My Impression Screw Hell !!!

Okay I am on my knees at this point praying to the letterpress gods. I cannot for the life of me get a good impression. I own a 8X12 Tabletop Craftsman (weird, I know but its called a Monarch). I have been trying to pull my first impression with a photopolymer plate. I have been told to put an M in each corner but at this point I am pregnant and am not really wanting to play around with lead. My photopolymer plate had a square outline so there is something in each corner.

I am moving the screws and 1/8 or a 1/4 at a time. I am keeping track of each turn and what impression I get with each move. However, once I get one side to print or one corner I make a small adjustment to get the other side and then its all lost and Im back to no impression.

The other issue I am having is that when I have my top screws out it causes my grippers to hit my rollers.

I don’t really know what to do at this point. I have fiddled with it for at least 8 hours and I just don’t know where to turn. I wish there was someone here in Hawaii who could help but there are very few letterpress people around.

So ANY suggestions you have please let me know.

thanks in advance

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I assume there’s no pun intended with: “Don’t know where to turn”, eh?

Anyway, check out the recent discussion here:

It should prove helpful. You need to deal with both the packing and the platen adjustment as discussed. I’m no metalurgist or doctor but type metal is a compound that includes lead, not pure lead. Also, as I understand it from various sources including a number of discussions on this site, unless it is actually eaten, or unless it is oxidized and you lick your fingers, it should pose no health problems.

I doubt you’ll be able to properly adjust your platen using a photopolymer plate, but then that’s just my opinion. Others may have successfully done so. Just keep in mind that you are trying to make the platen exactly parallel with the bed by adjusting the relationship of its four corners to the bed. You must take a proper packing into account when doing so because the platen must not only be parallel with the bed but the correct distance from the bed to allow for a standard packing that can be adjusted to suit the needed/desired impression. It will make up part of the distance between the platen and the bed and must be accounted for.

Here are a couple posts from my Blog about how I used an alternative method to locking up type in the four corners of the chase and made other adjustments:


Front Room Press
Milford, NJ

If possible, put up some pictures of your press setup and rollers. Sometimes the people here can tell a lot from a picture or two.

What are your rollers like? Do you know how old they are?

There are many ways to do everything it seems. But a sure fire way to level a platen is with a cutting die instead of a printing die. I would suggest using one that almost fills your chase. (are familiar with diecutting?-take off your rollers first please) You will tape a thin sheet of paper (thin because it will not cut until it is perfect- and you can see what is happening a little better) on your metal base which you cut into and adjust the platen height until it cuts evenly all around. This has worked great for me, much easier, quicker and more accurate than the other methods, but just my opinion.

Thanks everyone for your suggestions…I am attaching a few pics so you can see the side of my press.

It was suggested that my packing may be off… I am using 1 piece of press board, 3 pieces .005, and 3 pieces .002. Any thoughts on this?

Also when I start to adjust the top impression screws out…the grippers start hitting my rollers. My rollers are rubber rollers…when I bought the press they were two years old. They still feel soft and don’t have any nicks or anything. But I also haven’t inked the press to see how they are…I am just trying to get a good blind impression first. does this seems like the right idea?

Any help would be appreciated

image: side_5.jpg


image: side_3.jpg


image: side of press.jpg

side of press.jpg

I had a similar problem with a Kelsey using polymer plates. I see the design on your plate is similar to mine in “coverage”. I got no blind impression, but I did have some good results on coated paper with ink…
I had never had problem using lead type… I am no expert in letterpress printing, so I tried a few things (adjusting the rollers height, trying woth a softer tympan —harder works best—, adjusting the screws, etc.)
I also thought that maybe my polymer plate was too big (4x6” on a 6x10” Kelsey) so the press wasn’t able to provide enough pressure…
In the end, I did not manage to get a blind impression from the plate (even on Lettra), but by dampening my paper stock (Rives) I managed a few fair prints.
(I tried later with another polymer plate I had, small coverage 1x2” and it worked well)

If one has a miracle solution on how to get a blind impression from a polymer plate covering a large surface, tell us now!

Your standard packing seems fine, and I’m assuming that in addition you have a tympan paper topsheet; if not you should. You should dress the platen with your standard packing and start from scratch adjusting the it. Probably the most common method is to lock up four large sorts (pieces/letters) of type in the four corners of the chase.

Ink up the press and tape or hold a sheet of bond or similar paper large enough to cover the whole platen and pull an impression on it. Examine the impression and, using additional sheets to pull proofs, adjust the platen screws until you get an even impression at all four corners and the impression does not show on the back of the paper. To adjust the depth of the impression for different jobs simply add or remove packing. To correct problems with the form do makeready, which is worth a discussion all by itself.

Use the largest point size of type you can and use the larger letters such as the uppercase W, M, etc. This is a good time to make sure your rollers are at the proper height also, though that has nothing to do with the platen itself.

Once the platen is adjusted properly you shouldn’t have to do it again except in special circumstances. Don’t get into the habit of adjusting it each time you need to change or correct the impression. That’s what removing or adding sheets to the packing and makeready is for. Make your basic adjustments and then you’ll have a good foundation for whatever you want to print.


Front Room Press
Milford, NJ

P.S. The platen bolts adjust the platen by moving it towards or away from the bed. This is done by the action of the platen screws turning into or out of the threaded holes in the platen that receive them. Where the platen bolts go through the pivot casting, they are smooth and merely rotate in their holes.

Before you take the first trial impression make sure the platen is moved back away from the bed so when closed it will just barely come in contact with the type. This will give you a good point to begin the adjustment.

Also, the platen bolts often slide out of their holes in the pivot casting a bit once their locking nuts are loosened and the bolts are turned.You can see this in one of your photos above. After each adjustment and before taking each trial impression be sure and tighten the locking nuts. Otherwise you will liklely get a false print. It’s a bit tedious but in the end will be worth it.

From the pics “side of press.jpg” and “side_3.jpg” there are some serious problems. Look again. The platen is obviously askew, and there are bolts loose on the right hand side of the platen. Color me crazy, but this precludes any normal packing problems.

Level the platen exactly to the type bed, and tighten it up solidly on this press.

Can someone address the reason why the rollers are hitting the grippers? I’m having the same issue when adjusting the screws.


I believe the gripper bar on which the grippers are mounted is attached to the bottom of the platen. If the top of the platen moves towards the bed, the gripper assembly, located at the pivot-point at the bottom of the platen, will rotate towards the bed.

Adjust the platen properly first even if you have to remove the grippers to do it. Then adjust the grippers on the gripper bar so they are at the correct angle so as not to interfere with the rollers or the feeding of the press. You may be able to do that with the adjusting set screws by rotating the grippers on the bar and then locking them in the correct position. Or you may need to bend the grippers slightly just above where they attach to the bar. Even on my 10x15 I had to slightly bend the grippers so they will lay flat against the platen when closed.


Front Room Press
Milford, NJ

Thanks Rich, I also had a problem with the rollers whacking into the top of the bed right before they roll over the plate. This is weird, no?

maybe a roller height issue?

In your photos it is very hard to see if there are roller trucks on the rollers. If there are and they’re the right size and rolling on the rails you should not have that problem.

I would do this slightly different. I would put sorts (I try to make sure they are all good quality and very accurately type high) in all four corners and then four more half way to the center of the platen.

I’ve put up another copy of your image to point to the bolts in question.

One thing that is clearly wrong from your photo is that you don’t have the bolts on the platen support TIGHT ON BOTH SIDES of the support. As you move one YOU MUST MOVE THE OTHER to keep the platen rigid. Otherwise as you put pressure on the platen is not necessarily being forced to put FULL pressure on the other side.

Someone else may be able to argue for some specific thickness of packing to use to start this process, but when we did ours we used a piece of 110# card stock that we print on a lot to get the impression. We packed the press with 4 sheets of tympan paper (three plus the top tympan). You need to figure that you can always add more packing for thinner paper but you cannot always subtract for thicker paper.

image: platen-adjustment.jpg


Thank you everyone for your comments this is all really helpful.
Jim- I was in the middle of fiddling with it so I didn’t have all the bolts tight. My mistake and I shouldn’t have taken the picture just at that moment.

Thank you so much for your input on the grippers. They have been frustrating. I think that I will take them off. I haven’t been able to bend them or rotate them around off they will come.

I am attaching a photo of my rollers. I believe there are trucks on there….silver at the same level as my rollers, right?

Lead Graffiti

Thanks for the ideas…I realize that all the bolts need to be tightened…again in the middle of playing with it. Should have taken the pic when it was all tight. As for the packing…I think its fine. I have very standard packing in there..via Fritz at NA graphics suggestion.

Thank you again everyone for your help. I just am going to have to keep at it. I need to get my hands on some type….something I have avoided as I am pregnant. I know its not probably going to do anything but I really wanted to avoid bringing any dust etc…during this time. Perhaps I just can’t do it with a photopolymer plate. Question is ….when i do FINALLY get it level with some type…will it then be good to go with a p plate?

Thanks again

image: rollers.jpg


Here are some comments that I have (keep in mind I am not an expert). I have lightened up your photo and marked some areas of note.

1. The gripper: I don’t know your press in particular but there should be an easy way to move the grippers back. There may be a screw located about where my arrow is pointing. Loosen the screw and move your gripper back away from the rollers.

2. You should trim the polymer plate to your artwork. Looks like it is hanging over the edges of your base. The plate should be smaller than the base.

3. Looks like you have the packing taped down maybe? There should be bales on the top and bottom. Tuck the top piece of paper under the bottom bale, then put you your packing inside and close up with the top bale.

Lastly, all this talk about getting type is not really necessary. Your base with plate attached is already type high. Or you can get one of those type high gages from Boxcar. Watch the video they have on their website, and call them if you are having problems. You pay a lot for the base and part of what you pay for is customer service. They are nice people so give them a call and see if they can help you.

Hope that helps!

image: rollers_0.jpg



Thank you for pointing out everything in the photo. I learned a lot and it was very helpful. I am still at it…trying to get an impression…ugh. I will let you all know when I finally “arrive”

Thanks again

Using the type in the corners is the preferred approach as that isolates the impression in those areas as it relates to the impression bolts. The plate in the photos is an inconsistent image area spread all over the base area and nothing is consistent as far as the image/impression is concerned. When we had them, the Hacker test blocks were an excellent substitute for large pieces of type, but the idea is the same. Use ink, that’s consistent, blind embossing is subjective and not indicative of what an actual impression will look like. Experiment—don’t be afraid to try various approaches. Rollers hitting grippers is a common problem, even on larger C&P platens, and table top presses are rough approximations of the more serious and better built floor model presses. Large image areas on table top presses are an exercise in futility—work within the capabilities of the equipment.


Your grippers can be adjusted fairly easily by loosening the screw that holds them to the rod. I notice you have flat head screws in your grippers now. I would replace those with thumb screws so that you can easily adjust the grippers when setting up a job.
The grippers on your press are adjusted by loosening the bolt that holds the spring to the gripper rod. The bolt applies pressure to the top of the spring, and the spring, in turn, applies pressure to the top of the rod. Make very slight adjustments, and run your press a little to see if you’ve solved your problem. I adjust mine so that the grippers open to their widest point without touching the rollers.

Just to humor me, check the tightness of the bolts that hold your press bed to the frame. If those bolts are not tight all of your other adjustments are in vain. There is plenty of play in those bolt holes, and if you rollers are jumping onto or off of your press bed, you may find it necessary to move your bed up or down. This is a last resort.

sorry everyone,

I haven’t been responding to everyone’s suggestions and ideas as i had a baby a week ago. My letterpress is now sitting unused again. Ahhhhh. Hopefully I will be back into the full swing of things here in a week…once she figures out days and nights. I can hear all you parents out there laughng. But I’m a delusional first time mom.
Anyway thanks for everyone’s help. I just wanted to respond so it didn’t seem like I was ungrateful and ignoring your suggestions.

Thanks again