Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Having problems printing. I've just spent two nights trying to print from my first solid area plate, but having the same recurring problem that I've been having since I first put ink on the press.

The issue is that an area the length of the plate and one inch high is not inking. If I rotate the rollers 180 degrees, the whole plate inks up again, but after one or two prints, resorts to having an uninked strip again. It's not always the same area. It's less noticeable with line art.

At first, I thought it was that the rollers were sliding over that spot rather than rolling over it. I checked to make sure that the trunks were free of grease, and that the tracks were also clean.

Then I thought that it was because the rollers weren't being completely covered in ink as they ran over the ink disc -- that they didn't complete a full rotation over the ink, and therefore couldn't fully ink the plate.

My fiancee discovered that one of the tracks wasn't 100% straight. So we taped it up until it was, but that made no difference either.

Only rotating the rollers a little by hand, and then continuing the cycle seems to ink the plate up evenly, though only for a couple of prints.

Our best guess so far is that the rollers' axis has a bow in it. If this is the case, it's bad news.

I've put in so much work to get this far, and it's really disheartening to discover something like this. I have no idea where to get new complete rubber rollers, and even if I did, it still puts my wedding stationery back a few weeks. It's so frustrating.

I threw out most of the prints before realising I should photograph them, but here's a few pics:

Best print from last night. I ran the ink very heavy, had just a kiss impression to the plate, and rotated the rollers by hand after every print.

The plate tonight. Not a great example, but you can see the uneven ink distribution on the plate across one section. Rotating the rollers by hand fixed this for a couple of prints.

Example of a dodgy print from tonight. Notice the line of absent ink halfway down the print.

One of my rollers during the cleaning process. Both of the rollers for my eight-five have a few knicks in them which, surprisingly, haven't seemed to produce 'holes' in prints.

&Duck mentioned in the previous post's comments that double sided tape can cause problems and that spray adhesive is a better idea (which I'll be doing from now on), but after fiddling with this plate, I don't believe that's the cause of my inking problems.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. I'm at a loss here.


Denise said...

If it is rollers, I'd recommend David Hauser of Tarheel Rollers, hands down. He made rollers for my Sigwalt and recovered the rollers for my Vandercook. Wonderful to work with, I just can't say enough good about him. (http://www.tarheelroller.com-a.googlepages.com/home)

As far as your problem, I'm lucky enough to have a hubby who used to work on Heidelbergs and can trouble shoot just about anything. I'll forward him this post and see if he can he can figure it out. I did have a problem like it. Is your base level? It's wood, so it may not be absolutely flush.

Hang in there, these things are so annoying. But you'll get that press dialed in. When you do, printing is so rewarding!!

who is this gal? said...

If it is the rollers, try Don Black. That's where I got my press and new rollers.

I wonder if in the meantime, you could just take the rollers off and ink the plate by hand with a brayer and then press for an impression?

Don't give up! That's a beautiful colour you've got there.

Erin McCall said...

It looks to me not like a roller problem, but like a problem with your base. Did you make the base yourself? To me it looks like the rollers are not contacting the entire plate during the pass. Again, to me that indicates that your base might not be 100% level (i.e. areas of the base are uneven, you stick the plate on top, then the plate is uneven - resulting in the one portion of the ornament not being inked).

I would strongly recommend a magnetic base, or Boxcar Base, or other base that is guaranteed level.

Also, you mentioned double sided tape...Is that how you glued your plate to the wood base? If so, definitely rethink this. The most minute lifting or uneven-ess, even air bubbles can cause weird inking.

I think you definitely have a problem resulting from your base choice. As a beginner, I'd stick with a more tried and true base (not homemade). Otherwise you're going to be making yourself crazy.

Letterpress printing can be really frustrating if you don't start with the right equipment. Don't toss your rollers, I don't think they are the problem.

You could try hand braying until you get a better base, but I don't suppose it will make much difference as all areas of the plate will not likely hit the paper evenly because of the off-level base.

Hope this helps...

Sunlit Letterpress

may day studio said...

I think the other posters have had some good recommendations, and I'd just like to chime in with Erin on this one: get a proper base, or some calipers and measure *every square millimeter* of that wooden one. It's likely that you have some slight dips not noticeable by the naked eye.

Hand-brayering the image can be iffy at best...the rollers and the ink disk are there for a reason! By hand, you'll probably get way too much ink--or not enough--every time, and then it's a lot of work taking it in and out of the press...and even then you'll probably ink the low spots on the plate and the base as well.

I have three "tester" recommendations:
(1) Turn your entire base/plate setup 180 degrees. Is the plate still not inking in the same spots as before? Or is it the same area of the press that's bad?
(2) Take the setup to another press and try inking it there. Now check the inking.
(3) Try another color. This one looks like you mixed it, which might have make the tack funky. Try one straight out of the can, and see how it reacts with the plate.

Good luck...and don't lose heart. Sometimes I just put an "easy" project on the press when I'm having a hard time with another one, and it makes me feel like I DO know how to print after all!


Poppy Letterpress said...

Wow, thanks everyone for your comments. It's so wonderful to know that you guys are out there!

I think you may all be right about the base. I bought the hardest and best quality redwood I could find, but I won't really know if it's completely flat until I measure it. I'll borrow my brother's calipers and let you know how it goes.

If it is the base, I'll probably have the same problem using a brayer. I've got 90 'Save the Date' cards to print, and not really looking forward to hand-inking them!

I'd love to try the forme on another press, but there just aren't any!

Originally, I'd planned on buying a Boxcar Base, but it would cost me around US$200 or so to get it shipped to Australia. Another alternative is getting a metal base machined here, but I can't see that being much cheaper. Similar cost issues with getting rollers from US suppliers. I believe there's a few roller suppliers around Australia though.

Ok, so the new plan of attack is:

- Switch to unmixed ink, probably Pantone Red.
- Try turning the forme 180 degrees.
- Measure the wood base with calipers.
- Remove double-sided tape and use spray adhesive instead.

If for some reason the calipers don't help, another option for determining the straightness of the base is too brayer ink it up, and press it to paper on a flat surface.

Thanks everyone for your suggestions, I have a lot more hope now!

Ampersand Duck said...

The only thing to add here is that if you hand-brayer the plate and it still prints unevenly, then you definitely know that it's the base that is uneven.

Ampersand Duck said...

And there are places in Sydney that can re-rubber rollers if you need to. For meachnical problems like these I highly recommend talking to the guys at the Queanbeyan Print Museum!

Anonymous said...

I really think it is your base too. The rollers tend to be more forgiving then the base. I know that the price for the base from Boxcar is expensive but it is an investment as you'll never have these problems again!

Anonymous said...

I was looking at the picture of your single roller and it looks like the trucks on the ends of the roller is larger than the face of the roller. If that is so there is no way that the roller will ink the plate. Do you have enough impression on the plate? I ran into a problem one time with a plate at the place I woked, I had the right impression, right ink
but the ink would just not stick to the plate, sent it back to the plate maker and they washed it down with some kind of solution and the plate picked up the ink just fine. I think your trouble is the roller is to small for the trucks.