Friday, October 24, 2014

Press experiments: Registration, Part 2 - Pins and Tabs

Not being able to print when there's a 450-pound wheedling child in your living room is some unique form of torture, I think. Deciding to try a pin-and-tab registration system is one thing. Having to wait for aforementioned pins and tabs to arrive in the post is another thing entirely.

I had just about settled on carving some single-color images so I could at least play with pressure settings and paper when a happy little parcel arrived with today's mail. Hooray!

About a million years ago I worked in a commercial print shop. I set type and did layout via the paste-up method... yes, I am that old. A good friend of mine was our shop stripper, which doesn't mean what you think it means. The stripper took my pasted-up layouts, shot and processed film negatives of them, and then "stripped them up" for exposure to metal lithographic plates. And guess what? He used pins and tabs just like these to do the job.

There are several references to using pin-and-tab systems on the interwebs, this one by Maurice Fykes III is available as a PDF download on the McClain's website. It's a good explanation, but I didn't particularly like the idea of having to secure my lino to bookboard for the entire printing process, mostly because it seemed like clean-up between each color would be a pain in the neck. I also know of instances where printmakers adhere the pins directly on to their lino. This works really well for bleed prints (image goes over the edge of the paper), but I want to find a way to make prints with nice, clean margins.


Enter Registration Experiment #2. I have a mat with an 8 x 10" opening, the size of my unmounted lino block, to which I have adhered the pins. Like this:

The mat should have been wider so the tabs would fall farther from the top of the block and give me a wider paper margin, but for the purposes of this experiment it will be fine.
Once the pins were stuck to the mat board (with clear shipping tape, nice and strong), I started attaching tabs to paper. This is a little tedious, but not horribly so.

Once I had twelve sheets of paper taped up I was ready to print. I started over with a whole new block and all new paper, just to make things easier on myself.

So imagine, if you will, going back and printing the two steps I showed you the other day all over again. And then imagine my initial dismay when my first attempt to print the second color with this new system FAILED. Ugh! Seriously? Is this not going to work?

But I stayed calm and tried the next sheet. Perfect. And the next one? Perfect. In fact that first sheet was the only one that gave me problems, so I suspect some wretched pilot error on that one. Second color a success, so on to the third!

Great. All of these worked, no problem, so I think I'll give colors 4 and 5 a go tomorrow if I can.

The matboard jig is okay, but I don't think it's a long term solution. The board will wear down and eventually the block won't sit as squarely. I'm used to the feel of particle-board-mounted-lino against pine, but don't really want to continue with the thickness that I've been using for handprinting.

Luckily the carpenter at the local lumber yard is accustomed to my odd requests and will happily let me dig around in his scrap pile until an alternate idea presents itself. There are lots of ways to do this, and I just need to find the one that suits me best.


  1. For reasons I can't explain, Kathleen's comment is not appearing here, although Blogger sent me an email saying it had arrived... Sorry if this doesn't make sense to anyone else, but hopefully her comment will manifest and the circle will be completed.

    In the meantime: Yes, there's a clear bed cover and grid paper, which is what I tried to use the first time by marking block and paper edges with tape on the press bed. I thought the feel of the tape edge would be enough to get everything in place, but no dice. Part of it might be that I'm too short to see through the clear cover at a good angle. (A bit pathetic.) I'm getting a floor mat and hopefully that extra inch will be enough.

  2. Good luck, Sherrie! I know you will have an elegant system figured out long before I buy a press, so I'm paying attention!

  3. thank you for posting that PDf, so helpful!! finally something that made a lot of sense for me to use :D