Saturday, March 28, 2009

Charting A New Course

Some people mentioned that they might be able to help identify the cut shown in my last post but that the photo was too indistinct to make out, and it's certainly no model of the scanner's art. So since this afternoon I printed some business cards I decided to pull a proof of it. This is the largest form I've printed and it almost filled the chase. I didn't go crazy with any makeready, just adjusted the packing and used a few sheets for an underlay to get the somewhat respectable print you see below. So hopefully this new scan of an actual print will be of some help in understanding exactly what I have. I'd certainly appreciate any insight.

Friday, March 27, 2009

You Can Count On It

I recently picked up the cut in the photo below. It is 7 1/4" x 12" and the numbers run from 1 to 500 starting in the upper left hand corner and across the row to the right, continuing back to the left side and across to the right in the second row, etc. My guess is that this is for some kind of counting sheet: one checks off the numbers on the sheet as one counts whatever one needs to count then, when the last item is counted, the total is self-evident. I would really appreciate any input either to confirm or deny my own suspicion and/or provide the definitive answer. I'm counting on you...

Monday, March 16, 2009

It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over

A week ago last Sunday I printed my first real project. It was for a letterpress swap and only ran to about 75 sheets but was the first thing I’ve printed in “bulk” for distribution. Everything came out reasonably well and I was very happy with the way the press worked. During this process I learned, or perhaps was reminded of something, I thought I’d share here.

I made a previous post describing how I adjusted the platen on my press at the time I restored it. I adjusted it at all four corners using a machinist’s gauge and I spent considerable time loosing and tightening the platen bolts until everything was set to the gauge. And in fact when I printed a small business card form, it was just fine.

When dressing the platen and before inking the press my practice has been to use a sheet of the old-style dark blue/purple “carbon” paper with a test sheet to pull a proof, turning the flywheel over by hand while holding the two sheets between the platen and the form. Once I’m sure everything is where it should be I ink the press and pull an impression on the tympan that I then use to set the gauge pins following the usual procedure.

The form for my project had a printed area of about 4” x 6”. I had locked it up in the chase slightly below the centerline as is normally recommended. When I pulled the proof using the carbon the impression, while generally even, was lighter at the top than the bottom. For a second I was surprised considering the care I had used setting the platen. But then I realized that an actual form introduces a variable and especially the size of the form.

The answer was to adjust the top two platen bolts very, very slightly to move the top of the platen towards the bed. I then took a trial impression and made another very small adjustment until the impression was truly equal. In fact, the impression was so good that I didn’t feel I needed makeready and so proceeded with the run. Looking back I think there were one or two things I would have spotted-up but in general I was satisfied with the impression. I saved my proofs and will scan them and a copy of the final print and post them tomorrow when I have more time.

So while gauges provide a useful starting point the proof, as always, is in the printing.

Followup: Just to be clear, once I get the platen properly set, and I'm hoping that has now been achieved, I don't expect to have to adjust it again except in extraordinary circumstances. But having recently disassembled, cleaned, reassembled and initially adjusted everything, I'm not surprised it required a bit more tweeking.

The usual means of adjusting the platen is to lock up either four large sorts, one in each corner, or a foundry type border all around the edge of the chase. Then test proofs are taken on the tympan and adjustments made accordingly. I have nothing against that method but when I tried it on my old 8x12 I personally didn't have much success. When I made the adjustment with the method I've also now used on my 10x15 things worked out very well.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Foiled Again!

I've given some thought from time to time about the possibilities of hot foil printing, especially in relationship to book covers and the like. But this was a passive interest only until a couple weeks ago when I had the opportunity to pick up a vintage hot foil press that was otherwise destined for the scrap yard. It needs a good cleaning but I've fired it up and tried it out with the included burgundy tape and it works just fine. The two "idler" bars on the automatic feeder that stretch the tape between them and keep it at the right distance from the type were missing but an old catalog showed that they were simply 5/16" diameter round metal rod. I bought a length from the local hardware store and bent it to the right shape and now you can't tell the difference from the factory originals. The hand wheel that moves the upper arm was broken and I replaced it with a vintage part from my old parts pile in the basement. Only the cleaning remains.

The type holder holds forms up to 1" wide and 5 3/4" long. It's actually a rather large machine. The table is 12" x 12" and it weighs a good hundred pounds or so, about the size of a large tabletop drill press. Foil tape seems amazingly low priced so I'll have to pick up some gold and a few other colors. So the Front Room Press has become a bit more diversified in what it can do. Anyone need your name on a book? If anyone has any information on this company or press, I'd be very grateful if you'd get in touch.