Tuesday, February 19, 2008

In response to Janice's questions

I did the design work for the copper plates and Owosso Graphic Arts, Inc. made the plates. They can also make plates for intaglio. These plates are relief. When used for letterpress, they are mounted to a block of wood. I don't print letterpress but several of my friends do. We're an informal collective; A Confederacy of Printmakers. Back in the early to mid 1990's we rescued a lot of letterpress equipment and proofing presses from gathering dust in dark corners of commercial print shops. Most of them were given to us or so inexpensive it was impossible not to buy them. I never had room in the garage for a letterpress, what with my hubby's motorcycles and power tools... But I do have a 75 year old challenge proofing press it's great for printing monoprints and woodblocks, not so great for intaglio. The following is a description from a great website about letterpress:


Simple Tabletop Proof Press
(examples: Nolan, Triumph, Morgan LinoScribe, SignPress, Sirio, Atlas)

"Originally developed as "galley" proof presses to let a compositor take a quick check of his hand-set type, these small, lightweight units usually consist of a flat bed and a simple, single roller on a track above it. The galley of type was set on the bed, inked by hand with a small roller (a "brayer"), a sheet of paper laid on top, and the roller pulled across to get an impression. This was an improvement over the "proof planer" method, in which the impression is made by lightly tapping a block of felt-covered wood over the type. In the twentieth century, this sort of press found use, usually with large wood type, as an economical, in-house way of making signs for stores and showcards for theaters. Some printers find these a useful second press, as they are inexpensive, lightweight (although the larger 15 x 24 models can weigh upwards of 150 lbs.), and portable, but they are not at all suited to careful impression, precision registration, or runs of more than a few copies ($50-$250, depending on features and size)."

It is possible to register with it but there is always a danger of plate slippage. I have a plank of wood in my press bed to build it up for monoprint. I layer newspaper on top then lay down the special press blanket (its different from the etching wools, it's thinner and plastic backed). I then reach across the press, grab the roller and pull it toward me. I then lift the blanket pull away the paper and I have my print. You quickly learn with experimentation just how much newspaper padding is needed to build up the right amount of pressure needed for each type of plate. Care needs to be taken when using woodblocks not to over pad as too much pressure can crack the block. Yes I have cracked a block. On my third or 4th impression of the print Brother Whale I tried to print a t-shirt and added another layer of newspaper--and ended up cracking the block.

I could use the challenge proofing press to print these, but it will be easier to use an etching press. I'll simply roll the inks onto the plates with a brayer, center the paper using a magnet frame to line everything up on the etching press bed then print it. I''ll have to pull the first proof tomorrow as I have a few appointments today...also the inks may arrive from McClain's by then too, so I'll be able to proof in the colors I want to use!


Janice said...

Thank you. I enjoyed reading the details of the process.

I am not familiar with the use of a magnetic frame for registration. Do you know where I could find out more about that?


Phare-Camp said...

Hi Janice: I'll take photos as I'm proofing these plates. I basically buy a magnet sheet and cut the center out, same size as the plate. This also works really great for registering paper that's larger than the plate too. You'll see. I may not get to proofing today as I teach on Wednesdays but I'll post proofing pics as I go along...Patti