Letterpress Class, Part 3: I Printed Something!

3298728751 647046b516 Letterpress Class, Part 3: I Printed Something!

Locked up type.

I’m a little late on posting this, but blame this stupid cold that’s now making me very hoarse–ugh. Thursday was my third letterpress class through PNCA’s Continuing Education program, and the first one in which I was able to do some printing. We use cylinder/drum-style letterpress printers (named “Tony” and “Ruth,” in case you were wondering), that are probably a bit different that a lot of the presses that you see around in specialty stores, which seem to been primarily platen presses. Here’s an example of this type of press.

3300399729 513b890b66 o Letterpress Class, Part 3: I Printed Something!

This isn't one of the presses we use, but it's a similar--and a Vandercook, like both of PNCA's presses.

Locking up the type is definitely the most time-consuming part of the printing process. You have to make sure that your type is completely tight and immovable prior to inking the press and starting printing. You create tension using “furniture” and fill in any of the tiny gaps that emerge using “coppers and brasses”–tiny, thin pieces of metal that slide in between the type. It’s an inexact science, really…

3299559450 3cef6c23de Letterpress Class, Part 3: I Printed Something!

I thought this was good to go--but I was wrong...

Once we thought we had my type all locked up, I mixed the ink using color formulas from a Pantone deck. (The ink is rubber-based, which has a very interesting texture–completely the opposite of the screen printing inks I’m used to working with.) I chose a lovely crimson. (Big shock, I know, choosing a rich red color. I love me some nice red.) Finally, I got to ink up the press and was ready to go.

Or so I thought.

3298727407 8814b4fc93 Letterpress Class, Part 3: I Printed Something!

"One of these things is not like the other. One of these things is not quite the same."

You see, that cool-looking “7″ that was causing me all kinds of problems last week struck again. It seems that the surface of much of the 7 had worn down, so it was no longer “type high.” Basically, it was being inked by the rollers and was, therefore, not printing. Awesome. With the help of our T.A., I had to de-lockup my type and then remove the 7. We kept adding pieces of paper under the 7, until it finally was type high. It took five or six pieces.

Very lame, I know.

That 7 should could with a warning label: “May cause disorientation, frustration or, in very rare cases, temporary insanity, in newbie printers.”

But all that frustration was worth it, as I learned a lot playing around with printing, running the translucent sheets through the printer multiple times, printing on both the fronts and backs, and then reversing the sheets, to create mirror images of my print–which was my favorite effect.

3301156500 2ec2fedd22 Letterpress Class, Part 3: I Printed Something!

I liked this effect so much that nearly half of my 20 prints were a variation on this style.

Next week our “proposals” for our “big project” are due, which is a bit nerve-wracking. I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do, but I’m not sure if it’s the appropriate scale (too big? too small?) or of the details like paper and edition size. (Not sure where to begin with even making those decisions.) Since I don’t have an art background, these types of thought processes feel rather daunting to me.

Anyone who wants to chime in with tips on how to work through those things, please feel free! I can probably use all the help I can get…

~Sarah

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One thought on “Letterpress Class, Part 3: I Printed Something!

  1. Those look really cool! What a great opportunity to take this class. I’m certain I’ve said it before and it’s worth saying again! How completely cool!!!

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