Saturday, October 18, 2014

First tests on the new press!

FINALLY I got to spend some time mucking around with Presston this afternoon! Presston, if you haven't been following along, is a 30 x 60 Takach etching press, acquired just last week.

Up to this point I've been printing my linocuts entirely by hand-rubbing with a baren and spoon. I've got a reliable system down and I enjoy fairly consistent results. But in the last year I've started to have some rather serious pain in my wrists and neck from all this repetitive motion and pressure, so it was time to do something different. Serendipity brought Presston and I together, and now it's time to get to know each other better.

To be honest, I've been a bit nervous to start. I've only made two small reduction relief prints on an etching press before and I don't really know what I'm doing. What if, after all this effort and expense, I find I can't make it work for me?

But this afternoon I finally quit stalling (and finally got far enough along in an illustration job that I don't feel guilty walking away from it for a bit), and made my first foray into press-assisted print.

Ooooh. Fun.

I was delighted to find it really easy to get the roller calibrated, and even more delighted to find both sides completely synchronous.

I considered starting with a single color print, and that probably would have been smart... but I was more excited to print than carve, so went ahead and jumped on in to a reduction piece. It was a good and not-so-good decision.

The good news is that my very first pull was perfect!  Even ink, correct pressure, beautiful impression. The press bed has a nice grid and guides on it, so I thought I'd just try to tape off some registration marks and eyeball it. Why not? I pulled 20 lovely first colors in pretty short order.

You might be able to see a ghost of the drawing here... something I didn't anticipate but can correct in subsequent prints. I draw my images on the block with a Sharpie permanent marker, and usually when hand-rubbing I have very little transfer of Sharpie to the print. With Presston's firm hand I had lots of transfer, but in the future I think that if I draw the image and sand it down a bit before inking it should help.

Encouraged by this initial success I thought I'd go ahead and try out my seat-of-the-pants registration system.

THIS is going to need more thought.

I pulled 8 prints and only got one in good alignment, so clearly I need a more thoughtful registration method. I have another 12 first color prints on the rack, but I'm undecided about carrying on until I can sort out something a little more efficient. I think I'd like to try a pin system, but I haven't ever used one and don't quite know how to set it up. But I'll figure it out! I'm really excited about the possibilities once I get a new routine in place.

So time out for some more research. This first experiment was with unmounted lino, which I think will eventually be the mainstay. But my hand-rubbing registration jig requires mounted blocks, and I have a goodly pile of them that will need to be used at some point. (Plus I have some large single-color images on mounted blocks that I never finished editioning because I needed to give my wrists a break. Presston will make short order of them once I get a system in place.)

It felt really good to work in my "new" space today... so far the set up seems completely functional. As always, I wish I had more horizontal work space, but one does what one can in the space available. A sign of how much fun I was having? I totally forgot to stop and eat dinner.

Stay tuned for future experiments.


  1. Cobngratulations on your new Press!
    Its fun reading about how you two are discovering each other.

  2. Congrats Sherrie. the 'new' space looks great and you must be having a ball with the press!

  3. Sherrie - try placing your inked lino down onto the paper (on the press bed) and lightly mark around the corners of the unmounted lino or blocks with a pencil. Gently press on the block with your hand to make the lino and paper adhere somewhat. Then slide to the edge and turn it over and then center on the press bed. Do that each time and it should hopefully work for each subsequent color run. Let me know if it works well.
    Sally P

  4. i wish the etching presses i've used were synchronous when figuring out the right height/pressure for the plate. was always a pain when one side was lower than the other, badly printed prints :/

  5. Hey, Sally... thanks for the tip, I'll give it a try. I ordered a pin-and-tab registration set and will try to make some sort of shallow jig and see if that does the trick. I've become so accustomed to my mostly bomb-proof hand-printing jig that it's a little daunting to have to figure out something new. But I can't wait to have it all sorted out and just get ON with printing!

  6. Jen, I definitely lucked out. I cranked both sides all the way down to the bed and voila! They zeroed out the same on both sides. No extra math to figure out an even setting!