Locking Up

Get­ting the whole forme level and work­able as a single unit

His­tor­ic­ally, the impos­ing stone was a slab of slate, ground flat, as was the type-bed of a wooden hand-press. Lat­terly the stone was gen­er­ally a pre­cisely machined iron cast­ing, sim­il­ar to an engin­eers’ sur­face-plate. A piece of plate glass, an offcut from a genu­ine marble or gran­ite kit­chen work-sur­face or a truly flat tile of sim­il­ar mater­i­al will prove ideal.

For small presses such as Adanas, it should be at least twice the size of the chase and the big­ger the bet­ter. Type slid from the com­pos­ing stick should be assembled and sur­roun­ded with strips of wooden or plastic reg­let or met­al girder fur­niture as in one or oth­er of the above dia­grams. Note, in either chase, the gaps left which allow the type to be firmly locked in two planes. For a small clam­shell platen the rect­angle of type must always be centred in the chase, oth­er­wise it will not print with an even impres­sion. If the type is to be prin­ted to one side of a lar­gish sheet, most such small machines will allow the paper to over­hang on two or three sides.

Quoins are essen­tially expand­ing wedges; those illus­trated are tightened with a square-end key and are the easi­est to use. They come in dif­fer­ent sizes and nar­row-mar­gin quoins take up less space in the assembled forme. If using an Adana with lock­ing-screws built into the chase, ensure that the screws bear on steel strips rather than on the softer, eas­ily dam­aged furniture.

Take care also to slide the assembled forme close enough to the edge of your stone to keep your screw­driver prop­erly aligned to avoid dam­aging the threads in the chase. With the quoins tightened evenly, lift one edge of the chase about a cen­ti­metre clear of the stone (put a spare quoin or length of reg­let under it) and test the forme for tight­ness by gently pat­ting the type with your fin­gers. After rem­edy­ing any loose lines with hair-spaces, etc. try again. When sat­is­fied it is tight, loosen the quoins until the type is almost loose and plane the forme by pla­cing a planer, (a small, flat piece of MDF or birch ply­wood will do) on the type and press­ing down hard or gently tap­ping it down with a leath­er mal­let. Tight­en the quoins evenly and, after check­ing again for loose type, mount the forme on the press and you are almost ready to print.

This guide kindly con­trib­uted by John R Smith of the Old Forge Press. Ori­gin­ally appeared in the news­let­ter of the Oxford Guild of Printers