The Process of Printing

Composing Stick
Composing Stick

This piece assumes that you have a small hand or treadle-operated clamshell platen (ie one in which the bed and platen are simply hinged to each other), with a rotating disc for distributing the ink and one or two forme-rollers to deliver ink to type. All table-top Adanas, Ajaxes, Models and their American equivalents work this way. They are essentially Jekyl and Hyde compromises. Used one impression per stroke of hand or foot, they can produce over 500 legible impressions per hour. However at such speeds register and the position of the impression on the paper is unlikely to be consistent and inking will be similarly variable, mostly under or over-inked, rarely just right. If you are producing flyers for the jumble sale that may be acceptable, but with a more careful, considered approach, these un-assuming machines can produce impeccable printing.

Before mounting the forme, prepare your ink and apply some to the disc, fit the press rollers (forme-rollers) and, press the handle or treadle several times to give them an even coating. Now install the chase with its forme of type and run the rollers over it several times without fully closing the platen onto the bed. When evenly inked, take a trial impression on the tympan packing and, after whatever make-ready adjustments have been made, mark the required margins and position the lay-gauges (of any sort) and the friskets or grippers, if fitted, making sure they are clear of the type.

Arrange your stack of paper, fanned slightly so that you can easily pick up one sheet at a time, within easy reach of the hand not powering the press. Have a clean galley or a shallow box nearby, to receive the printed sheets and, in case you might slightly over-ink, a pile of sheets of cheap paper (un-printed newsprint, or pages torn from last year’s telephone directory). These can be used to interleave your printed sheets, thus any set-off will mark the interleaf rather than spoil the back of your next sheet.

Examine your first printed sheet carefully for faults and if possible, get someone else to act as proof-reader. When satisfied, start printing; keep an eye on the ink level, depending on the boldness of the forme. you may have to re-charge the disc with ink every twenty or so impressions. Roll your hand-roller back and forth several times to keep the ink in condition and aim to apply just enoughto the disc-too much and you’ll waste some of the effort you’ve already put in. Start with a little, you can always add more.

When you’ve finished the run, remove your printed sheets to a safe warm place-gentle heat will help them dry-before cleaning off the press, type and rollers. Clean type with turps and soft cotton rag or tissue, followed by gentle brushing, with a brush no harder than a soft tooth-brush, to remove ink from the counters. Take particular care of rollers and keep them supported above any shelf and separated from each other; don’t allow them to become flattened or dented. After an hour or so, check that your printed sheets are not sticking together as a result of being over-inked. If so, peel them gently apart and re-stack, interleaved with clean sheets. Telephone directory paper is better than newspaper since the ink is more certain to have fully dried.

This article kindly supplied by John R Smith of the Old Forge Press