Uneven Inking on Kelsey

I posted a few weeks about not getting an impression on my Kelsey 5x8. Thanks for everyones feedback, and I was able to fix the problem. Though now, I’m having a whole set of problems.

I recently ordered a Boxcar Base and plate, and yesterday was my first go at it. The results were not good and very frustrating, so I’m wondering if anyone has experienced this and can give some feedback.

Basically, I’m getting an uneven inking… either the top will ink great and then the bottom will not even show up. When I tighten the impression screws in the area where it’s light, then I can’t even pull down the lever all the way. What am I doing wrong? I’ve also tried moving around the chase and plate in different areas, and adding packing in the areas where it’s light ink… and still no luck.

Thanks, Erin

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Hi Erin,

I think once you have the platen set, and it is giving even impressions on each corner, it is best to leave it be. You will need to fine tune it every once in a while, but not as a matter of course. Impression can then be adjusted with makeready. “General Printing” by Cleeton has been reissued by Liber Aperatus Press, and it has a section on makeready, as do the texts by Polk - “Elementary Platen Press Work” and “The Practice of Printing” - which are fairly available, used, from Abe Books.

Is the image on the plate evenly inked? Are the rollers moving smoothly? Are the rollers evenly covered with ink? Is there any residue from any cleaner or solvent being picked up by the rollers? Is the bottom part of the plate making contact with the paper at all? Is the plate sitting evenly on the base?

Another issue might be the print you are trying to make - does the image on the plate go all the way to the edges? A Kelsey won’t really print to the edges of its chase - it often seems like there is a spot about 2.5” x 4” ( or maybe even a bit smaller) right in the middle of the platen that will print without tooooo much hassle.

Not sure if that is any help, or not - best of luck!

Uneven inking can be caused by a lot of things. In your situation I’d start first with the roller height, then work over to impression. Do you have a roller gauge to set the roller height? Once this is set, if you’re still having uneven inking, only then should you move on to adjust platen bolts.

In the situation you describe above, you mention that you’re not able to close the press completely after tightening the bottom two bolts. Instead of tightening these, you should probably have loosened the top bolts. It will have the same effect of making the platen parallel to the bed, but since the platen is backed off a bit more, it ought to close more completely.

The right combination of platen adjustments and packing adjustments is sometimes elusive, but you’ll get it eventually. Incidentally, what are you using to pack your platen? Keep in mind that varying your packing can throw your platen adjustments out of whack.

On a side note, It’s important to remember that these lever presses were not intended to print with a deep impression originally. When they were manufactured, letterpress printers tried to minimize impression. You can get away printing small forms with a deep impression but the more surface area the plate has, the less likely you’ll get a consistent, deep impression. These forms are much better suited to a larger, floor model letterpress.

I hope this helps!
Boxcar Press