Lockup and Rising Spaces

How to get your lines of type togeth­er and form­ing a sol­id unit in the chase

Lockup (from Alan Brignull)
Lockup (from Alan Brignull)

Know­ing that all of your mat­ter to be prin­ted has to be locked togeth­er in a met­al frame (the chase) leads to some import­ant ques­tions, the primary one being: how can I make sure that everything will be level and main­tain its struc­ture?  This prac­tice is called ‘lockup’.  Where lockup is weak, it allows things to move with­in the forme and causes inac­curacies.  In addi­tion, loose mater­i­al (like spaces) can work up from the forme to touch the prin­ted page.  This leaves a black square mark between words where the spa­cing mater­i­al has been inked and printed.

In longer-run jobs the impact of rising spaces is mag­ni­fied: if a space is loose and can work up on each impres­sion, a move­ment of just 0.001″ per impres­sion will cause the space to print on the page after just 500 impres­sions.  In the world of com­mer­cial, high-volume let­ter­press this could be a massive problem.

The stand­ard warn­ings appear here about clean­li­ness and accur­acy.  Make sure the bed of your press is clean, but also the back of the forme.  If needed turn the chase over and rest it on some paper on the stone.  Brush the back of the forme to make sure no debris will force a move­ment when it’s put in the bed of the press.

Ensure your mater­i­als are accur­ate: wood fur­niture will absorb some of the inac­curacies of your forme, but can also be affected by mois­ture and warp­ing.  Even the ini­tial cut­ting of fur­niture could be incor­rect.  Most print­ers moved from wood to met­al (alu­mini­um) or formica (Resal­ite) fur­niture from the 1950s.  Some wooden fur­niture is still needed to absorb some of the pres­sures in a chase.  Make sure you peri­od­ic­ally check that your chases are true by rest­ing them on your impos­ing sur­face and see­ing if the ‘rock’.

Tackle lockup in sec­tions: by mak­ing sure each line is prop­erly spaced; and then lock­ing up work sec­tion-by-sec­tion you will find and cor­rect errors much more quickly than by dis­cov­er­ing an error just before you go to press.

Dur­ing print­ing any move­ment of the machine or vibra­tion will con­trib­ute to spaces rising, so the whole machine should be clean.

There is some spe­cif­ic advice for some types of matter —

  • Mono­type Matter
    Should have most pres­sure for lock up applied at the top and bot­tom of the forme because the spa­cing between words is sel­dom as good as hand com­pos­i­tion.  When print­ing on a cyl­in­der press it should be set par­al­lel to the cyl­in­der because top-bot­tom move­ment would be minimal
  • Linotype/Intertype/Lud­low Matter
    Should be checked for accur­acy of the slug, espe­cially where the foot of the slug is smal­ler than the head.  In lock­ing up this would lead to a bulge as the feet of the slugs meet each oth­er and the head of the slug remains in place.  This can be avoided by using thin paper or cop­per strips at the foot of the slug per­haps 0.002″ thick.  An altern­at­ive is to use wet blot­ting paper that will dry to cre­ate a sol­id block.  In print­ing on a cyl­in­der press this should be set at right angles to the cyl­in­der as left-right move­ment will be minimal
  • Blocks
    These should be checked to ensure they are true.  Where they need some fur­ther lead­ing on one side, this should be tacked in to place

Finally where a forme can­not be cor­rec­ted there is a very severe option: mix res­in and meths.  Pour this on the forme and brush it away from the face of the type.  The whole forme will now be a single, sol­id mass.  At the end of print­ing, soak this in hot water to dis­solve the res­in and diss the type.