adventures in printing

Six months ago I came home from work to discover this on my work table. My dear pal had gifted it to me with the hope that I would start printing again. This press is red and beautiful. She weighs only 40 pounds. She is lovely. She has few moving parts which would make you think that she'd be easy to troubleshoot.   The last time I did any printing was almost 20 years ago and involved a thousand pound beast of a press called a Vandercook and a studio filled with limitless lead type and people who knew what they were doing. Me and my Adana engaged in parallel play for 6 months until I decided that in order to start printing again I needed ink, plates, and solvent. And by parallel play I mean she sat smugly on my worktable and taunted me as I worked on other projects.

Getting plates was pretty straightforward. Create the designs, squish them as close as humanly possible on the plate size you have ordered, send the file to Logos graphics, and wait for them to make the film and plates. (and by wait I mean no more than one day)

Buying ink. The amount of ink required to properly ink a small tabletop press is ridiculous. Seriously. And I hope anyone reading this will know that I'm talking small quantities here. You need no more than about a quarter teaspoon to nicely coat the rollers to pull many many prints. Yes. That much. In order to print at home you need to have your own ink. Buying ink in quantities of less than one pound of each color is nearly*  impossible. This means that you have to order a hefty quantity of ink. To me, 'hefty' means a one pound can. This is enough ink for a small shop to use for about 10 lifetimes.

Along with several base colors I ordered transparent white. This is a non-color that is supposed to create light colors. It does, I guess.  It also make them look mottled, metallic, and smooshy.  This ink is not stiff. It is the opposite of stiff. This ink looks and moves like caramel sauce and, for a novice home printer like myself, it is difficult to control.  I went online and Googled something like,  transparent white ink +annoying +bad  and learned that, luckily, I'm not the only home printer who gets frustrated with this ink. Some people have had luck substituting opaque white instead of the transparent with only small adjustments to the ratios.

Why did I order this annoying ink? Why didn't I just order the opaque white? I ordered it because most of my favorite colors in the Pantone book list transparent white as one of the ingredients. And I also have a bad habit of just winging it. Given that printing at home is not a craft one can just  noodle around with, I decided to actually follow some rules and directions. (and this included ordering inks that comprised my favorite Pantone colors)

After printing the word 'Hello" over a hundred times I am finally understanding how my little Adana moves and how she thinks. I'm also learning how different photopolymer plates are from lead type. On a small press like mine, prints pulled from polymer plates have a harder time creating as deep an impression as I get from metal type.  Most of the home printing shops I see produce gorgeous clean and super deep impressions. Seems to be very popular now. When I was learning how to print we received low marks if our text was printed too deep.   Personally I love the look of a deeply impressed image. At that point the words and image being printed cease to be meant to read and become an object to touch and feel.  howdy!

Adjustments are not as intuitive as you'd think. For example, uniformly increasing pressure on all four corners of the press bed do not net the same amount of pressure on the tympan. It bewildered me. Still does. However, patience and persistence will net gradual improvements.

*unless you manage to search for ink in tubes and land on NA Graphics home page. Which, for some reason, I did not. And I wish I had. After filling my own empty tubes happily purchased from ladybug press.    I realized that scooping ink from can to tube is time consuming and quite tricky. And messy!  I offer humble apologies to the cranky man at a Hayward shop who offered to sell me 4 ounce tubes of ink for the same price as a one pound can. I stupidly said to him, "How hard is it to just fill a few tubes of ink?" He curtly told me to "keep shopping around." as he ushered me off the phone.

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