I've recently printed my Valentine's Day Cards. They are for sale here:
The plate that I designed was very simple because I wanted to try a new (to me) process, printing with a split fountain, which results in a gradation between two colours in the final print, which can be seen better here:
Because I printed these cards on a platen press (my little Kelsey), I had to rig it so that the ink disc wouldn't spin. I did this simply by tying the ink disc ratchet to the roller arm so that it couldn't engage with the ink disc as I was printing.
It was a bit crude -- I just used a bit of yarn that I had handy -- but it did the trick. Then I mixed up the ink I wanted to use and put each colour on half of the disc. As I was inking the disc I rotated it a small bit back and forth so that the colours would start to blend together a little bit in the middle.
It was a fairly simple process and I love the results! I definitely plan on experimenting with this process a bit more, maybe on the big press next time. Once I was done printing the front of the card I simply cut the yarn and ran the press for a few minutes so that the two colours would completely blend together, then I just used that pink to print the message inside the card.
I liked the colour in the end, but I mostly did it because it was the lazy option -- easier than cleaning the press and adding a new colour. Next on the press I have a couple of custom orders, but I've also got my Mother's Day cards designed and ready to print, so look out for those coming soon!
So, the disappearing act happened again. This time the reasons are Christmas, house buying/packing/moving and the start of our home renovations. I've only been to the studio once since the year started, but now that we're starting to get settled in I'll have more time to devote to printing.
Anyway, a couple of months ago I mentioned that I was having inking problems that I thought might be caused by a missing part. I first realized that I was missing a part while reading through a Briar Press post which had a bunch of pictures of an Arab that the poster wanted to purchase. The last picture in that post showed a bar screwed onto the two roller saddles, presumably to keep them the correct distance apart.
My press didn't come with that piece (not surprising) and I was interested in learning more about it because the presses I am most familiar with from the States, the Chandler & Price platens, don't have one. I started out by looking at the manual that was helpfully posted on the British Letterpress site, where page seven had the following:
EEP! NEVER run the machine without the roller bar?!? Oh no! I was worried (and still am) that I had done some damage to the press by using it without the roller bar, but there wasn't anything I could do about that, I just knew I had to fix the problem before I printed again. I had no idea where I could get a piece like that and figured that I would have to get something machined for me. I took a bunch of measurements and did a bit of shopping around to see if I could find something already made that would do the trick, but that was a fruitless search. On a trip around B&Q one day, though, I came across some aluminum (aluminium?) rods that I thought I might be able to drill and use. After a bit of trial and error, I made this -
It's not the sturdiest thing in the world and I'm not sure how long it will last before it breaks, but it has already solved one problem I had with the rollers shifting to the right and falling off the rails while I was treadling. The jury is still out on whether it has completely solved my inking issues because I've only tried printing with it a couple of times and I'll need to do a bit more testing. One thing I do know is how proud I am that I was able to solve this problem on my own (with a little consultation help from the hubs, of course).
So, you might notice a theme developing on this here blog... things about the press I didn't notice when I went to look at it. The subject of this post is the result of one of those things - the ink disk had a thick layer of old, dried ink on it.
Looking at the positive side of things I think this layer of ink stopped the ink disk from rusting (which is a common problem when these old presses are not used for a long time) but I had to clean it off before I could even think about printing. Jeremy from the removal company gave me a couple of pieces of copper rule and suggested that the best way to clean off the ink was to scrape it off with the rule. I tried that for a few minutes without much success and so I turned to the Briar Press forums, the fount of all letterpress knowledge. Most of the suggestions said that lacquer thinner would be of great help in the process but it's not available in the UK, so I did a little googling and it seemed like cellulose thinner was the way to go (I still don't know whether it's the same thing with a different name, or just a good substitute).
Once I had all the supplies - cellulose thinner, rags, copper rule and heavy duty gloves - I spread some cardboard out in the backyard (don't want to be working in an enclosed area with the chemicals) and got to work. I put some of the thinner on a rag and held it on the plate for a few seconds and then scraped away the softened ink.
Even with the help of the thinner it was a slow process. After about an hour, frustrated by a particularly thick area of ink, I decided to try a different tactic. I laid the rag over the whole ink disk and poured a bit of the thinner over it, thoroughly wetting the rag. I let it sit for about 10 seconds and then I lifted half the rag and scraped under it while the other side continued to soak then re-covered the first side and scraped the second, repeating a few times until I wasn't able to scrape any more ink off. That little moment of genius saved me *so* much time (although I will apologize to mother earth because it probably wasn't the most environmentally friendly way to go).
In total, I probably spent two and a half hours cleaning off all the ink, and ended up with this beautiful, shiny ink disk.