Letterpress in Victoria/Tasmania - Classes/Teaching?? Help!

Hi Everyone!

I’ve been fortunate enough to lay my hands on a Heidelberg Original (looks like this - not sure of the exact year http://www.flickr.com/photos/aranovich/562060976/ - not my photo BTW)….It’s down in Tasmania on my parent’s country property where they have room and nice solid, concrete floors. I’ll be visiting in a couple of weeks to suss it out.

Now I am a COMPLETE beginner when it comes to actually running a machine such as this.
But I want to have a little test run when I go down to Tassie and would like to know the bare minimum of what I need to run a few prints?
The machine came with some furniture and type but I haven’t had a chance to actually see what it all is.
Also, my boss is very kind and is allowing me to run out a couple of photopolymer plates on our CTP unit so I can trial that too.
I’m aware I need a base of some sort to adhere the plates to….is it possible to *make* one of these? Or am I being ridiculous? My father is a man of many trades, carpentry, steel work and building being some of them - Is it possible I could get him to make me a base just for the trial or should I just wait and buy a base from Boxcar?

Questions, questions!! But the most important one being…WHERE can I learn to use one of these under the supervision of someone who is quite knowledgeable? I live in inner Melbourne and would greatly appreciate anyone’s time or input into pointing me in the right direction! Thank you! :-D


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I can’t help you with the main inquiry but in regard to the photopolymer plates I might be able to. If your plates are CTP all you need to know is what thickness they are and have your father fit them to a base that, combined, along with adhesive, would equal .918 inches (assuming a Tasmanian Heidelberg is engineered for .918). Problem with CTP is that I have yet to see any configuration at letterpress specifications (or Boxcar would have it by now, and since they are not yet denigrating film negatives on their website, I assume they do not).


Thanks so much Gerald that is very handy indeed.
I will have to check with my workmates on how thick our plates are.

By letterpress specifications, what exactly do you mean? Like accounting for any ink gain etc?
At work we print on flexible plastic and if anything I was hoping flexo’s limitations would be closest to those of letterpress compared to other printing methods. Eg we get quite a lot of gain and trap .5mm - pretty ‘chunky’ when it comes to printing hehe. So hopefully I can get some alright results using our plates. If not, well, I am just testing it all so if that doesn’t work, I’ll need to look at other methods.
Thanks again for your input Gerald :-D


Compared to other printing methods, flexography is closest to letterpress. Problem is, not close enough. Letterpress requirements occupy a fairly narrow spectrum. Only way to really gauge it is by manufacturer’s specifications. But letterpress plates do tend to have a hardness rating that is higher than flexo and there are significant considerations in terms of variables in processing.

But, given your situation, which you have thought out, it should be an interesting exploration.

Best of luck, and if it doesn’t come to your expectations the first time out, no matter. It will, if you keep at it.


Ah excellent thanks again Gerald :-D

The variables I am keen to explore that is for sure. I can’t wait to start playing.

My first test prints I will do a design of a cat I have drawn. It is just fairly thick line work. The other, my boyfriend suggests I make a sort of test plate where I can check these variables.
Not sure what to put on the plate…I was thinking maybe some different sized solid boxes to see at what size the ink coverage starts to get dodgy.
Then some different sized type in serif, sans and reverse.
Also some different line weights in positive and reverse.
Do you think I should bother with screening or leave that off entirely?

Hi Esz

I think you have your hands full :—), ignore the screening for a bit.


LOL yes. I’m getting a bit carried away. hehe

There used to be some standard test images for imagesetters, plates and proofers. One of these should work just as well for testing photopolymer plates on letterpress as well. Something similar to the attached image, but not as complex.

image: 20081212191606.jpg


Thats the kind of thing I have in mind yes…but I think I can make my own. Shouldn’t take more than 30mins to whip up in Illustrator!


If indeed you are a complete beginner, here are some tips that will save you grief.
1. Before you turn on the machine, make sure it is off impression.
2. Turn the impression knob all the way back to 0.
3. Make sure there are no frisket fingers or gauge pins in the area where you type or plate are.

The press should have an instruction manual with it. It is organized in a rather odd fashion, but if you tough it out, you can eventually get to the part that is helpful.
James Shanley

Thanks James. Yep I do have a manual for it. I’ve had a quick read through but I will do it again. Boxcar press is great for having them all downloadable.

Other great news - I’ve been nominated as one of the best of 8 print apprentices in Australia and will go before a judging panel to compete to win $15K! How incredibly perfect! That much money should surely be enough to set up my press and even get myself over to the US to learn!

I would like to come extra prepared for the interview and am hoping to complete a business plan. I might not need cost projections and all that stuff but it sure would be handy if one of you lovely people could guide me towards a place where I can find a business plan template that is geared towards a letterpress business! (phew, long sentence).
I also hope that *if* I win the money I could spend some time at a studio in the USA learning the ropes of the Heidelberg. Or are there short courses/workshops available too? I’d love to visit San Francisco mostly - It seems such a charming city!