Monday, November 26, 2007

New base!

I finally got to pick it up today: my new metal base! I've never been so excited about a lump of metal before. $100 from a local metal machinist, and he assures me it's even and ready to go. He's also offered to help out with anything that I need that's metal - which might come in handy with the auto-rotating mechanism on my ink disc. He reckons he could even build me a platen press from scratch if he had something to copy from... but I don't exactly have that much money!

Behold it's shiny-ness!

So yes, all very exciting. This is the first positive in a few days. I've been feeling a little unsure about where this is all taking me.

Things on my mind:

  • Will I ever get a decent deboss with my little Adana? Is it a polymer problem?
  • Is it possible to start a business with a tabletop press, or would I need to find a bigger press, like a C&P?
  • Is it just me, or is the hobby/art/business of letterpress mostly about troubleshooting?!
  • Am I using too much ink or too little? I know using less is best, as long as there is even coverage, but so far only heavy ink is working for me. I don't like the feel of it when it dries. It looks more like a lino print.
  • Will it ever get to a point where I find the sweet spot and then the next 100 prints look just as good, instead of one good, 5 bad, 2 good, 5 bad...?
Regarding the first question, I know that if you have large areas of ink, the impression will be shallow, or non-existent. But I can't get even fine line prints to have a good impression. I've been struggling with the packing, the knobs behind the forme, and the type of paper. I've heard that the similiar model of Kelsey rarely gets a good impression. Is it just not possible with an Adana eight-five either? Are my dreams of having high-quality letterpressed stationery just... well, dreams?


Megan said...

Letterpress is always one big troubleshoot. But, once you get consistent prints you will remember what you needed to do to get there and then you'll keep things set up the way you would need for the bulk of your work. From what I've heard, the Adana doesn't do the greatest impression for things much larger than a small 4-bar sized card or business card. The "sweet spot" being in the center. Now that you have your new base it should make things much better. I use a metal base with polymer plates and they always stick really well to it. I've gotten great impressions with polymer. To get it to work on my press I adjusted the press itself as tightly as I could and still turn the flywheel easily. I went too far at first and the wheel didn't I knew to back off from there and keep trying until it worked. Then, it was just a matter of putting soft packing in. I use a sheet of the paper I usually print with (the soft and thick pillowy kind) and it seems to work fine for me. When I don't want the impression as deep, I take the thick sheet of paper out and just use a thin piece of hard paper. This seems to work consistently for me. If I have trouble getting even inking of the plates I know it is always an issue with my roller rails and I have to use tape on them to build them up until the rollers ink the plate correctly. (I have to adjust the tape every few months according to the weather...humidity will expand the metal and when it's cold it will shrink...therefore throwing off the rollers just enough to cause trouble. These are just things that work for me consistently. I find that when I use too much ink, the print looks "smooshy" and the edges aren't as crisp. And it seems like ink overflows out of the impression causing a slight ring. I end up using a small smear (my ink knife looks like it's holding about an inch long (25mm or so) by 1/4" dab of ink. I take about 5 minutes or more to spread it very evenly and thin on the ink disk. It always sounds "sandpapery" when I have the consistency right. I know I've put too much on when it sounds more gloopy or sticky sounding. I know that doesn't really help since those are my names for the sounds. haha. Good luck moving forward with your new base!

who is this gal? said...

I had the same thoughts about my Adana - will it give a decent deboss/emboss? Turns out- yes it does! My experience with magnesium plates and the Crane paper ensure a nice impression. I haven't gone polymer yet and I'm not convinced that I should. Is it possible to start a business with a tabletop? I suppose that depends on how much work you're willing to put into it. The press will always be there if you use it, right? Of course there are huge advantages to a C&P and Vandercook - but I wouldn't get discouraged so early. I've seen great work come out of a little press. I find that I'm troubleshooting (with registration most times) alot when printing - but that's what I expect from a craft such as letterpress. Especially since I'm still learning. Yes, the large areas of ink I have found the impression to be shallow to no impression. Because of this - I'll keep it in mind when desiging the next plate. The fine lines and small texts, however, have been giving me nice impressions. This most certainly has to do with the magnesium plate quality. I haven't yet once had to change the packing on my press. Wherever I need to pack more, I use painters tape behind the forme/plate or paper towel(s) behind the paper. That extra cushion helps a whole lot!

All in all, you can do it and so can your Adana!

Ampersand Duck said...

Patience, my young padawan... do not give in to anger and fear.

There is a good reason why this technology was superceded! It's slow and frustrating, but what everyone else has said is true -- you'll find your settings as you persist. Every press is an individual to be respected and coddled in its own way.

Also try to design in ways that minimises the need for large areas of flat colour.

Hang in there!

Alex said...

There are alot of successful companies out there who started their business with a tabletop press.

I think everyone has experienced the same frustration when they start to letterpress. I know there were times when I thought I was going to throw my pilot out the window! You will eventually find that perfect height for your rollers, the perfect amount of pressure, exact amount of ink etc.

Keep it up because your designs are great!

Alischa Herrmann said...

Hello, Im an Australian graphic designer having just left behind my working career to start up my own Letterpress Studio as well :)

I am in the process of searching for a base to use with polymer plates. I was going to order one through BoxcarPress. I would be interested to hear if the base you have had made would be suitable or better then one made in the States. Obviousally price is a big killer, but other then that, any pros or cons?

Your blog is great and very informative! Us Aussie letterpress lovers should unite, we are few and far between!

Poppy Letterpress said...

Thanks everyone. It's very encouraging getting such supportive comments!

alischa - that's great news! Good to know more people are getting onboard. As far as my new base goes, I'm busy designing my wedding invites this week, so haven't had the chance to play with it yet :( But I promise i'll give full feedback when I do.

Annie said...

I am getting started letterpressing with an adana 8x5 as well. I just bought a copy of the instruction booklet for the machine on ebay. If you want me to scan it in and email it to you, I can. I don't know if it will help a ton with trouble shooting, but it's nice to see all of the parts labeled and the information they have. You can email me at if you want it.

Good luck!


hello! came across you blog when trying to find information on troubleshooting my Adana 8x5. I just did another run with my boxcar press base and polymer plate. It was another disaster. Check out my photo album on Ladies of Letterpress. (
You can see the ink was never consistent and I could hardly get an impression! Does this have anything to do with the press's capabilities? I adjusted as much as I could with the screws in back, rollers, and packing. I only got ONE good print out of about 25..

Has anyone gotten really good prints with great impression from and Adana press? I am thinking about upgrading to another table top!