A few weeks ago someone mentioned that they use a Mylar sheet as tympan. Can you tell me a little more about it and where you get it?

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Mylar is not (NOT) to be used as a substitute for tympan paper——Mylar is a sheet of plastic that comes in various thicknesses and is used UNDER the top sheet ——
tympan paper is a medium-weight oiled paper used
mainly by letterpress printers——MYLAR can be found in
specialty stores that sell plastic goods and fixtures and
comes in both sheet and roll form/s.
Good Luck——-wta

William, I am curious as to why you are so insistent that Mylar cannot be used as a substitute for regular tympan paper.

The Dog House Workshop

Mylar works for me as a top sheet.
I was fortunate to get a few 36” rolls in some deal a while back.
They were ends of rolls that were apparently used for technical drawings, like blue prints, because there are some drawings on some of them.
I use it on a 12x18 C&P, and over an offset blanket on my Poco 0 proof press.

Tympan paper is good, but I will maintain that Mylar is just as good to use a top sheet…but I won’t argue about it.

I have no idea where it can be bought new however.


Tried mylar for a top sheet some time ago, didn’t work for me because of static electricity. Possibly there are other varieties that do?

I recently bought Mylar at New York Central Art Supply:
They keep it well-hidden in the basement, with the silkscreening supplies. I believe they will ship anywhere.

I recently bought Mylar at New York Central Art Supply:
They keep it well-hidden in the basement, with the silkscreening supplies. I believe they will ship anywhere.

My experience is that Mylar can be used both on cylinder presses like Vandercooks and in certain uses on platens like Heidelbergs that don’t use gauge pins. We sell both Mylar and paper tympan, so it depends on one’s experience and the job at hand. In type shops Mylar was used on proof presses to obtain sharp impressions for repro proofs, but that sort of dates me. It is easy to clean, doesn’t retain impression like paper, and with a bit of care, lasts a long time.

Fritz/NA Graphics

Dog House Workshop
(In response to your Question)
You are certainly ABLE to use MYLAR as a top sheet —-
use the thinner sheet so it fits under the bale straps
but consider 1) The cost (vs) some type of tympan
and………….. 2) How long will it be useable considering
the installation of your gauge pins?
I’ve used the thicker mylar sheet immediately under my
tympan top sheet for 40+ years with good results. wta

William, I have used mylar as well as some other materials in place of regular tympan paper and it worked fine. In your initial response you stated “Mylar is not (NOT) to be used as a substitute for tympan paper” I was just curious about why you would make this statement without any supporting information as to why it is not acceptable to use as a replacement for regular tympan paper.

Thanks, Robert

I suspect Mylar would work best with McGill Double Grip or Kort Adjustable Quad gauge pins (or similar), as the slit they require is less disruptive of the tympan surface than the multiple punctures that regular gauge pins create after a while.

It might also be a good idea to have tympans reserved for different sized projects to reduce the need to cut slits/punch holes all over the place. Of course in the old days of paper tympans, the tympan was a disposable item, and punctures could be rubbed down to prevent impressional issues.

It has been my experience that when running a rag stock like Lettra or Savoy on the Vandercook and printing from plates with heavier impression, a mylar top sheet will burnish the backside of the sheet and make the reverse of the printed areas appear shiny.

Swap that mylar for a piece of tympan and the issue will go away.

Has anyone else had this happen?

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

Interesting point Daniel. We use a mylar top sheet at the college for easy cleaning. I noticed the sheen you mentioned on some Johannot but it did not do the same on Rives Heavyweight.. Of course the Johannot was thicker so it may have just been the difference in paper thickness and impression.

Seems to me that using home-made “compressible” gauge pins might resolve some of the negative issues?

I have used mylar as a top sheet with homemade compressible guides and it works great, BUT, I have run into the burnishing issue on the back of the sheet mentioned above on soft cotton papers. So, I usually use it as the last sheet of packing under the tympan when the customer is looking for a deep impression. I buy it in 5, 10 and 20 thou thicknesses at the local art store in large sheets.

Well now, you folks in the USA are clearly unaware of the WW2 era ”Swiss Packing” set, evolving in Switzerland from so called ‘American Cloth’ top sheets, and post WW2 many years of very advanced research by the the Printing and Packaging Industry Research Association at Leather head near London where the late Dr Len Boxall was team leader, ending up with strong recommendations for the best image results. Naturally they did not involve bashing the type destructively into the stock, and over here gauge pins of any make were never very popular. To be fair his starting point was bookwork on large presses, not jobbing work on platens, but I and a number of friends follow his advice.