I was first introduced to letterpress at university, in a fantastic well stocked print facility in H Block of Leeds Met. Sadly, that print room has moved to another building but the memories of my time there are still quite vivid. I tried my hand at almost every type of printing technique but I loved letterpress and etching the most.
In some ways, I wished I had spent more time familiarising myself with the whole letterpress process but I was seduced by digital font programs and the lure of Adobe’s Creative suite.
It was only as I left at the end of my BA and started my MA, that I bought a press and all the lovely things that are involved with typesetting, did I realise I needed to overhaul my knowledge.
I have retained a fair bit of that time but I also started to read extensively on the practice of printing. I searched for forums, articles and books that gave advice both practical and theoretical as to the best way to print with an Adana 8×5.
There is a lot of information available and everyone has an opinion on how you ‘should’ do it rather than what you ‘could’ be doing. I don’t mind confessing that I’ve learnt to set the type and ‘dress’ the forme (Imposition) in my own way, with a sprinkling of tradition thrown in for good measure. I also found that printing on various presses is a whole new learning experience that you must not assume will work across the board. Though the basic principles still apply.
For awhile I have struggled to get the Adana to print clearly and evenly, even though I’ve packed out the tympan and used a blanket to try to create a good print of type I’ve set. Images from plates have always printed well, it was just the type that proved tricky. Today I had a breakthrough, as I changed how much packing (tympan) I used by squashing a kitchen roll to make it flat and used masking tape to bind two boards around together, to create a sandwich. Then by adjusting the platen and using my new tympan, I was able to print a very clean and clear type impression.
This might not be a massive achievement but today has made all those previous failed attempts fade away and I feel quite proud for persevering and finally getting a result. I have posted images here, so check them out!
I’ve included some links to sites that I found incredibly helpful so I’m putting them here just in case anyone else needs help.
Green Dolphin Press
Introduction to Letterpress
Happy Dragon Press