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Old 02-24-2009, 03:10 AM
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ploverwing ploverwing is offline
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Etching press for block print

I don't know much about presses, so I bow to superior knowledge and experience.

I'm trying to print my large relief block (block is 20"x16") through my Conrad combo press with the etching roller setup. I am having difficulty getting sufficient pressure for the ink to transfer uniformly in the dark areas. My work is set up:

press bed
matt board (just to have a bit of softness; seems to work better than bed alone)
printing paper (kitakata, very thin, dry)
block, face down (it's probably 5/8" thickness, maybe less)
matt board

I've got blocks on either side of the block so that the roller doesn't go "clunk" when running into the printing block (if that makes sense).

When I increase the pressure so that it's very firm to turn the wheel, it seems just barely enough to get the ink transferred. I am pretty sure I have enough ink, because when I did the print, I hand burnished after running through the press, and got sufficient transfer to the paper. If I just rely on the press, it's not quite enough.

What am I doing wrong? Suggestions? I don't want to print with the paper on top of the block, because I don't want to pick up the "noise" at the edge of the block, or in the carved areas that might have picked up a little ink from the brayer.

(By the way, I am using my brand new Takach hand brayer and I will NEVER use Speedball brayers again, except for demos, or for very small work - until I replace them with Takach's small brayers )
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Reduction method printing - "The Russian roulette of the printmaking world"

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Old 02-24-2009, 09:36 AM
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Re: Etching press for block print

First of all- I Hate you-
Quote:
Originally Posted by ploverwing
(By the way, I am using my brand new Takach hand brayer

This is one of those items on the 'dream list'....

Now, For the problem...

I have had difficulty in the past with printing super light papers on a press, especially 'block down'. I got better results by hand burnishing- But when I had to to a larger edition and this wasn't going to be an option, I played around with the padding on the bed a bit.

You mentioned that you already had a piece of matboard on there- I used a sheet of thick paper, and a couching felt on the bed. Couching felts (used in papermaking) are very similar to press felts- In fact you could probably use a bed felt to do the same, but the couching felts are cheap, I have a bunch of them, and that way I don't have to worry about those $$$ bed felts

The extra 'give' seemed to work well, the ink had a more even transfer...

-Andrew
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Old 02-24-2009, 10:53 AM
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Re: Etching press for block print

I'm afraid that block down is a large part of the problem. This causes the pressure of the press to be distributed over a large part of the surface of the block instead of being concentrated under the point of contact of the roller. Also, if the block is not perfectly uniform in thickness, you end up trying to flex the block instead of the paper.

I always print face up, usually with a single blanket (1/8th inch). If you don't want to use a blanket, try a couple of clean blotters.

Regarding the 'foul marks' in the waste areas from your brayer, I see those as part of the image. You can control them to some degree with the brayer and ink consistency. The key is making them work for your image.

Regarding the Takach brayer, I agree, they are the best! Unlike Andrew, I don't hate you. But then, unlike Andrew, I have one too!

Dean
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Old 02-24-2009, 10:53 AM
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Re: Etching press for block print

I have had the best luck printing block up on my presses. I use self healing cutting mat on top of the paper as a "blanket" so my setup looks like this.
press bed, block, paper, cutting mat, top roller. I find that the cutting mat provides adequet grip on the paper to keep it from slipping, and will allow for even pressure on uneven surfaces. I do not find that I need to forcably turn my press handle. Usually, I spin the press with one or two finger, and a little effort when I roll over the block.
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Old 02-24-2009, 12:05 PM
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Re: Etching press for block print

Andrew - I accept that. It is definitely worth the investment. I agonized over spending the money, but with this huge block, there is no way I would have been happy using my little Speedball on it.

Gentlemen - thank you all very, very much for your replies. I will try paper on block today, and that self-heal mat suggestion, Justin, makes excellent senses.

Dean - as for the marks, normally I agree 100%, but I have a border around the carved area that I've recessed, and that I do not want to get any ink on, because it's the paper border (yes, I could have done my carving right to the edge of the block, but I like having a blank "handle" around my block so that I can handle it easily when inked; especially one this large).

I will let you all know how it goes. Thanks again!!
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Reduction method printing - "The Russian roulette of the printmaking world"


Last edited by ploverwing : 02-24-2009 at 12:08 PM.
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Old 02-24-2009, 03:35 PM
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Re: Etching press for block print

Amie, I did a workshop with a master printer. She used carpet underlay - it's cheap and works great. Hers is a green colour, foam, about 1/16 inch thick.
I went to a carpet store and they gave me a huge piece they had lying around. Mine is white. I used that when I printed the holiday exchange Black Snowman and got very few marks off the waste areas, and I had no dud prints right from the first run through the press.

Dianne used a matrix, acetate over that, plate, damp paper,carpet underlay. We used rice paper (spritzed lightly on both sides) as well as a white printing paper and I don't recall seeing any marks from the waste area on anyone's prints. She said the carpet underlay has just the right amount of "give" in it to get a good clean print but not enough to pick up the marks in the waste area.

I'll include a photo and you can see a roll of the green carpet underlay on a table in the background. What she is doing on the press in the foreground is testing the press pressure - pressure is good on the outside but not in the middle. She built up the plate underneath with torn newsprint and kept testing until she saw a good, even print of the design. As I said, she is a master printer and I've never seen anyone else, ever, set a press so accurately. Most printmakers (and teachers) at this studio just put a plate on a press bed, set the pressure and print. The prints don't always work well on presses used by a horde of people at a print studio - not everyone respects how precious they are!

Wow! I didn't expect this picture to be so big!

CarolAnn


Last edited by CarolAnnH : 02-24-2009 at 04:01 PM.
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Old 02-24-2009, 06:40 PM
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Re: Etching press for block print

I always print paper up. When I have had uneven plates that didn't print well, I have used foam or folded paper towels to add pressure to a particular location. Put just on the back of the print paper, and put the blankets over it. I have done many uneven plates so have done a lot of this adjusting.

I don't know if having the border levelers the exact same height as the printing plate is the best idea. the borders could be a tiny bit lower. I think CarolAnn was showing that using an under-plate-layer. You can also add a piece of foam on top of the plate to add pressure to the plate area.

Good luck and please show off your work here!
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Old 02-24-2009, 07:15 PM
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Re: Etching press for block print

Barb & CarolAnn - thanks for the additional comments.

Well, using what I have on hand, and based on the suggestions (the press didn't come with any blankets, so I have none; I have no carpet underlay kicking around, but I do have a self-heal mat; another suggestion was making sure to avoid lap marks with a large enough roller - don't have the luxury of that, so end up doing somewhat over inking to compensate), I got a better impression today, but still leaves something to be desired.

The idea of building up pressure by placing newsprint underneath is a good one; I might try that. Currently the layout today has been:

press bed
mat board
block (inked up)
printing paper (kitakata, then a "what the heck" moment of Rives BFK, which really wasn't a good idea!)
newsprint sheet
self-healing mat

Sort of better. I think I'm over inking, because I'm getting push (probably too much pressure, too), but when I put less ink, and/or less pressure, the transfer of the image just isn't great.

I'll keep futzing. I just have today to try, though, then I'm out of the studio for another week.

I've just cleaned everything up, I was using the Daniel Smith water-soluble inks. Just for the heck of it, I'm going to try the Faust inks; same setup otherwise, to see if it makes any difference.

I'll tell you, I would love for a master printmaker to waltz into my studio and say "duh! do this" and have it magically work. Well, I'll see if my print buddy Pat can spare a few moments observation to see if he's got anything to suggest. Maybe he'll be able to make that comment and I'll be flying! We'll see.

Anyway, here is last night's effort:



Crappy photo; will try to get better ones. At least you can get an idea of what it looks like.

I think the big problem for me is working this size; I usually work on stuff at most 10" along one side, and that's big for me until now. Getting even pressure, even & sufficient inking, over a small area is not as tricky. Sigh.
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Reduction method printing - "The Russian roulette of the printmaking world"

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Old 02-24-2009, 07:40 PM
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Re: Etching press for block print

Regarding the margin...

I have on occasion had a print where I decided to 'edit' the print on the press. I cover the edited part with tape, ink the block and then remove the tape. Print. tape again before re-inking.

Dean
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Old 02-25-2009, 12:25 AM
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Re: Etching press for block print

Well, had a little better success this afternoon switching to Faust water soluble inks. They are more transparent, though, and that makes it a little difficult to build up the dark.

A printmaking friend of mine sent me detailed instructions to set up the press from scratch (she's seen the press); I'll give that a go and see how that works. I think I've done all I'm going to in this colour, but I'd like to do a blue black on a white paper next.

Here's a little better photo:



and details:





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Old 02-25-2009, 02:12 AM
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Re: Etching press for block print

Sorry - by set up, I meant calibrating the roller and setting the roller height.
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Old 02-25-2009, 10:22 AM
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Re: Etching press for block print

Amie, they are coming out pretty good!
  • I think too much push & bleeding can come from your not using soft blankets.
  • Sometimes a plate prints better when placed in a different direction with respect to the roller direction (horizontally or upside down). That is just due to where the crevases are.
  • Also, too much ink or inks that are to fluid may affect this. I find DS water mixable
inks are a little more fluid than the GC oil based inks.

You can buy some foam and fabric to use on the press, they won't last as long as the heavy press blankets but will work. Use a 1" foam pad, plus a wool blanket, plus a piece of felt from the fabric store. You may have to sew the ends of the wool blanket to make sure it doesn't fray. Foam works really well with plates that are not even.

Then as I said, pad it a little bit where the pressure is low and voila! a solution. Yes sometimes it takes a lot of work to find the solution but it will be worth it!

Last edited by H2O_Baby : 02-25-2009 at 10:28 AM.
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Old 02-25-2009, 11:49 AM
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Re: Etching press for block print

I'm following this thread with great interest
learning many things about printing with the press in the process from all the input and photos
Amie...your print is looking pretty amazing even if it isn't near as perfect as you would expect it to be. I commend you on taking the challenge to work a bit larger in block size. One of these days I'll try that too and refer back to this thread if I encounter problems.
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Old 02-25-2009, 03:23 PM
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Re: Etching press for block print

Thanks again everyone for your input!! I agree with Brian; this has been an extremely valuable thread, and we've printed it off and will refer to it when I'm next back in the studio and can try these things.

As far as too much ink - it was so annoying, because it seemed like too much ink on the block, and the push from the pressure/over inking combo seems to indicate that, yet when I ran it through the press with the recommended lighter pressure and what I thought was sufficient ink, the impression was just awful.

And I had thought you didn't need blankets to print successfully with blocks, so I hadn't bothered getting them (or something equivalent).

Anyway, in a week's time, I'll be back, and I'll try to calibrate the roller, maybe try some softer squishy "blankets" for the press, and try some different paper, too, and we'll see what happens!! In the meantime, if any other thoughts occur to anyone out there, feel free to pop in and add them to the discussion! This has been just great!

Then I get to go through this all over again when I get a scraper bar and try printing with that instead of the roller!
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Old 02-25-2009, 09:33 PM
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Re: Etching press for block print

I use a single 1/8" woven blanket (a pusher) for printing relief. I use a 3 blanket system (1/16 non woven sizing catcher, 1/4 non-woven former, 1/8 woven pusher) for intaglio.

I have had pretty good luck in the past using a blotter or two for relief instead of the blanket.

Another alternative that I have not tried is a rubber blanket such as the ones Daniel Smith sells for the Whelen press. I have printed on a proofing press with a fairly hard rubber roller and it worked pretty well.

Since I print with oil based inks (actually litho ink), I can manipulate the characteristics of the ink to get what I want. If the tack of the ink is too high, it is hard not to over ink. I wouldn't necessarily recommend litho ink to someone else, but since I work in both mediums, I don't want to stock a range of colors in two ink types.

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