Packing and general refinement

Morning all,

I have been working on my letterpress now for a couple of years, using my trusty 8x5 and photo-polymer plates supplied by Lyme Bay, here in the UK. I am pleased with my results and when I compare to some (but certainly not all) other printers I can see that I am able to produce good results with my limited press. I am starting to sell my work more seriously and this (along with my own personal desire) leads me to want to improve even further.

Obviously I realise that the real answer going forward is to get a better press, but for the moment I want to try and get as much as I can out of the one I have.

One of my most recent projects was using the typeface Transport in 60, 48 & 36pt to print place names on to greetings cards. The place names in 36pt tend to be longer, so there is little difference between the 36 & 48pt.

I am getting a sharp impression, but with mottled uncovered areas within the letters. This is improved if I do two impressions, but not eliminated.

I am wondering if my packing is correct for this sort of deep impression work (I know not every printer likes deep impression)? The card is definitely effected by the impression, with bumps on the reverse where it has been impressed. If anything I tend to under ink, as I like clean and clear shoulders to the impression.

I am using the Swiss Style Packing ( from Happy Dragon.

Other details:

Card Stock: 330gms & 530gsm Gmund Heidi

Ink: Lawrences Carbon Black Linseed Letterpress Ink

All and any thoughts welcome!

Many thanks,


Log in to reply   7 replies so far

Sounds like your impression is ok, but maybe your rollers are not low enough to adequately ink the type. For a quick check of that, take a sheet of packing from the platen and put it behind the chase. That will raise the type a little so the rollers will contact the type a little more.

It that improves the situation, then you can adjust your rollers.

Could you tell us exactly what you are using for every layer of packing, from the platen surface to the top sheet?

Hi Geoffrey,

Thanks so much for your reply. I am using the system just as Happy Dragon sell it (, so that’s Bottom Blanket, 220gsm Tympan Manilla and then Top Layer Packing. Do you think this sounds about right for this job?

I am reasonably happy with my inking levels, which I adjust quite carefully using masking tape on the roller bearers. I know I edge on the side of underinking, but that’s to keep those shoulders nice and clean.

With fine and light printing I am getting good results (maybe it would help to upload an image or two), it’s just with larger type sizes.


After looking at the Happy Dragons website you linked to, I can see what your problem is. It is the rubber blanket. Fine type doesn’t need as much printing pressure from the press to print, because it has less surface area, so you can get away with printing fine type using the blanket. But, larger type needs more pressure, because it has more surface area, and the blanket is absorbing the pressure you need to print with. This prevents you from using the pressure the press can otherwise exert, to print the large type.

Take out the rubber blanket and substitute something which will not give like the rubber does. In North America we commonly use something called pressboard, which is a thick, smooth, hard paperboard.

Open this link and scroll down until you get to “red pressboard.” This is what I am talking about.

With luck, some of our UK friends will read this and let you know of a source for pressboard or a similar product in the UK.

Hope this helps.

The Adana 8x5 doesn’t have the clout for deep impression, it flexes, which is my Caslon are producing a more robust 8x5 for deep impression.

Geoffrey - Thank you so much! You were, of course, right. It seems like my fit and forget method has been leading me astray. I took out the mat and used just the Tympan Manilla that was in there. Good coverage, but I wanted a little more impression, so by playing around with different materials I have to hand I was able to find the balance between impression and coverage. The rear of the card has been significantly improved, as the press impresses into the card, rather than pushing out the back. I still have to use two impressions on the big text, but I find that I have much better coverage.

I have noticed that I have a little issue where the chase gaps in the runners are, the rollers are being lifted very slightly on one side. I guess I could very gently take a long fine file to it, but as I have to pack every time with tape anyway I will probably just try and design/position around it.

Thanks for the help - really appreciated and if any fellow Brit does know where I can get Red Pressboard please do let me know.

Platenprinter - I can still see the limitations of the Adana, but this has made a big difference. Nonetheless I will be looking out for a treadle platen that I can restore.


Hi again James.

You said above: “I have noticed that I have a little issue where the chase gaps in the runners are, the rollers are being lifted very slightly on one side. I guess I could very gently take a long fine file to it, but as I have to pack every time with tape anyway I will probably just try and design/position around it.”

Not being vary familiar with the Adana, I’m not sure what you mean by that. Do you mean that the rollers hit the horizontal edges of the chase? If so, it sounds like you have already found that you can solve that problem by putting a little extra tape on the rails there, to raise the rollers a little, since you won’t be printing an image that close to the top (or bottom) of the chase anyway.

Are your rollers significantly larger in diameter than your trucks? The rollers should be, at minimum, the same size as your trucks, and at maximum (and preferably), very slightly larger than the trucks. If your rollers are significantly larger than your trucks, I can see why you might have to tape your rails to raise the rollers, and why the rollers are hitting the chase, if in fact that is what is happening.

If I didn’t interpret your comment correctly, just disregard my reply.

Anyway, I’m glad you are having more success.

Regards, Geoff

Also to add, that theres a rather obscure extra attachment for 8 x 5s that vastly improves their inking performance - always seen as their weakest point. There is a third distributor roller attachment, to provide pyramid inking refresh and supply whilst in the usual mode of operation. The Blocks on the end of the roller arms are different, and theres a smaller than usual diameter roller running on top of the usual two. It works very well indeed. I believe that Messrs Caslon Ltd at St Albans can still sell you this kit, but it has to be the more recent models,(not the 1946-7 era) so they will ask for the machine number.