Aimed for the stars, landed in mud and thorny bushes.

I’m through letterpress depression. I need to vent

I have a Windmill 10x15 and my one color jobs are pretty nice. I had a meeting with a bride and I felt like it was time to do a two color job. I’ve done a few two color jobs, but nothing, NOTHING, like this one.

1. My plan was to get two 8.5x11 plates and just print the whole plate so the second color will be easier to align.

2. I wanted to print on thick chipboard

These were the the two worst decisions. The chipboard from Uline was way too thick at .50. I couldn’t print the whole sheet because it kept hitting then sucker bar and the gripper couldn’t grab it straight enough. So every print is crooked. Not crazy crooked but crooked and not crooked in the same spot. I figured to just keep going, don’t be a quitter, don’t be a letterpress loser. So I printed and printed and printed like a fool.

Oh, I forgot to say that because the paper was so thick I had to cut the paper in half, therefore, I had to cut my plate up.

So I have about 600 crooked pieces right not and, there is not hope for me. The second color was a mess. There is no why to align it. I’m shooting in the dark. Then I found out about brass lay pins and nickel lay pin that is good for hair ling register, but even if I had told I still don’t think I was experienced enough for colors so close.

So I have to think of something for this bride.

-Do you think I can buy the brass lay pins and thinner chipboard?
-Do you think I can buy the brass lay pins and try to save the job I have now?
-Do you think I should talk her into a one color?

This sucks

Thanks everyone

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First a deep breath. Now start with fresh thinner stock. Before putting ink to paper get your press to feed it properly/consistently this will go a long way to getting things right. I too have fought a job. I think the paper change with go a long way to making things work. BTW it’s called printing because all the other swear words were taken.

It sounds like you need to go back to square one on this. Can you salvage your plates?

There is some really nice paper in the Muscletone line from French that has the look of chipboard, but is a more workable weight and won’t kill the client with postage costs. They also sell matching envelopes.

If you order it off their site you could have it very quickly.


Thank for talking me off the ledge guys. I’m sure there are a lot of stories like this. Yes Ted, printing is a swear word lol! NYC I’m going to check out that paper.

And yes I can save the plates thank God!!!!!


Do you guys think I should still buy the brass lay pin or the nickel lay pins?

The brass guides (leaving a 1/4” margin) will cover about 90 percent of your register printing needs. It is important to note that if your image/plate base goes to the bottom/register side of the chase, that you will need to use something besides Heidelberg steel lay pins in the brass lays.

Boxcar makes a super nifty receding pin register guide, but it’s super primo priced too. You can use broom straw/bristles in the guide holes or adhere light cardstock to the pin to hold the stock. There should be plenty of explanation about this elsewhere on Briar Press and the Internet in general regarding this.

If you can’t deliver the stock to the lay pins, it won’t matter, but start with the brass ones. Feeding off gauges is not for 2 color work, and the right thickness of stock is a must. And so too is experience. Tackling jobs like this without running a lot of routine work is to ask for trouble. Just because Heidelberg appears on the namplate does not mean a thing unless there is a corresponding level of experience and knowledge, and it appears that is still the goal here.


Sometimes it’s best to wash up and come back another day! Definitely get yourself some brass guides. I fought and fought with nickel guides before moving to the brass ones. MUCH easier to work with. Using guides is the only way to register multiple colors consistently. Make sure you set the grippers for running guides as well as moving the feed table to the left with the appropriate guide setting.

If you don’t have a manual, download one from Letterpress Commons.

It’ll get easier!

Thanks everyone. Fritz you are right. I’m going to make it a goal in 2014 to really get to know my press, every buttons, every knob, every switch, whatever. I’m going to really take the time to study it because it want to do this for the rest of my life.

Jonsel you are right I was so worked up and depressed, but I kept going and things got worst. I had a day off today, read a lot of treads on here and got my mind right.

Mike I’m going to try to broom straw thing because that’s where my budget is at this point.

I find that it’s admirable to make a statement like, “I want to do this for the rest of my life”.

Nothing else to add aside from good luck.

Absolutely, do NOT start commercial work with any bride. You need to understand the machine and process very well before you jump into unpredictable marital dynamics, whose participants don’t give a **** about you or your work; you are less important than a seamstress or florist. How can you come ahead in this situation? It takes experience and a firm hand and the ability to say “no, go somewhere else”. Unverstanding this will free you from ulcerous money-losing situations.

Hmm—a mechanical bride, and a commercial one to boot. Be it the 5x8 Kelsey or the Heidelberg, and everything in between, my first advice to newcomers is to read the literature—buy real books, like General Printing, Platen Press Operations, Practice of Printing—wear these books out, examine the pictures, pick up the vocabulary, and then apply what is read to the equipment. Treat your friends and relatives with your first crappy efforts, donate work to the organizations you belong to, get experience and develop an eye for what’s good, and bad. Maybe as a leftover from my classroom days, I grade each job I do from A to the failing F, and that means occasionally I start over. I mentally still submit each job to my departed instructor and anticipate what his comments would be. Though later in his printing life, he once told me “they don’t pay enough to do makeready.” But then he wasn’t doing work for difficult brides and their impossible mothers.

I would add that the sea of letterpress videos on YouTube should be viewed for their entertainment value as there are so many showing dead wrong technique and unsafe practices.


I feel for you, I do. One of my first, “official” stints into wedding stationery was a 3-color job for a friend from college. On my Pilot. Registration was difficult, even on a tabletop platen! I can only imagine what you’re up to on a Windmill. I thought they turned out fantastic, but a week after my friends’ wedding, I get a package in the mail … and it’s every single unsent, unused wedding invitation and RSVP! She hated them (because I didn’t get the “deep impression” she was hoping for on my 100+ year old Old Style C&P Pilot). Instead of letting me know weeks in advance, she waited until after her wedding. Fortunately, there are no refunds after printing, especially not after the 3-color wild ride.

My husband and I have since not tried to get into the wedding market. I wonder why? :P

I’m going to guess your bride wants a thicker paper stock, so I’d order some Mr French samples before making the switch. It may make her/her future husband/her parents/everyone upset if it’s not what they expected. Be warned! It won’t be like chipboard in terms of thickness, but it won’t be too thin, either.

A few recommendations.

Brass guides are a must. I’d also get some #99 suckers.

Third, try to run the sheets around 8.5x6”. We run 50Pt+ stock with this setup and can register 3-4 colors with no problem.

Also. Slow down the press.

I’d also be willing to run it if you can’t figure things out.