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Sabine Lenz

Making the Grade

By Sabine Lenz

About Sabine

Sabine Lenz is the founder of, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.

Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.

Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge. 


Thick Business Cards Are a Bonding Experience

There I sat, holding the front of the business card in my left hand and the back of it in my right hand. It had fallen apart.

The design was beautiful. The printing was refined. But sadly, the duplex laminated business card had come unglued (bet the client did, too). The kicker? The card belonged to a print broker! Now if this could happen to a print broker’s card...

You might think this delaminated card was an aberration, but when I received an email from a printer a few days later, responding to my “High, Wide and Handsome Option for Business Cards” post and asking my advice on a similar problem, I knew I had to dig deeper.

Stick It the Right Way
When Neenah Paper relaunched its Classic brand papers, Design Army created stunning business cards for the event that included all of the Classic “10 perfect colors.”

Nope, they didn’t just print the colors. Please...we’re talking perfectionism here. ;-)

On a backing of 80-lb. cover Classic Crest Epic Black, Fey Printing mounted each of the 10 colors in individual strips and then printed the contact information on top.

Having seen my fair share of double thick, mounted business cards, I was stunned by the sturdiness of the card and even more so by the strength of the bond. I really tried to pry those strips loose, but couldn’t.

My curiosity awakened, I went straight to the source. Scott Gasch, president of Fey Printing, admitted that the company did quite a bit of testing to get the Neenah business cards just right.

You Say Potato
Laminating and mounting—these two words are often used interchangeably. But many printers prefer to use the term “duplex lamination” or “duplexing” so clients do not confuse this process with the plastic protective coating that office supply stores offer.

No matter what you call it, this thick to super-thick paper effect is achieved by fusing one or more layers of paper together to the desired thickness and quality.

Hot-Melt Glue or White Glue
How you adhere these layers together at the finishing level comes down to two choices: white glue or hot-melt glue.

Commonly called white glue, polyvinyl resin glue is a close relative of that white stuff we used in grade school. Being a member of the solvent-based adhesive family, as the solvent evaporates, the adhesive hardens.

“We use white glues when we duplex laminate non-porous substrates like plastics or calendared stocks,” explains Gasch. “We use hot melts on the majority of the projects, depending on how porous the substrate is and the type of material being bonded together.”

Hot-melt adhesive, also known as hot glue, is commonly supplied in solid form of various diameters, designed to be melted in a hot electric environment—think of the glue gun concept.

Hot-melt adhesives provide several advantages over solvent-based adhesives. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are reduced or eliminated, and the drying or curing step is eliminated. Hot-melt adhesives have a long shelf life and usually can be disposed of without special precautions.

“Even within the hot-melt adhesive varieties, it requires a bit of testing and trial and error,” elaborates Gasch, “but it’s important to find the correct adhesive otherwise the sheets will eventually delaminate. Factors to consider include the weight of the sheets, the finish of the sheets, and the size of the area to be duplexed. For Neenah’s striped business cards, we actually fabricated a custom unit to aid in duplex laminating the strips to a backer sheet. It helps having experienced wood workers and cabinet makers as part of the Fey team.”

How’d They Do That?
Ten colors of Classic Crest 80-lb. cover were trimmed into 3/8x12˝ narrow strips, then lined up on a board with holes in the bottom where vacuum suction kept them in place. Then, a 9x12˝ sheet of Epic Black 80-lb. cover with glue applied to the bottom was set on top of the strips adhering the front and back together. The now double-thick 9x12˝ sheets were offset printed on both sides and trimmed to the final business card size.

Going Against the Grain
But the right type of glue and the finesse in mounting the strips to the backing doesn’t completely explain the super bond on these cards. This is where grain direction comes into play.

“If the grain of the top sheet and the bottom sheet run in the same direction, the piece will inevitably curl,” warns Gasch. “By running the grain of the top sheet in one direction and the grain of the bottom sheet in the opposite direction, they fight each other and help the finished piece to lay flat.”

The trend of designing super-thick business cards and marketing materials is likely to be around for a while, so mastering the art of duplex laminating is definitely a good idea. With the right glue, opposite grain direction and proper testing, your duplexed projects will have the staying power your clients expect.

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