How to: preparing for a run

You may have heard or read that letterpress printed goods are hand crafted. But what does that really mean? For us, our hands are involved in every aspect for design and production. We’ve posted about drawing and how to mix inks. And it’s obvious that each piece is hand cranked through the press. But what you didn’t realize is how much ‘prep’ we go through before running a job.

After we’ve hand mixed our inks and inked up the press, we prep for a press run by first creating a few test prints to check impression depth, inking consistency, and clarity. We evaluate these test prints, make adjustments to the packing (the layers behind the paper), rollers/rails, and ink, and then re-test until we are happy with the results. We do this for each run of the press because different forms (plates/type) and ink create different print conditions. And since I don’t like to waste paper, I’ll often times just rotate the paper and test again if the design allows for it. Maybe it’s just the artists/architect in me, but I actually love how these palimpsest test prints highlight the printing process–what do you think?

Below, you can see the card on the right has all of my notes. In this particular case, the date and Lauren’s name were printing lighter than the rest of the invitation on the first test. In order to adjust that, I cut layers of packing to fit those particular areas and laid them on the platen (the part of the press that the paper sits on). This brings that area of the paper a hair closer to the form allowing for a little more pressure on the next pass. And after several attempts and adjustments, voila…we’re ready to print the whole run!

In this modern age, our society values economy and efficiency. But it’s great that we can also recognize the value of hand crafted goods where you still see the person behind the product.

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