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