woodcut question

I am new to letterpress. I just purchased at kelsey 5x8 and am waiting for some supplies to come in before i can start printing. I would like to get a boxcar base for my press but i can not afford one right now (too many other things to purchase). So my next best alternative right now is to do some wood cuts. I am experienced with making woodcuts but i usually printed them on an etching press. I was wondering what is the best way to get a woodcut to type height. I usually do my woodcuts on 1/2 inch mdf.

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An easy way to do it would be to back the half inch with 3/8 inch MDF glued on, and a piece of mat board or other heavy cardboard under that should get you pretty close. You can shim behind the block if necessary to get the rest of the way to where the rollers will ink the block. Or hand ink it.


I would ink it by hand too, although it’s going to need to be a pretty small woodcut, I wouldn’t try anything bigger than a 4 x 6 yet, that may even be pushing it. Anyways, a big difference between printing on a platen and printing on an etching press is that with the etching press, pressure is applied very intensely to just one linear point at a time as you roll the bed under the cylinder. With a platen press, the whole image is pressing against the paper all at once. If you have trouble with saltiness in the print, I would try dampening or dampboxing your paper to help the paper grab onto the ink and settle down onto the block for a more even print. Don’t be discouraged if the first few don’t print exactly as you thought they would.

Good luck,



Hello Artfarmer,

You might want to invest in a type-high gauge or a micrometer. The former might be available from Dave Churchman, Don Black, or Letterpress Things (see Yellow Pages). You can pick up a decent micrometer at someplace like Sears or Home Depot for about $20. The micrometer is more useful since you can also measure paper thickness with it.


I use a 6x10 Craftsmen lever press to print linoleum cuts. I find that the largest I can print is 5x7. Even this taxes the press more than I would like. The inking system on the press works fine for artwork with lots of line work, but I would suggest hand inking if your image includes any large solids.

You can buy type high maple at this link