I am a bit of a beginner with the letterpress. I have a Craftsmen Imperial 5x8. I have tried the boxcar base and plate, and although it makes a nice print, I wasn’t totally satisfied with the impression I got, even after packing the press.
Would anyone recommend another kind of plate/platemaker? Does anyone know if other types of plates work with the boxcar base?
Thanks so much!
cake + pie creative
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You don’t say why you weren’t satisfied with the impression. Are you comparing the photopolymer to metal type in this regard? They are not the same.
I doubt this is a problem with Boxcar’s platemaking capabilities. Yes, there are other platemakers and plates as well as other bases, but the Boxcar base is configured to a specific thickness of plate and requires plates with polyester backing. You won’t be able to use other thicknesses of plate or configurations (steel-backed).
I would suggest that a 5 by 8 isn’t really capable of rendering deep impression adequately, if deep impression is what you are seeking (I’m assuming, perhaps, wrongly?). Nor, quite frankly, is photopolymer. If you want deep impression and a crisp image you would want to switch to copper plates mounted on either a honeycomb base or directly to a magnesium base.
But with your press there is still no guarantee. It really doesn’t have a great deal of strength (pressure) to adequately provide deep impression, debossing, etc.
Impression and inking are related. When in sync everything is okay; when one is given priority over the other, well, not so okay.
Updated. Hi Kathleen
Gerald’s spot-on about the capabilities of your 5x8: there really isn’t a lot of impressional strength available. Copper plates will give you the best, most crisp impression, but they’re also the most costly.
One possible avenue of exploration, aside from investing in a larger press, is experimenting with paper. Try softer, bulkier papers, especially papers with cotton content. You can also experiment with dampening these sheets to make them even more impression-and-ink-receptive.
Thank you both for the information. Unfortunately I am not in a position to buy a better or bigger press right now. I bought the best press I could afford, could move, and what would fit in my tiny house. My plan is to try a lot of different papers until I find one that works a bit better. I know of quite a few people that get lovely prints on 5 x 8 presses, so this will just take a bit more time and work.
For the record, I do not at all doubt Boxcar’s platemaking capabilities. I found their service impeccable. Just, again, as a beginner I had to question whether my lack of impression could have been the plates I was using. No offense to Boxcar!
Its just a thought, but are you trying to get a good impression from a large solid-surface area?
If so, that becomes a horse of a different color and your problem may be in getting a decent and consistant amount of ink across the impression surface.
The first plate I have been trying to print with looks like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cakeandpiecreative/193182474/in/set-7215759...
It is a drawing that has quite a bit of detail. I did have trouble getting the ink on evenly at first, but after a few tries it seemed to go on evenly.
Thanks for the photo, and the ‘slide show’ is great. Your surface area does not appear to be the problem. I have very limited experience in using metallic inks, but I do recall that they weren’t the easiest to ‘manage’. Perhaps the metalic ink is the culprit. Have you tried printing that form using a more standard ink?
I haven’t yet. I do have regular inks…I just ordered some paper samples to try out so when they arrive on Monday I am going to try them out with my regular van son inks. I think part of my problem could have been the paper I was using also: French’s Smart White 80lb Cover. I LOVE French’s paper and use it for a lot of my design work, so I naturally ordered it for my press, but I am going to try a few others now.
give porridge papers a try if you want deep impression. they’re super textured and soft and take an impression quite easily. seems to me that the paper is your culprit…french is tough to get a good impression on. good luck!
I also use the French Smart White on my 8x12 Samson platen. I usually get minimal, if any, impression with that paper. It’s beautiful, and takes the ink great, but it’s also hard as a rock. I’d try something like Arches or similar watercolor paper.
I have been a commercial printer for 37 years. I have extensive experience using metallic gold inks like the one you are using. These inks have microscopic flakes of actual gold in them and are designed to set and dry on the surface of the paper with very little absorbtion into the stock in order to achieve the shine and gloss. This means that you must use coated papers and coated card stock, not porous paper or any stock that absorbs ink. It is also difficult to work with these inks using old fashioned letterpress technology (the lack of non-offset spray, drying stimulators in the fountain solution, etc.) instead of modern offset. This does not mean you cannot use these inks, it just means it may take a lot of testing with different stocks to achieve the results you are looking for.
Also, Gerald is right on about small tabletop letterpress machines and their ability to provide enough impression to correctly print a job - especially if you are trying to print a large area with heavy ink coverage. This is the Achilles heal of platen presses - there are limitations. A general rule of thumb is the larger and heavier the ink and coverage area of your job - the larger the platen press you will need. I am not trying to discourage you - but through experimentation you will eventually find what limitations your press has and then design jobs for it that fit its capabilities. Good luck!
try crane’s lettra.
it is gorgeous, takes the ink well, gives a crisp, deep impression. i print on a golding pearl 7X11 with it and i love it. what kind of metallic ink are you using? and where did you find it? right now, i am using pearl-ex pigment powders added to rubber-based ink.
Thanks, I have heard Crane’s is good. I have ordered some samples from Neenah I am going to try, and if those don’t work out I’ll try Crane’s. I just wish they sold smaller sheets. My press is so small, having to buy 30” paper and trim it down all the time is a little time consuming.
I am using metallic in from Van Son—they are oil based, but I also have some regular rubber based inks from them.
Thanks again for the info!
hi kathleen - I’ve seen your work (via port2port’s flickr) before and really like it (and your dog is so cute!) I use wood mounted magnesium plates from owosso graphics. with 1/4” deep impression. Their plates are really nice and they have super quick turn around.. They’ll send you a complimentary plate (of your own design, just pay s&h) to try them out. I’ve got nothing but praise for their plates.
The answer to your problem is quite simple. You are trying to exceed the capabilities of your press. Period.
A small press like yours was not built for “heavy duty” printing, especially for heavy impressions. They were sold mainly to schools, for learning, or to kids and hobbiests. There used to be a maxim in the printing industry, that when you printed, heavy impression meant you didn’t really know what you were doing. Now, of course, it’s “artistic” to be able to practically read the impression with your fingers. Your press was built to operate at top efficiency with just a “kiss”, which means light packing, perhaps a few sheets of 20 lb bond, then pressboard and tympan paper.
Also, your press will only print small forms. Never mind the size of the chase (5x8 is actually quite small). In practical terms, if you have an engraving, made of any material, if it’s larger than 2x2, 2x4, you’re going to have problems with it on your press. You need a 10x15 floor press, like a C&P old or new series. It prints with 4,000 lbs. of pressure per square inch. It would also help you if you could find instruction on make-ready.
You’ve precisely identified her problem. Alas, it will fall upon deaf ears to many on this site. The current vogue is braille impression, and if the chase is, say, 5x8, then by jingo the forme will be filled to that capacity. Who cares if the type is crushed or rounded? There’s always more to be had on E-Bay. Whats that you say?! Read a book (?) about make-ready? Why? Who cares about ink/pressure relationship? Just slather on the ink, put tape on the rails, stick any paper ‘neath the grippers, stand on the impression lever and have at ‘er. Besides, when boredom arrives - at it surely will - there’s always need for a cute iron door stopper. And who needs all that nasty old lead in the living room? I best end now as I’ve some rubber thingies that need wiping with some shortening. I also have a herbal tea session soon with the algoreaphobes and I do need to air the room of all that smelly ink. Play nice at daycare.
Updated. Thank you all for your helpful comments, but “forme” you are just rude! I have a 5 x 8 press because I wanted to keep letterpressing and it is the press I could afford. I am not an idiot, nor am I deluded as to what the press is capable of. As a matter of fact I graduated from one of the top art schools in the WORLD, where I practiced letterpress on flatbed proof presses. Please do not pass judgment on the creative process and know-how of people you do not know. This is a forum for learning and a positive exchange of opinions and ideas. Sarcasm is really not productive.
Hi again, Kathleen — You are correct, of course, sarcasm isn’t really needed here, but I do understand his point of view. I prefer to take the position that the advent of offset printing freed us (letterpress printers) from the boredom of business cards, envelopes and stationary, creating a golden age of letterpress, where we can experiment and see what we can see.
I still take that approach. So have fun and, whatever you want to do, go for it. My comments to you were designed to help explain your problem. I hope I was helpful to you.
Thank you Barry, and I do appreciate your comments!
Hmmm. Let me see….. you feel free to pass comment upon my remarks, using personal slight, but I cannot give general opinion without being deemed ‘rude’. Is that not a ‘judgement’ about a person you’ve never met? And that “world class” school must be a peach if a Kelsey 5x8 stymies its graduate. Also, you might want to look at the word, ‘sarcasm’. I am quite capable of sarcasm; my previous posting was nowhere near the definition.
For your information I have a Craftsmen 5x8, not a Kelsey. As for the rest of your remarks, I don’t think I’ll dignify them with a response. If you are so high and mighty why are you hanging out reading the “letterpress for beginners” forum? Why not spend your time in a forum with people who don’t seem to frustrate you quite so much.
Interesting how you chose to select press model rather than re-proclaim ‘world’ class practiced skills in your non-response response. Now, how much longer do you wish to natter over your assumed umbrage?
Without adding any fuel to the fire … ”well said … calling it like it is . . . ‘
forme: Reminiscent of Dad’s advice many years ago. “Never have a battle of wits with an unarmed person!”
Updated. Do you participte in these forums to learn and help others to learn or just spread invective? If you really believe what you’re saying is true why not actually try and persuade others? Or is it that you don’t care about anything except who you can find as a target for your insults next? You seem to have a lot to offer; it’s a pity your character isn’t as advanced as your knowledge of printing.
In my opinion.
Astonishing. Without ever having met, you’ve pronounced diagnosis of my character and print knowledge. I believe The Amazing Kreskin is nearing retirement; perhaps, with your tremendous powers of ethereal insight, you would be an excellent replacement for that buffoon. And do look up the word, ‘invective’, in a dictionary, preferably.
Kathleen Cake and Pie:
I find it rather difficult for this old man, brought up in a print shop in World War Two to be helpful to a beginning printer, using her knowledge gained practicing(?) on a FLATBED, (I hope) proof press, at one of the top “WORLD CLASS” art schools…seems with all that knowledge she should be helping me. Advice from the old man…first get a few books, Cleeton and Pitkins General Printing, Polks’ Elementary Platen Presswork, Polks’ Elements of Composition, and learn the basics so you can at least refer to your problems with some basic understanding of the terminology used in the printing trades. As for Boxcar, Shmochcar, photo-polymer…keep on smashing plates, gauge pins, but please don’t smash the hand-set type, the real printers need that type to print with. “Nuf said!”
Hear that sound, SP? That’s both hands clapping. Best advice thus far. Thank you.
cakeandpie and forme and all the other unnamed and disguised folks.
Letterpressing cakeandpie is absolutely correct in wondering whatever experienced folks who know what they are doing and what they are talking about in terms of advice are doing on a list that is basically newbie to newbie, and apparently preferable in that regard.
An earlier daycare reference holds. The children at the finger-painting table have asked someone for direction, then adamantly insist upon doing it their way - no matter they’ve never used the material before. To compound, when direction is given , they take offense, stamp their feet, and pout mightily. That they are tyros is recognized by the Elder in the room, and, knowing there is a responsibility to pass on what knowledge they possess, continue to suffer the paint spatters and petulant glares from the children, secure that of the perhaps twenty aspiring paint wielders there will be at least two children absorbing the provided information. And how does the Elder know who are these aspirants? Easy. They’re the ones sitting quietly, applying the information gained, studying the texts available, and meeting the standards of the task. They are the ones who, later in their life, will apply, soundly, those lessons learned at the feet of those who have mastered their craft. More importantly, they will expand from the standard met and excel in their chosen field fully understanding that unless the fundamentals of the craft are mastered they will forever be at the level of that finger-paint table. The others? Well, they will continue to flail and pout - and probably lick their fingers. But two have been added to the Black Art roster.
As I see it.
To Bielerpr and other unnamed and disguised folks: First off I am not disguised. This is my real name. We (and I), experienced letterpress folks with years of experience, are on this site wanting to exchange ideas, opinions, and to share our knowledge and experience in the trade in printing shops. Design studios, art studios, world class art schools, all smell of persons who neither are or aspire to be printers, hiding behind these names as though being a printer and getting your sweet manicured hands dirty with ink, is something to be ashamed of. I am proud to be a PRINTER! We are on this list to help these newbies in any way we can, if they really want to be helped. If they don’t want to help themselves, to read about the trade and learn from the many books, web sites, etc., then I (we) are not here to lead them by the hand back to their group at the day care center. I think I’ve spent enough time with this issue and it’s time now to help open-minded people who want to be helped. Good-bye! Stanislaus Pekala, (my real name!)
Updated. Hi everybody,
Perhaps it’s time to close this thread. I know many of you from your enthusiastic contributions to other threads, and value your participation immensely. Differences of opinion are always welcome, and heated discussions can be very productive. But please remember to treat each other with respect — as is almost always the norm around here.