trays by M&U co.  -  $55- $88

When I get home the first thing I do is empty my pockets of that days contents. Coins, keys, and my wallet all get set-aside on the first surface I can find which then ends up looking like a disorganized mess. Instead, keep your miscellaneous pocket cargo in these stylish hardwood valet trays by Maxx & Unicorn. Available in a 6” diameter circular size, or a larger 7”x10” rectangle, these catch-alls are made from sustainably harvested woods and manufactured here in the USA. 


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Ceramic Flask by Misc. Goods - $92

It’s not often that you see a new take on a design as timeless as the metal tin flask, but Misc. Goods have made a gorgeous white ceramic cast flask that would accent any space nicely. Entirely crafted in the USA, each flask measures 4.25 x 6.5 inches, and is finished with two different tanned leather straps, front and back embossing, and eye-catching brass hardware. 


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Makr Tumblers by Makr - $28

There is a definite beauty to be had in keeping an object pure and simple and these attractive handcrafted tumblers by Makr studio are at the epitome of minimal design. They are available in three different sizes from tall, short, and flared, as well as, a finish in copper, white, or gray. No matter which you choose they will go perfectly holding your favorite cocktail. 


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Things We Love - June 2014

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Things We Love - June 2014

Raindrops and roses and whiskers on kittens...here are a few more of our favorite things from great designers around the world!


Box Kit by Hard Graft - £149 (Around $250)

I remember my grandfather's old Dopp kit (doesn't every grandfather have one?) and it looked just like this. Handmade in Italy, this compact square-ish leather bag with a foldover top could be use for anything from toothbrushes to tech gear to art supplies. Visit their site for more gorgeous bags and luggage of leather and other materials.


White Oak Cutting Board by Minam - $120

Cutting boards are the epitome of minimalist design-- just a plain slice of wood that puts the natural grain on show. There's not much room for improvement, but we think Minam's simple addition of a leather loop adds the perfect amount of interest. Cut on one side and use the other for display. Made by hand in U.S.A., and based in our very own Philadelphia. Great town, Philly. :)


Stash Box by Triumph & Disaster - $142

Aside from having my favorite brand name in recent memory, Triumph & Disaster also happens to make some amazing products. This stash box features anatomical and botanical drawings that resembly an old-timey apothecary, which can be used to stash whatever your heart desires once you use up the men's grooming products that are included. "Rock & Roll Suicide Face Scrub"? I don't understand it, but I think I like it.

Full Disclosure: We do NOT have affiliate relationships with any of these brands, and we do not benefit financially from featuring them. We just wanted to share some cool things we think our fans will appreciate.

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ART FOR THE CASH POOR

We are excited to have a table for one of two days in this years InLiquid’s Art for the Cash Poor, an annual summer sale that operates under the premise that everyone can be an art collector.

It's free to the public and opens this weekend, June 14th-15th. We will have our watches on display on the 14th.

In 1999, the event began as an exposition of quality work at affordable prices, with everything from jewelry, paintings, photography, fashion, and ceramic ware priced at $199 and under.

Now, the weekend-long fair allows attendees to navigate a space bursting with arts vendors, live musical performances, culinary curiosities, and an outdoor beer garden. The addition of a Friday night ticketed preview party serves as a meet-and-greet with the artists and a fundraiser for AIDS Fund, giving guests an exclusive sneak-peek at the festivities to follow.

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Hands On, Vol. 4: Amuneal Manufacturing Corp.

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Hands On, Vol. 4: Amuneal Manufacturing Corp.


This is the fourth installment of Hands On, a series of informal posts dedicated to honoring the people, machines, and processes involved in making and manufacturing.


 

From Magnetic Shileding to High End 5th Avenue Fabrication

Amuneal was started in 1965 by Harriet and Sy Kamen, and their dog named Spencer in the back of a candy shop. Sy was an electronic salesman back then when his customers noticed that their components were becoming sensitive to the magnetic fields. He saw the opportunirty and together they both started Amuneal, a business focused on magnetic shielding. They use a special proprietary technique that shields from earths magnetic field. Semi conductors, for example, require magnetic shielding. They moved to the present day location in the Frankford neighborhood of Philadelphia in 1975.

So what's their name mean? The "mu" is a reference to mu-metal, that material used to build magnetic shields. The "neal" references the annealing cycle used to process magnetic shield. The "A" was thrown into the front to ensure favorable placement in industry listings at the time, thus creating the name Amuneal.

With shifts in government contracts and general industry changes within the elctronics realm, Amuneal had to grow and expand it's operations. In 1993 son Adam took over. They are an example of manufacturers evolving with the changing times and technologies.

At one point, Amuneal was one of the countries top suppliers of magnetic shielding. Today, the business is seemingly split. They still do magnetic shielding, but the majority of the business these days comes from custom fabrication projects which vary from major luxury retail clients such as Barneys New York, high end architecture firms like Roman and Williams, and for high caliber artists such as sculptor Mikyoung Kim. A smaller part of the business is focused on their "Standard Products" line of furniture and displays.  "The Collectors Shelving System" recently went viral on social media site Pinterest. "In one day we had 50 calls" said designer Connell Carruthers.

 

Where, What, and Who

Today Amuneal is made up of 3 factories and 1 showroom, all right here in Philadelphia. Their newest location is near the airport which will allow them easier access to their manufactured designs final homes all around the world.

Their specialty is in unique metal finishing, specifically, in replicating vintage metals. They can spray zinc, pewter, bronze, stainless steel, brass, etc. onto almost any substrate. They also do work with wood, plastics, glass, upholstry, etc. Theirs no material they haven't worked with.

The team of about 108 employees hold mixed and varied backgrounds. Some of the creative work happens within the office, with folks who have industrial design backgrounds, who work with clients, and spend time rendering concept models and final plans. Other machinists, creatives, and fine artists work in the main warehouse behind the office. This is where the magic of fabrication happens. It's also where they have their industrial hydrogen powered ovens, for the magnetic shielding and metal treatments, which heat up to 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. Everything is calculated - from the time of day they use the ovens to how quickly to cool material.

Above the factory floor is a special room affectionately called the "Finders" room. This space houses a beautiful collection of vintage materials, books and prints. This is where they go to calm the mind, to brainstorm, and to find inspiration for a new vision.

When work comes in that requires some extra special skills, they turn to Groundwork or Robert True Ogden. Amuneal holds these relationships dear as these companies all share ideas, processes, and vendors. They even share The American Street Showroom, a former electric company substation turned into a showroom that highlights creative vision and fabrication.

While Amuneal seems to be operate in a niche market, they are open to taking on smaller jobs, especially creative ones. They have done one-offs, to small runs, to huge million dollar projects. Their expertise is varied and their excellence in materials really shines through. This gets us excited - because you never know, maybe one day we'll get into copper and brass plated timepieces?

To learn more, visit www.amuneal.com. Special thanks to Karen Randal and the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce for facilitating this trip.

 

 

Other Facts

- Amuneal uses a local metal supplier right next door in NJ

- They opened their own wood shop this year

- They get 4-5 project quotes a day

- On average, they require a 6-8 week lead time for fabrication projects.

- Amuneal is ontop of it's environmental game. All fluids are drain and captured to later be taken away by a chemical disposal company. They recycle all of their metals and have a low-VOC paint booth. They are pro-active in their relationships with environmental agencies.

-They have a meeting once a month to discuss employee and business health. Once they had an employee express concern over the air quality - so the company did tests in 5 locations for 48 hours. The final results? The air was of a healthy level.

 

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YOUR PURCHASE HAS IMPACT.

A teacher in primary school in Tanzania teaches her students tree-planting techniques before turning them loose to plant seedlings under her supervision. Training is an important part of our partners, Trees for The Future, tree planting initiative -- their technicians provide the seeds and the agroforestry knowledge, and local farmers and communities do the hard work of growing and maintaining the forest gardens. When buying a watch or wallet, you are contributing to their initiatives to restore our beautiful earth. 

 

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This is how a forest garden usually starts: with a handful of tree seedlings planted in bare ground. Within five years, this land in Honduras will look like the lush arrays of trees and plants you'll see in Trees for the Futures other projects around the world. Forest gardens help to shade the land, hold moisture in the soil, and provide food and cash crops for local farmers. Changing lives, changing the planet.

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Philadelphia Showroom Opening and MoMA Launch Party Weekend Bonanza

This weekend was a complete whirlwind of celebration, emotion, and success. We had our official launch party at our new showroom here in Philadelphia!

We had an amazing turn out, some folks won watches in our raffle, we unveiled our new Carpenter Card Holder Wallet, and we enjoyed amazingly delicious Cambodian desserts by Philadelphia's own Moulika Anna Hitchens and Tim Hitchens of Koliyan. Drinks and hugs were flowing and no words can express how great that night felt!

 

On Monday, we went up to New York for ICFF during the day and then celebrated our partnership with the MoMA design store with some other fabulous kickstarter funded products and designers! It was quite a surreal experience and is a night we will remember for a very long time

Most photos above taken by Scott Rudd Events.

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I’m always looking for ways to express myself through what I wear.

"I’m always looking for ways to express myself through what I wear. Everything from my boots up to my glasses, it all represents who I am. I wasn’t the biggest fan of wearing a watch in the past, not because I didn’t like them, but because I never found one that fit my style.

Being a photographer, I’m constantly experiencing the outdoors and the beauty it has to offer, so finding a product that translates this into my everyday attire is truly inspiring. The watch itself is very high quality, even the packaging is nice. To see so much effort put into a product really does make me proud to wear it and I’m sure I will purchase more in the future.

One last thing, I had a few questions when I first received the watch and Analog was very quick to respond and resolve my issue. Customer Service A+++.” 

-Chris Dunn

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Hands On, Vol. 3: Sio Metalworks

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Hands On, Vol. 3: Sio Metalworks

(Click above to play video)


This is the third installment of Hands On, a series of informal posts dedicated to honoring the people, machines, and processes involved in making and manufacturing.


Sometimes it takes 1 person to make it beautiful.

Until now, Hands On has focused on larger manufacturing in the traditional sense-- but we also want to shed light on the craft movement and makers who, in essence, are manufacturing a product completely by hand, item by item. So today we take things in a different direction as we meet Carson Sio, owner and sole employee of Sio Metalworks.

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Sio Metalworks is not the first of our featured makers to be based in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, and it’s easy to see why; rent is dirt-cheap in this once heavily industrial neighborhood, which gives artisans like Carson plenty of space to develop their crafts.

Sio Metalworks lives in a huge warehouse, a space filled with shop machinery of every kind, stacks of wood and metal and other raw materials, and piles other things that I wasn’t sure if were trash or the beginnings of someone’s new project. In short, a playground for all sorts of manufacturers, builders, artists, and makers.

Carson has been working with metal for 2 or 3 years, a skill that he has picked up on his own since completing his degree in industrial design at the University of the Arts here in Philadelphia. Living just a short bike ride away, Carson spends his weekends and 2-3 nights a week here fulfilling commissions and learning more about his craft. Carson enjoys the “zen” of handwork, which is easy to understand. Observing his patient focus on the repetitive strike of the hammer feels like a kind of meditation. I can see what he likes about it.

The ever-expanding product line of Sio Metalworks includes tea kettles, light fixtures, bracelets, silverware, mugs and cups.

Today, Carson walked us through the process of making on of his copper mugs-- a beautiful piece that he typically sells for $125. At that price, it's a steal when you consider the care, time,  and attention that goes into each one.

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The Tools

In metalworking, there are two tools that are fundamental: the hammer and the stake. The stake-- the steel base on which the material is place, and the hammer, the piece of steel that strikes it to shape it. To a large extent, that's it! There are other tools of course, but nearly everything can be reduced to one of these two essentials.

Hammers, stakes, a crucible for melting metal. The rounded blue stakes are for making spoons.

Hammers, stakes, a crucible for melting metal. The rounded blue stakes are for making spoons.

I was surprised by the informality of Carson's relationship with his tools. More than once I asked him about the specific name of some tool, only to be answered with, "Well . . . it's just a hammer." Metalworking, I learned, is far from academic. Sure, there are different stakes and hammers for different purposes, but there's also a wonderful practicality to it. It's not so much about doing it the "right" way; it's really more about hitting the right piece of metal with the right shaped tool, wherever you can find it.

Carson's workshop is filled with hammers, stakes, and anvils of all sizes, all polished to a mirror-smooth finish to avoid marring the working material. His collection, he tells me, was assembled a little at a time from Craigslist and flea markets, along with a few he made himself. One of his stakes was once a piece of train rail; another is the polished and repurposed head of a sledgehammer.

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Speaking of this pragmatic approach, Carson notes: "To a metalworker, all the world is a stake or a hammer."

There are other tools as well: an acetylene torch, buckets of chemical solutions for treating and cleaning, measuring tools, and perhaps most importantly, a stack of books. Since Carson is self-taught, in a way these books are the foundation of Sio Metalworks. And they are pretty old. Metalworking, Carson reminds me, has been around for a long, long time, and the methods haven't changed much. These techniques don't go out of style.

The Process

For this piece, Carson is working with copper. All metals have slightly different properties, but not as different as you might assume. The main difference is hardness, and on that spectrum copper falls on the softer end. It's relatively easy to bend with the bare hand, but even copper is harder than precious metals like silver or gold. Sio Metalworks works in silver as well as copper, but copper is typically too expensive to use unless it's for a commissioned project.

Working in silver all the time would be ideal, but copper is what's in the budget. No matter though, since they're similar. Essentially, Carson is applying silversmithing techniques to copper, which is what he's showing us today.

1) Crimping

This mug starts out as a 8" diameter circle of 20-gauge copper sheet. The first step is to "crimp" the metal to give it a "bias." In metalworking, like when sketching a line, the idea is to start with a rough outline and then gradually refine. You can see this process in the above video.

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Crimping is done on a concave stake to form the metal a gentle, wavy cone shape.

2) Raising

The next step is to begin raising, or forming the shape of the mug. With the piece once again perched on top of a stake, Carson works the metal by hammering at the base and working up toward the rim in concentric circles. The idea is to "raise" the sides of the mug up at a very slight uniform angle, about 20 degrees. This angle is slight enough to prevent cracking or wrinkling of the metal.


3) Annealing

After raising the metal at a small angle, the mug looks like a Frisbee and it's time to anneal it. All that hammering causes the copper to become "work hardened," and it becomes tough and brittle. "Annealing" softens it up for further working. Carson heats the disc to 1100 degrees F with an acetylene torch. We visited in the afternoon, but if it were dark, Carson says, the copper would have a cherry glow. 

After heating, the disc sizzles as it is tossed into a bucket of water to cool, and then rinsed in another bucket of acid to remove the black oxides which have formed on the surface. Carson invites me to feel how soft it's become, and he's right. I accidentally bend it out of shape, but he assures us that it will be worked out in the next step.

Actually, the next step is raising again, but this time at a sharper angle. This particular mug will take 4-6 repetitions, or "courses" of raising the edges and then annealing before this part is complete.

4) Planishing

Once the copper has been raised to the point that it actually forms a cup, it's time to finish the surface. This is done by a process called "planishing," in which the metalsmith uses a flat, polished hammer to cover the surface with hundreds of tiny dings. The effect is vaguely like disco-ball, or a cut diamond.

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The surface could even be refined further with a lighter hammer, as in the pic to the right-- Carson would smooth out all the little ridges to give it a highly reflective and uniform surface, like in the the case of silverware.

5) Rolling the Edge

Finally, with the body of the mug complete, the edge is rolled back to give it a rim, making it easier to drink from and hiding the unevenness of the metal.

6)  Forging the Handle

Almost done! The last step is to forge the handle out of a piece of think copper wire. This is by far the loudest and most violent step. Carson raises the hammer past his shoulder and takes full swings to flatten the wire, and I suddenly understand why he has a box of earplugs on his workbench. 

He then uses a hacksaw to split the end into a Y and continues shaping, and then welds or, in this case, rivets the handle to the piece.

7) Finishing

For the final touch, Carson soaks the piece in a chemical solution of "Liver of Sulfur," which smells as bad as it sounds. This chemical creates a patina on the surface which is polished away in the high areas but left untouched in the low spots, leaving a gorgeous antiquated look. Next a wax sealant is applied for shine and to protect the patina, and that's it.

Done!


Thanks for having us, Carson!

For more about Sio Metalworks, including process pics, commissions, and contact info, visit siometalworks.blogspot.com.

Or shop at Sio Metalworks on Etsy.

Written by: Scott Hughes

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Hands On, Vol. 2: Service Die Cutting and Packaging Corp.

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Hands On, Vol. 2: Service Die Cutting and Packaging Corp.

(Click above to play video)


This is the second installment of Hands On, a series of informal posts dedicated to honoring the people, machines, and processes involved in making and manufacturing.


This week we take a step by step hands on tour with our own packaging manufacturer, Service Die Cutting and Packaging Corp. Located in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, this 7 employee business has been in operation since 1963.

The building is a seemingly non-descript warehouse, and from the outside you would never guess what kind of amazing machinery operates behind the the old brick and faded facade.

 

THE BEGINING

The business was started in by Stanley Kuntz. During his era, there were no such thing as email or "incoming illustrator artwork files." In fact, the business got it's first computers in 2003, when son Jason Kuntz took over.   It has now been owned and operated by Jason for the past 10 years.

 

WHY DID WE CHOOSE SERVICE DIE CUTTING & PACKAGING?

After a few weeks of getting quotes and samples from multiple possible providers, we ultimately decided to go with Service Die Cutting because we've found it to be absolutely invaluable to be in close proximity to as many of our suppliers and manufacturing as possible. It's allowed us to meet the company and the people involved, face to face and hands on, who help create a part of the vision for our product.

 

For a brand like ours - focused on design, these kind of relationships are essential. If you only knew how many times we sent artwork back and forth! By having a local producer we now understand more about how packaging works, the steps taken, and what kind of capacities and restraints we have to work with for future projects.

 

IT ALL STARTS WHEN YOU DIE

This is a cutting die

If you want a box cut into a shape, you start by getting a metal cutting die. Basically, there are sharp blades into a piece of wood. You use this piece of wood to stamp the paper from which you are cutting. It's basically a big cookie cutter. A cutting die is an upfront type of expense, but it's something you purchase now and will use again later in future runs.

 

ARTWORK IS RESOLVED AND TURNED INTO A PRINTING PLACE

Jason sent us an .illustrator file that had the die-lines laid out in the same shape as the cutting die. Then we finalized the design and sent our artwork files on over so they could be made into a printing plate. Just as the cutting die was, this is something purchased early on but kept for later printings.

 

PHASE 1: PRINTING

Ace is the gentleman chatting in the video who is responsible for running our blank, flat boxes, through a printing press. He's been working for Service Die Cutting for 18 years.

Printing Press

This printing press is a beautiful piece of machinery that sits on the 2nd floor of the natural light flooded warehouse. The blank rectangles of cardboard are loaded into one end of the printing press called the feeder. When the machine is turned on the cardboard is picked up and goes through various rollers and chambers as it's taken closer to the printing plate. There is an inkwell which applies the ink to the rotating printing plate, which in turn transfers that ink onto a rotating rubber "blanket", which then finally rolls the final image onto the cardboard. The finished and printed cardboard finally ends up in the "delivery" end of the machine in nice uniform stacks.

Blue ink in the well, the white roller is where the printing plate goes, and the blue roller is the rubber blanket

PHASE 2: CUTTING

The printed boxes need to now be cut and creased into shape. This is done with a quality Thompson Press dated to sometime around the 70's. It can churn out around 1200 boxes an hour. This is where we met Chris Mellet. Jovial and friendly, Chris has been working here for about 10 years - but he has nothing on his uncle Joe who has been there for 50 years!

The room of forgotten dies from previous jobs!

This is our die on the cutting press. The green is the creasing matrix.

Before you can start to operate the press, you need to align the cutting die with something called a creasing matrix. This is basically rubber lines with a dull edge that are fixed to the flat part of the press. There is also a set up for proper paper alignment. The plate forces the material between the cutting die and the creasing matrix, simultaneously cutting and creating creases.

Chris in front of the die cutting press. He has been here for 10 years.

A quick hand and eye is necessary to pick up uncut pieces of material, lay it down to be cut, then quickly remove it so the next can be laid down.

 

PHASE 3: GLUEING & FOLDING

The final step is gluing and folding. In the corner of the warehouse lies a 40+ foot machine called a gluer/folder. This is where we met Fred and Mark. Together they've worked here for over 10 years and on this day they were in charge of making sure our boxes were glued up right.

Mark near the drying rack

Fred near the glue dispenser

The machine has a loading end and a drying end, with gluing and folding in-between. The boxes are slid along a center carrier - a long series of rotating wheels and belts. Glue is ejected from an applicator on the carrier and then immediately after the green rubber belts, which angle from flat to horizontal, force the paper to fold into the shape. The boxes are then rolled through to the drying end of the machine where they air dry on a drying rack.

 

PHASE 4: WAIT, HOW MANY BOXES DO WE HAVE TO FOLD?

The last part of this process was picking up the final goods. This run consists of about 2000 boxes. As exciting as it was getting the these finally in hand, it means moving onto the next daunting task of hand folding! In our case, we'll get some help from many of our generous friends and supporters. We are forever grateful for the help! Is this method sustainable in the long term? Definitely not, but we've begun our research and will cross that bridge when we arrive.

These are just a small portion of our first run.

To learn more about Service Die Cutting and Packaging Corp. be sure to visit them at www.servicediecutting.com and tell Jason we sent you!

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