Printmaking, Reenforced Press/New Prints Of Old Blocks

April 22, 2010

so, it’s been awhile since i worked on my press.  and it’s been awhile since i actually made the improvements on it and printed.  i’m only just now getting around to blogging about it.

so the major changes i made are that i bolted two 1×3’s to each side of the base of the press to make the entire bed more rigid.  Before, my press would bend and curl up as i put downward pressure on the opposite end.  Now, it curls up a lot less.

you can see them running up about 3/4 of each side of the base.  they’re of uneven lengths, cos i don’t care for symmetry and i’ll admit, i’m a little careless.  Plus, they’re bolted in at roughly the same place on each side so it probably doesn’t matter.

you might also notice a fifth contact point between the hinge mechanism and the platen.  now there are five points of pressure as opposed to just four.  i’m hoping this keeps the platen from bending under pressure and keeps it more rigid.

as you can see, i still haven’t gotten a proper printing blanket.  i’ve found it absolutely imperative to my printing process.  it distributes the pressure applied by the platen a little more evenly.  as you can imagine, my home-made press isn’t as efficient a machine as an actual hydraulic press or a letterpress.

for a while, i was using a hand towel, but erica’s lent me a couple pieces of felt that work a lot better.

along with changes to the press i also made some changes to how i print.  as i found out, applying a coat of varnish to your blocks is not a good idea.

who knew? not this guy!

i was only trying to make the blocks easier to clean and less likely to deteriorate over time.  So, i sanded down the faces of the blocks trying not to create a bevel on the edges of the block.  easier said than done.

basically, the problem i encountered with varnishing the blocks was that the ink, water based and oil based, would bead up on the surface of the block rather than coating it evenly.  the prints would look as if there wasn’t enough pressure and created a loose pattern of tiny spots.  at first i thought it was the crummy water based relief i got.  i sent away for those Caligo ‘Safe Wash’ Inks.  I ordered a trial set from McClains.  They were doing the same thing with the beading and only then realized where the problem actually was.

Caligo make a series of inks that are oil based but have some sort of emulsifying agent that binds to soap.  so, the idea is you can clean-up with just oil and water rather than toxic solvents.  Erica and i’s studio shares doors with both our bedroom and the kitchen and we have two in-your-face cats, so we look to decrease the amount of toxic anything in our studio.

so why not just go with water-based stuff?  there is a lot of criticism of water-based anything in printmaking.  a lot of snobbery and folks sticking to the roots of printmaking despite technological breakthroughs that could mean holding onto more brain cells.  at this stage of the game, i don’t have an opinion on how these inks are superior to water based stuff.  however, after one go at it, i’m liking the oil based stuff a lot more.  It’s easier to build up ink on the surface of the block without rolling too much on.  i’ll be able to give a better opinion once i’ve worked with both inks more.

you still awake?

alright, here’s a print with the new additions to the press.  Not perfect, but getting there.  i’m getting more solid prints.  i’m happy.

so, after about a year a half of building and tweaking the press, i’ve got it to a point where it’s making a decent print.  i don’t know how well it’ll fair in creating an edition, but we’ll get to that in the future.

(thanks to erica for photographing my printing process!)


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