Wednesday, September 8


A few months back I signed on for a co-op project through the Ladies of Letterpress. The task: to make 125 letterpressed copies of a "Greetings From..." 4x6 postcard representing your state or city/town.
In the tradition of postcards like this:
Here are the two versions I designed (Nate preferred the one with the full cow showing, so that's the one I'll print and turn in):

Monday, August 2


I gave the card design from my post last week another go at printing, since I was having some issues. I'm a lot happier with how they turned out this time. I still was not able to get much of an impression in the paper, but I'm starting to realize that might just be a limitation of my little tabletop press, and not my junior printing knowledge. At least I got a good solid ink hit on both the wood grain background and the main content on the design.
Take a look:

Monday, July 26


This is the first project with my photopolymer plates, so it's a real work-in-progress. I'm 80% happy with where I'm at now, but I hope one more attempt will get me to 100%... My original thought on this project was to make a deep impression of wood grain texture on the paper (with no ink, similar to an emboss, but without as much show-through on the other side). But I was having a real problem with getting the amount of pressure that I wanted and was not getting much of an impression in the paper, at all. I knew my paper wasn't the issue (Crane Lettra 110lb), because I've seen plenty of projects done using this paper and showing an impression. I thought it might be the amount of paper I had backed behind my print paper, but I added more, and still nothing. I gave up on this idea, to avoid getting frustrated with my new hobby... Improvising, I printed the wood texture with a really light tint of ink and moved on to the printing of the content. I ran into a similar problem here, where I wasn't getting a full and rich hit of ink on each print... Close, but not quite there. So I added more ink, but this was not the problem.
With a clear head this morning, I am now guessing that my eyes were larger than my Boxcar base (if that makes any sense). I was trying to print the cards 3-up per print, to save myself some time, but I think that was what was causing all the time I spent trouble-shooting. There was too much surface area on the plate that I wanted to print, and it was extending all the way out to the edge of the chase. I think I will try again tonight by just printing one card at a time and see if I get better results. Stay posted on if I get any better results...

Here's what the photopolymer looked like while stuck on the base in the chase, ready to get inked up. I'm thinking it's definitely too much surface area I'm wanting to print on too small of a base, so I will cut up the plate and see how that goes.

Close-up, so you can see the height of the plate and how detailed it can get with that small type!

Here's the final card, where it is at now. The wood-grain pattern is a little TOO subtle in the background and the black content is not as solid as I would like. So I will keep trying...

Here's an idea my client, aka "Dad," came up with... I bought a few sheets of balsa wood in different weights at the craft store and printed directly on that. These turned out the best of anything I did in that printing session. The black printing came out very rich, and they were easy to cut with an exact-o knife. I also decided to round the corners on these ones for a more polished look.


Time to regain my printing momentum! Since I've started working with my letterpress, I've run into different problems with each project. Not enough ink, too much packing, not enough pressure, too large of design... I look at the help forums online and all the old scrooges, who have been running presses for years, say letterpress is an exact science. They insist very sternly that there is no room for trial/error. I do not listen to a word they say. Sure, if someone has a quick solution for a problem I've come across, I'm all ears. But I'm also not afraid to get a little grease on my hands tweaking things 'a little to the left/a little to the right' until I figure it out on my own, either.
So... just when I was just barely starting to figure out magnesium plates, I decided to switch over to photopolymer where I look forward to a whole new set of troubleshooting to fake my way through! Photopolymer plates are less expensive per square-inch after the initial purchase of the base. They are also better for the planet, since they can be recycled easily after you are done using them. I have the same method of design and file setup for either one, so I thought I'd give it a go.

Here are what the plates look like (this is for a set of 4 note-card designs and a business card 3-up).

They come on one big pre-adhesived sheet, and I cut each one to it's own printing plate with an exact-o knife.

Here's a close-up with light coming in behind it. They're kind of pretty... Not sure what the reasoning behind the honey-gold color is, but I like it.

Monday, March 29


I set up and printed my first big project today, after the warm-up of the Thank You card. It's a spring card I designed in Illustrator. To make it a two color print, I had two magnesium print plates created. Here's a step-by-step in pictures:

Locking up the first magnesium plate into the chase. It's a 8x5" chase, and my card design was 6x4", so I only needed a little bit of furniture and the metal lock-up bars, which I could screw into.

Mixing up the inks was more challenging than I anticipated. Such a small amount of color goes a very long way. Something I need to keep mindful of in the future.

Applying the ink to the plate.

All inked up after many many cranks on the lever... I'm going to get a very strong left arm!

Chase in place, getting inked up by the rollers. Paper laying in gauge pins ready to get printed.

Second plate/color all ready to go.

I even printed my return address on the flap of all the envelopes. :)

Finished cards all ready to mail!


After finally receiving all of my supplies, I set out to print my very first project! It was very simple, but I'm happy with the way it turned out.


I've been up to my eyeballs in printmaking inspiration lately through vast network of beautiful blogs and websites on the topic. One I came across a few weeks ago was Two Trick Pony, an East Coast outfit specializing in screen-printed stationary. I signed up for their newsletter, and apparently this entered me in a St. Patrick's Day drawing. Probably because it was my birthday, I had luck on my side and won 12 handmade cards with the theme of green. Yippee! My awesome prize just came in the mail today...

Thursday, March 11


I've been busy collecting ink/paper/envelopes/etc and making designs, so I haven't really ramped up my blogging yet. I have two projects that I want to print in the next week: one very simple to get the press and myself warmed up, and the other more of a challenge.
Here's a peek at the first project. A simple "thank you" card. I hand-carved the design into a 3x2" linoleum block (hopefully for a rustic, and not just messy feel)...

And the other is the spring-inspired card I'll be sending out to many of you. I made the design in Illustrator, asked Nate to write a poem for me to center it around, and sent off my digital files to Owosso Graphics who made me a magnesium die mounted on a wood block. It's going to be two colors, so I had two different 6x4" dies cast. This one should be very crisp and detailed when printed, if I do everything right!

Sunday, February 7


Just a reminder of how long letterpress printing techniques have been around and how commonplace they once were:
Several phrases we still commonly use today (ok, well maybe not all of us, but I know you've at least heard your parents say them!) are drawn from the world of letterpress.
It has always been a challenging skill for printers to find and then place the tiny lead letters into the right order and get them set up to print. Because you must read the letters backwards and place them in reverse order, there is an added element of concentration needed for such tricky letters and numbers as d/b, n/u, 9/6 and p/q. SO, this is the origin of the phrase "mind your 'p's and 'q's." :)
Another one I found: Sorts are the individual lead letters and figures kept in a case for use when handsetting type. You get more of certain letters that are most frequently used. SO, when a typographer ran out of 'e's for example, it was said they were "out of sorts."